Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dr Rucklidge on Nutrition and Mental Health

We still unfortunately live in a world where most people, including the government and media, believe that the "best" way to treat mental illness is by pharmaceutical medication with some psychological therapy on the side. But does conventional society really know what's best? As Dr Julia Rucklidge puts it, most people are just as wrong about mental health as we were about fatal infections in the 19th century, when we thought that they were caused by chance or "fate" instead of poor hygiene.

Omega-3 fats are important for mental health.
Her appearance at a TEDx event in Christchurch, New Zealand, comes after years of experience in treating patients with mental health issues (including conducting her own research). Over and over again, she has seen pharmaceutical drugs fail to improve health in the long term, and micronutrient therapy usually succeed. Two major aspects of conventional therapy's failure to treat mental illnesses are prevention and relapse. From 1991-2010, the number of people in New Zealand on disability for psychiatric disorders increased by four-fold (all research is shown on-screen in her TEDx talk). While she has seen pharmaceutical drugs be effective in acute episodes, it is clear that people are not truly healing. One example of this is a long-term study on children medicated for ADHD. In the short term, the drugs were the most effective therapy. In the long-term, their mental health was worse than in children who had never taken them. For depression? Despite our access to antidepressants, the rates of relapse and recovery are no better than 50 years ago. Children given antidepressants have triple the risk of developing bipolar disorder compared to those who go down another path. And schizophrenia? People randomised to stay on the same dose of antipsychotics, compared to those who are assisted to decrease or eliminate their use, are less likely to see a long-term recovery.

Despite her education being based on the idea that only drugs and psychotherapy can treat mental illness, her interest turned to nutritional therapy. She conducted a randomised, controlled trial on the effects of a vitamin and mineral (micronutrient) combination in adults with ADHD, and found that twice as many people in the treatment group reported symptomatic improvement compared with placebo. They were more likely to report that their symptoms no longer affected their life, were more likely to experience remission in their depression and more likely to stop exhibiting ADHD symptoms at a clinical level of severity. These were high doses of 36 nutrients, using high-quality supplements, so over-the-counter self-prescribing is unlikely to give the same results. In another, children with bipolar disorder had an average reduction of their symptoms by 50%, along with a reduction in medication. And what about PTSD following natural disasters? When micronutrient therapy was given to people affected by earthquakes, incidence of the disorder was cut to a mere fraction. Even then, nutritional supplementation helps people to rebuild their lives. Overall, Dr Rucklidge has seen a 60-80% success rate with micronutrient therapy for various mental illnesses.

And what about other studies by other authors? Around the world, research has shown that nutritional supplementation can help rehabilitate dangerous criminals and fight age-related cognitive decline, as well as deal with mental illness. In one of these, adolescents at risk of developing psychosis were randomised to receive either omega-3 fatty acids through fish oil or a placebo for 12 weeks. A year later, 28% of the placebo group had unfortunately developed psychosis. And the fish oil group? Only 5%! This is an 80% reduction. Once again, however, it must be remembered that these were high-quality supplements used at therapeutic doses. While you do need to work with a qualified practitioner (such as a naturopath), all of this research shows that there is real hope for recovery from mental health issues, with side-benefits for your overall health.

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