|A truly integrative approach to mental health includes a thorough assessment of dietary habits, level of exercise/physical activity, environmental exposures, medications, comorbid conditions, life stressors, level of social support, and family history.
A complete physical exam and appropriate laboratory and imaging studies should be utilized to rule out underlying causes of depressed or anxious mood.
Many patients will benefit from the use of specific dietary supplements, such as a multivitamin-mineral high in B-vitamins and omega-3 fatty acid. And no matter what the underlying cause of the mood disorder, patients should be counseled about the relationship between food and mood, for the evidence now substantiates what laypeople and medical professionals have long known intuitively: the way we eat affects the way we feel.
The Western diet consumed in a growing number of countries is devoid of many of the key nutrients critical for the proper functioning of the central nervous system. When making dietary recommendations, clinicians should consider a low-glycemic, modified Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood (if not vegetarian) and low in processed, refined foods for optimizing mental health.
A future article on the topic of nutrition and mental health will address the role of nutraceuticals and herbal medicines in mental health.