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  • Dr. Erica Burger

Nutritional Psychiatry: An Emerging Field

As a psychiatrist, we do our patients a disservice by focusing only on medications as treatment for mental health conditions. It's easy to forget that food can truly service as medicine for our brains and even help prevent mental health symptoms. As far as interventions go, nutrient-dense eating is a delicious and low risk option.


Pillars for mental health do not involve complex laboratory or genetic testing. I recommend the following considerations for mental health: having a psychotherapist you connect with, making healthy lifestyle choices, stewardship and informed consent of medications, and considering your mental health in the context of your ecosystem (where you live) and as a whole organism (mind-body-spirit).


What we eat can impact our mood, anxiety levels, sleep, focus, and can also be related to addiction. The goal in nutritional psychiatry is to help you nourish your brain and there is growing evidence that you can grow your brain through food. Brain health is mental health. The current evidence in nutritional psychiatry centers around omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and the gut microbiome (though the evidence is still emerging with brain-microbiome connection).


One of my jobs as a nutritional psychiatrist is to translate scientific evidence and nutrients into food. Nutritional psychiatry prescriptions involve a thorough nutritional assessment: taking into account your goals, concerns, food preferences, motivation and then helping you make simple swaps and incorporate these foods into your meals. There is never going to be a magic bullet food or food category that will improve how you feel (so it's okay to eat that piece of cake sometimes!). My goal is to empower you to create or move from a fear-based relationship with food to a joy-based eating pattern that helps you feel better. We do best with nutritional changes backed by curiosity and evidence, that are gradual, appropriate with cultural background, and not focused on perfectionism.






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