Gut, Diet and Neurological Health
A healthy diet is critical to your physical and mental health. A compromised digestive system can impact on your body systems and functions, including your brain, and ultimately result in physical and mental disorders and ill-health.
The link between diet and mental health “is a very new field; the first papers only came out a few years ago,” Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia. “But the results are unusually consistent, and they show a link between diet quality and mental health.”
Low Carb Diet Programmes and Mental Health
Associate Professor Felice Jacka, Deakin University Australia is involved in this research area and has reviewed many studies that demonstrate the link between diet and mental health.
Well planned low carbohydrate nutrition programmes tailored to the patient, including the Ketogenic, Modified Atkins and GAPS programmes, have been found to have beneficial effects on management of depression, bipolar, ADHD, autism and a range of other neurological disorders.
These eating plans require elimination of sugars, processed foods, wheat and other grains that are linked to mental and neurological health problems. The resulting stabilised blood sugar levels, reduced inflammation and optimised gut and intestinal health can result in marked health improvements.
Common factors involved in poor gut health and neurological disorders :
- Diet: A diet high in carbohydrates, relying on refined and processed sugars and starches can degrade gut the gut environment. Sugar and starches provide food sources for toxic bacterial species, parasites and yeasts, that can overwhelm the delicate balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Fibre from a diet high in wheat and other grains can degrade the beneficial gut flora resulting in bowel inflammation and digestive issues.
- Birth and early infancy: babies are born with a sterile gut environment and benefit from exposure to beneficial microbiota during birth and during breastfeeding from a healthy mother. These early experiences help the baby’s gut to begin to populate their intestinal tract and digestive system with essential protective flora. C-sections births and a mother’s compromised gut system (from antibiotics for example) can reduce the correct type of microbiota and expose babies to unhealthy bacteria.
- Medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, steroids and contraceptives can compromise gut flora, particularly when used frequently over long periods of time. Sleeping pills, heartburn medication, neuroleptics, cytotoxic drugs and other powerful drugs can also compromise gut health.
- Antibiotics are much more prevalent in the food supply today. Commercial meat rearing routinely involves antibiotics, that can infiltrate the meat, fats and dairy produce of these animals. Commerical fruits, vegetables, nuts and other fresh food stuffs are sprayed with antibiotics. Over prescribing of antibiotics is an increasing concern. The different types of antibiotic exposure significantly eliminates bad bacteria but the good bacteria in our guts as well.
Diet and Mental Health Research
Maintaining healthy ‘gut flora’ is a fundamental part of staying healthy both physically and mentally. An increasing number of researchers and scientists are now focusing on the impact of specialist low carb, high fat diets such as the Ketogenic diet, which is high in protein and fats but low in carbs, can help with depression and bipolar disorder.
Reports and articles reporting on the link between neurological and mental disorders to the health of the gut:
- Associate Professor Felice Jacka’s study highlights the importance of diet in adolescence and its potential role in modifying mental health over the life course.
- The Maternal and Early Postnatal Nutrition and Mental Health of Offspring by Age 5 Years Study found that consumption of sweets and processed foods during pregnancy is linked to behavioural & mental health issues in the child at age 5 years.
- This recent study reports the long term benefits and mood stabilisation of ketosis, exceeding those achieved with medication achieved by 2 patients with type II bipolar disorder.
- Gisela Telis’ Washington Post article explores the link between mental health and diet: Can what you eat affect your mental health?: New research links diet and the mind
- The Maternal and Early Postnatal Nutrition and Mental Health of Offspring by 5 years Study concluded that early nutritional exposures were related to to risk of behavioural and emotional problems in the children in the cohort study.
Celiac Disease and Mental Health Research:
Celiac Disease is a gut disorder associated with wheat gluten allergies.
- This Neurologic Disorders in Patients with Celiac Disease Study reported that patients with celiac disease were 51.4% more prone to develop neurological disorders such as ataxia, chronic headaches, developmental delays, hypotonia, learning disorders and ADHD.
- This Neurologic Presentation of Celiac Disease Paper discusses the prevalence of neurological disorders in those with celiac disease.
- Depression in Adults Untreated Celiac Subjects: Diagnosis by the Pediatrician Study concluded that Celiac Disease should be taken into consideration in the presence of behavioural and depressive disorders, such as ADHD.
- This research study concluded that health care providers could consider screening patients with schizophrenia for celiac disease and/or augment the medical regimen with a gluten-free or low-carbohydrate, Ketogenic diet.