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NMU 101 – Nutritional Factors Shown to Help Depression, Anxiety and Stress

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 101 (August 22, 2018)

with Dr. James Meschino


Topic: Nutritional Factors Shown to Help Depression, Anxiety and Stress

Source: Food and Behaviour Research (FAB) 2018


Today I want to introduce you to a new term in the healthcare field. It’s called Nutritional Psychiatry, and it is gaining more and more acceptance among psychiatrists, psychologists and family physicians who are following the mental health research. In short, emerging studies are showing that specific dietary and supplementation practices can help prevent and treat mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress-related mental health issues. In addition, some studies have shown that supplements, such as L-Taurine, can even be helpful for patients with psychosis, such as schizophrenia, which I reviewed in a previous Lifestyle Medicine Update issue.

None of the experts in Nutritional Psychiatry are claiming that nutrition and supplementation are to be used in place of standard medications, but they are stating numerous studies now show that using targeted dietary and supplementation strategies, as a complement to standard drug therapies, improves outcomes for many patients with depression, anxiety and those combating stress. This applies to the prevention of depression and anxiety in patients who are at high-risk, as well as acting as a complementary treatment to help reverse these conditions in patients suffering from depression and anxiety.

Although the diet and supplementation program needs to be individualized to each patient’s circumstances, Dr. Alex Richardson, senior research fellow, department of physiology, anatomy, and genetics at the University of Oxford, made some important sweeping statements in the August edition of Food and Behaviour Research. She stated, “There’s good evidence that the provision of some essential nutrients via diet or supplements may help to prevent or treat many mental (as well as physical) health conditions.” Many recent studies highlight the important role played by omega-3 fats, as well as probiotics and prebiotics improving anxiety, stress, and depressive symptoms.

Other studies highlight the importance of key food nutrients, including folic acid, iron, magnesium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin C amongst others as key nutrients in addressing depression and anxiety. Dr. Richardson goes on to state, “increasing evidence for the importance of the gut-brain axis indicates that the use of probiotics and/or prebiotics to improve some mental health conditions is a very promising area.” She concludes that nutritional psychiatry has a key role to play in helping to improve the management of various mental health problems – but better education, information and training on the fundamental importance of nutrition for health is also needed much more generally, at both the public and professional level.

In my view, for individuals with depression, anxiety, psychosis, or those who are prone to these conditions, and those prone to or being treated for stress-related health problems, I would encourage them to seek complementary help from a health care professional who has proper training in Nutritional Psychiatry. The addition of a personalized dietary and supplementation program (often along with exercise), as a complement to (not instead of) medical and pharmaceutical treatment, can help provide significant improvement in combating these mental health problems, as well as helping to prevent relapses and improving one’s quality of life.

I have included the scientific references for this information in the text below.


1. Chu W. Nutritional Psychiatry: Accessing the gut to address the brain. Food and Behaviour Research (August 17, 2018)

2.Taylor AM, Holsher HD. A review of dietary and microbial connections to depression, anxiety, and stress. Nutr Neurosci. 2016, July 9:1-14

3.Jacka FN. Nutritional psychiatry: Where do we go next? EBioMedicine. 2017. March 17:24-29.


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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