There’s a mental-health crisis brewing all over the world, which is getting worse and not better.
One in five people reports suffering from a mental condition – whether that’s depression, anxiety, or ADHD. When you add in the families of each of these people, you realise that half the country suffering from the effects of mental ill-health.
More prescriptions are being written than ever, yet recovery rates are unchanged and the number of suicides has actually gone up. What about if the answer was staring us in the face this whole time?
I’ve read many books in my time and I can honestly say that every person needs to read ‘The Better Brain’ book.
Authored by two leading international scientists Julia Rucklidge, PHD, and Bonnie Kaplan, PHD, renowned for their extensive research on the impact of diet and nutrients on the brain, The Better Brain book has truly blown my mind. It presents compelling patient recovery case studies, delivers clear and concise information, and offers practical guidance that can aid individuals in overcoming various mental health challenges like ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
This enlightening book proposes that many mental symptoms stem from inadequate nutrition—an aspect often overlooked by the traditional Western medical model. The authors argue that the predominant focus on pharmaceuticals as the primary treatment approach is driven by financial interests and societal norms, which prioritise medication rather than dietary interventions. Then book challenges this status quo, shedding light on the transformative potential of nutrition for mental wellbeing.
Disregarding the Healing Potential of Food: Neglecting Nutrition in Modern Medicine
Let’s remember the concept of using food as a means to heal illnesses is not a recent idea. Over 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates proclaimed, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.” Interestingly, the book also mentions an article from The People’s Home Library, published a century ago, which encouraged readers to address mental health issues through improved nutrition. However, the subsequent neglect of nutrition in mental health treatment coincided with the rise of the psychopharmacology “revolution” in the 1960s, in the United States of America.
Psychiatrists undergo training in prescribing medications starting from the early years of medical school. Since 1985, when direct-to-consumer advertising began, there has been an increasing societal demand for these drugs.
The book further discusses the limited focus on promoting nutritional interventions and the hesitancy among psychiatrists or mental health professionals to prescribe multinutrients or dietary changes. This can be attributed to the prevailing dominance of medication as the primary approach. Financial interests and societal norms play a role in shaping this situation. Pharmaceutical companies often provide funding for committees responsible for developing clinical practice guidelines, which reinforces the dependence on medication deeply ingrained in both medical training and consumer behaviour.
A particularly insightful passage on page 305 of the book encapsulates the situation well:
“Effective treatments with diet and nutrient supplements are being ignored in spite of ample scientific support because they do not fit the reigning dogma. The conventional medical model continues to emphasise “treat with drugs first”. Unfortunately the drugs don’t remove the disease and therefore patients often continue to struggle. Therefore we have to reverse this perspective of “drugs first” with lifestyle changes like nutrition. These take longer, but will ultimately lead to health, not just the absence of some symptoms.”
Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the strong connection between our diet and our emotional well-being. However, this research is often overlooked or dismissed due to societal biases, the dominance of the pharmaceutical industry and resistance to change. The epidemic of mental health issues that plagues our world today can be directly linked to the widespread consumption of highly processed foods, particularly ultra-processed options.
Highlighted within the book are several noteworthy research discoveries, such as:
- Individuals who consume little seafood face a 65-fold higher risk of lifelong depression.
- In a Japanese study of 100,000 participants, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, seaweed, and fish was linked to a 50% reduced risk of suicide.
- A study of 3,000 Dutch women revealed that those who consumed meat, potatoes, and margarine but lacked eggs, vegetables, fish, or dairy had children with higher aggression levels by the age of six.
- Conversely, a study of 700 Norwegian mothers and their babies showed that increased fruit consumption during pregnancy correlated with enhanced cognitive development in infants at age one.
Furthermore, studies examining multinutrient supplementation, show amazing results and they have been found to alleviate associated mood disorders and aid in self-regulation. For example, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders have experienced reduced irritability and self-harm when taking multinutrients, while those struggling with addiction have benefited from reduced rage, aggression, and improved sleep. Even in school settings, research shows that providing children with additional minerals and vitamins has shown a decrease in rule violations.
Dr Julia Rucklidge, one of the co-authors of the book, has conducted extensive research on ADHD, including a study titled “Vitamin-mineral treatment improves aggression and emotional regulation in children with ADHD: a fully blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial“. This study demonstrated that micronutrients enhanced overall functioning, reduced impairment, and improved attention, emotional regulation, and aggression in children aged 7 to 12.
Two Compelling Case Studies Defying Conventional Mental Health Treatment
The book presents two compelling case studies that demonstrate the transformative power of nutrition. The first is the story of Andrew, a ten-year-old who battled anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and psychosis. Despite his parents’ desperate attempts to find effective treatments, including medications and hospitalisation, nothing seemed to alleviate Andrew’s symptoms. However, a breakthrough occurred when Andrew was prescribed a combination of multinutrients, containing essential vitamins and minerals. Within a mere ten months, his OCD and psychosis symptoms began to fade away. Not only did his OCD improve, but his psychosis completely disappeared.
Today, as an adult, Andrew has successfully completed high school and holds a job. Remarkably, the cost of these nutrients amounted to just two percent of what his parents had been paying for his inpatient care. Andrew’s case underscores the potential of multinutrients as an affordable and efficient approach to supporting mental health.
The second case study revolves around Marie, who was initially diagnosed in 1997 with bipolar disorder, psychotic symptoms, schizoaffective disorder, depression, and PTSD at the age of thirty-three. For four years, she experienced a revolving door of hospitalisations, which she estimates herself as being an inpatient about 70% of the time. However, on December 1, 2001, Marie began taking EMP EmPowerplus, a comprehensive multinutrient formula. Since then, she has not required any additional mental health care, including doctor’s appointments, medications, or outpatient therapy. A psychiatrist described the multinutrient formula as “the most effective single treatment” Marie has tried. By embracing this evidence-based supplement, the government has saved at least $60,000 per year of inpatient care because of Marie choosing to change her treatment to multinutrients. Despite such cost-saving potential, governments worldwide continue to neglect covering or subsidising the expenses associated with these scientifically supported supplements.
Reflecting on her mental health journey over the past two decades, Marie shared profound insights on page 301 of the book. Her experience serves as a valuable lesson for all of us to learn from.
“I have survived an overwhelming and dangerous journey of treatment, only to discover that what I actually needed was to feed my brain and recognise I was having a normal reaction to trauma and stress. It may sound strange to some people, but the truth is that I am well because I did not do what my doctors told me. I did not accept their diagnoses, labels, opinions or treatment, and there were many over the years. Ultimately, I did it my way and I’m alive because of it. The important questions for me are these:
- Why, when we know micronutrient therapy can help bring mental an emotional wellness, do we continue to ignore it in our system of health care?
- Why, when we know the possibilities of healing with nutrition, and that it is safe and non-addictive, do we choose this path of treatment prior to drugs which can be damaging and addictive?
Both questions boil down to the same thing? Why, within a so-called educated a society and mental health care system, do we choose to invest in the most dangerous and expensive protocol first? This is the billion dollar question.”
It is imperative that we acknowledge the significant influence our dietary decisions have on our emotional wellbeing and actively work towards fostering a healthier connection with food. By prioritising the nourishment of our brains, we can amplify their functionality and experience the benefits not only for ourselves but also for our entire family. Discovering an approach that offers a myriad of advantages, free from any undesirable side effects, is very exciting and we need to do all we can to spread the word and encourage that every family adopts this new lifestyle change.
Twenty practical tips to improve your family’s health and nutrition:
- Ignore all conflicting diet advice, which overwhelms us. What’s the best way to eat to improve how your brain works and how your mind feels? Eat real food. Embrace a Mediterranean-style type eating plan as it is closely linked to brain-healthy foods. This diet emphasises fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and whole grains. Additionally, include leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables in your meals.
- Incorporate a variety of colourful foods into your diet. When filling your plate, aim for half fruits and vegetables, a quarter carbohydrates, and a quarter protein.
- Minimise your consumption of ultra-processed foods and strive to eat well at least 80% of the time. Most of what we eat today is just a blend of chemicals masquerading as food. Products with long ingredient lists or those packaged in boxes, bags, or cans, or commonly found in petrol stations or fast-food joints, are not real food. Of course, treats can and should be enjoyed in moderation.
- Opt for cooking meals at home instead of eating out. Not only is it healthier, but it can also save you money. If you’re not confident in your cooking skills like Becca wasn’t as demonstrated by her show The Crap Cook, consider learning. You’ll find many cheap cooking classes at Udemy.
- Invest in appliances like an Instant Pot, air fryer, immersion blender, and food processor which can make the cooking process easier and more enjoyable.
- Keep your pantry stocked with staple items such as rice, beans, lentils, broths, whole-grain pasta, nut butters, and olive oil.
- Set small goals for transitioning from your current diet. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to make all the changes at once. Gradually introduce healthier alternatives. For example, start by swapping overly processed bread with white sourdough or replace chocolate desserts with fruit.
- Add a micronutrient supplement to support brain health. These supplements provide a combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids. Here is a link to the research and testimonials.
- Introduce probiotics into your family’s routine to promote gut health and overall wellbeing.
- Stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Encourage your family members to carry reusable water bottles and make it a habit to drink water instead of sugary beverages.
- Limit the intake of added sugars in your family’s diet. Be mindful of hidden sugars in processed foods, beverages, and snacks. Opt for natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup when needed.
- To ensure a more focused and efficient shopping experience, it is advisable never to venture out without a list or when you’re feeling hungry. When it comes to convenience and time-saving, online shopping emerges as the optimal choice.
- Encourage regular physical activity for the whole family. Find activities that everyone enjoys, such as going for walks, bike rides, swimming, or playing sports together. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Prioritise quality sleep and establish a consistent sleep schedule for each family member and create a sleep-friendly environment by keeping bedrooms cool, dark, and quiet. Limit screen time before bed to promote better sleep.
- Practice portion control during meals to avoid overeating. Use smaller plates and bowls, and encourage mindful eating by savouring each bite and listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
- Reduce salt intake by using herbs, spices, and other flavourful ingredients to season your meals. Limit processed foods that are high in sodium and opt for fresh, whole foods instead.
- Encourage regular family meals together. Eating meals as a family promotes healthier eating habits, communication, and bonding. Make it a priority to sit down and enjoy meals together as often as possible.
- Limit screen time and promote a balanced lifestyle. Encourage outdoor activities in nature, reading, and social interactions to reduce excessive reliance on screens.
- Prioritise mental health and stress management. Teach your family members healthy coping mechanisms such as practicing mindfulness, engaging in hobbies that the family member loves, seeking support from loved ones, or considering professional help when needed with our wonderful Clinical Psychologist Warwick.
- Lead by example. Your actions speak louder than words, so make sure you’re practicing what you preach. Adopt healthy habits yourself and be a role model for your family’s health and wellbeing.
Remember, transforming your family’s health is an ongoing journey that requires patience, consistency, and a supportive environment. Small changes can make a big difference over time, so start with one or two of these tips at a time and gradually incorporate more as you progress. Becca is on hand to help guide you and empower you if you need some extra support.
Purchase a copy of The Better Brain. It’s also available in Kindle, hardback, paperback or Audio CD.
Watch Julia Rucklidge’s TEDx Talk on the surprisingly dramatic role of nutrition in mental health.