Mental Health Dietitian

It’s not all in your head.

There are dietary solutions and strategies which can positively impact your mental health. Tree of Life Nutrition is an experienced specialist mental health dietitian team. We understand the complex relationship between your gut and your brain and use specific dietary protocols for great mental health. This helps you to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety or prevent them in the early stages of manifestation. We do this in a caring and supportive way, tailored to your unique needs and lifestyle. Our goal is to marry good nutrition for improved gut health, reduced inflammation, improved energy, feeling of wellness and most of all improved mental health.

The missing link in treating mental health is diet.

Over the years there has been a great deal of research surrounding the gut-brain axis. This axis is a direct highway from our gut to our brain. And it is a two-way function. Our gut microbiota sends signals to our brain, interacting with our central nervous system, neuroendocrine and neuroimmune systems. In turn, our brain functions as a signaller to our gut, and our gut flora or microbial community (bacteria in the gut) change in response. It makes sense, then, to think of diet as playing a crucial role in looking after your mental health.

The gut-brain axis simplified

Think of a group you belong to. You might have the odd bully in the group (the bad bacteria), but that’s mostly okay. If you have the right sort of culture, mostly, the bullies are kept at bay. But what about if you encourage that behaviour? You end up with more bullies than you can handle. Suddenly this bully bacteria is “talking trash” to the brain. They are running the place down there and this impacts our mood and cognitive function.

The reverse is also true. If our brain is overrun by feelings of stress and anxiety, it “talks trash” to our poor little gut microbial community. They are not sure what to do, so the good ones go on a hiatus, and only the tough nuts survive. The microbial is “talking trash” back to the brain, and it’s more like an episode of Jerry Springer than the natural, beautiful ecosystem it should be.

The science

Scientists have growing evidence to support a correlation between gut flora changes and several mental health conditions, including anxiety and mood disorders. Some of the research identifies this link in:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • As well as in Autism

Trials with The Mediterranean Diet have been particularly successful in showing a beneficial link between diet and the treatment of depression and mood disorders.

A major Australian study conducted by Deakin University in 2012, the Supporting the Modification of lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States (SMILES) Trial involved 166 adults with major depressive disorder. Participants were split into two groups at random. They were given either social support or support from a clinical dietitian for a modified Mediterranean Diet over a three-month period.

At the end of the trial, 30 per cent of those in the dietary support group met criteria for remission of major depression, compared to 8 per cent of those in the social support group.

gut brain axis mental health

“Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms.” Professor Felice Jacka, Director of Deakin’s Food and Mood Centre said.

How can a mental health dietitian help me?

Improve microbiome.

If gut issues are present, then this is always the first step in our dietary protocol. The aim is to reduce the gut symptoms to reduce the distress related to these symptoms.

Implement a modified Mediterranean Diet.

This includes balanced low glycaemic index (GI) eating with manipulation to balance macronutrients. A balanced intake of carbs, fats and proteins is also essential. Only a specialty dietitian in the Mediterranean Diet can effectively strategize the dietary manipulation required here.

Positive lifestyle.

The Mediterranean Diet is not just a diet, it is an overall lifestyle, which incorporates slower, more joyful living, positive eating habits, and connection to family and community. We help encourage a whole Mediterranean Diet journey, rather than focusing on diet alone. We have an in-house Psychologist to support and assist with lifestyle changes.

Exercise support.

Exercise and healthy diet are a wonderful combination to support your mental health. Why is exercise good for mental health? Exercise helps to release endorphins and serotonin. They are the ‘feel good’ chemicals which help to improve your mood. Studies show it also helps improve sleep, memory, learning and to reduce stress. Not to mention, the wonderful benefits for your physical health. Tree of Life Nutrition offers you access to our in-house Exercise Physiologist to help support this aspect of your life.

Individual support and protocols.

All our recommendations are tailored to your unique situation. In our 28 years in practice, we know that we need to meet you where you are. A one-size-fits-all approach does not cut it. We bring strategies specifically for your condition, symptoms, lifestyle and tackling barriers that you may face. First, we understand you, and then we offer help.

Working with your mental health team.

Dietary protocol is a part of a holistic approach to mental health and is always best when paired with the support of your mental health professional. We can work in conjunction with your GP, psychiatrist, or psychologist. This may be in helping you reduce side effects of medication such as weight gain, lethargy, fatigue, aches, pains, gut irritation, or skin adversities. Or working with them to support your nutrition while you are reducing medication.

We are here to support you towards feeling better.

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