Dr. Nicole Beurkens is a leading holistic child psychologist, as a licensed clinical psychologist with advanced degrees in psychology, education, and nutrition. She has dedicated her 25-year career to providing parents with research-based strategies that get to the root of children’s attention, anxiety, mood, and behavior challenges so they can reach their highest potential. She founded and runs a multi-disciplinary evaluation and treatment clinic in Grand Rapids, MI, and is a best-selling author, published researcher, award-winning therapist, media expert, scientific advisor, and experienced mother of four.
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I was medicated for bipolar disorder for 18 years. Ten years ago, I went off anti-psychotic medication. Eight years ago, I weaned off my remaining medication, an SSRI antidepressant.
Today, I am mentally healthier than I’ve ever been, particularly in the last five years, since I have been (mostly) gluten free and eat a lower carbohydrate diet. In fact, my husband would agree that since I changed my eating habits, there has been more of an increase in my mental stability. The times that I consume a bit of gluten here and there, and eat a little more carbs than usual, I typically start to sense some mental instability creep up. The connection between gluten, carbohydrate content, and psychiatric disorders has much clinical evidence behind it, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
I always feel the need to offer a few disclaimers before I share more of my story. Number one, I never encourage anyone to go off medication cold turkey or without the support of a medical professional. Unfortunately, many medical professionals don’t offer much caution in the tapering of medication, so there must be more of a support team in place, in my opinion. Going off medication cold turkey can lead to many unfavorable side effects and can often lead to a person feeling worse than they did BEFORE medication, so it is a very bad idea.When I weaned off my last med, I had a support team in place, and I had established many health practices that had me in the best physical shape possible. It wasn’t a quick decision; it took a lot of detailed planning and prayer.
Number two, every mental illness manifests differently in every individual who experiences symptoms. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999, back when they still called it manic-depressive illness and didn’t distinguish between bipolar 1 or 2 as they do now. The symptoms I experienced at the time met the diagnostic criteria. Unlike most clinical diagnoses, diagnosing a mental illness means checking boxes on a list of symptoms, not looking at a blood test – and definitely not a brain scan. Because of that, and because I no longer experience the same symptoms, I consider myself to be in remission from this illness.
Here are the symptoms I experienced at the time that categorized me with bipolar disorder: periods of depression, lasting longer than a week where I felt fatigue, loss of interest in regular activities, sadness, apathy, worthlessness, and an inability to get out of bed at all. I also experienced symptoms of mania and hypomania, which meant that for short periods of time I felt increased energy, euphoria, an inability to sleep or slow down, racing thoughts, distractibility, and an increase in risky behavior and impulsivity.
“People don’t make the connection between how they eat and how they feel emotionally through the brain. They don’t realize there is a connection to food and the brain and emotional well-being.”
Dr. Uma Naidoo is a board certified psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist. She is the director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and also on faculty at Harvard Medical School.
In this fascinating episode, we discuss her exciting new book, This Is Your Brain On Food, which I highly recommend. Listen to the entire episode and subscribe wherever you get podcasts or listen here.
Key topics of our conversation include:
Dr. Naidoo’s journey as a psychiatrist and professional chef
How what we eat affects our brain
The origin of the gut/brain connection
The rise of mental health concerns
Food to avoid for mental well-being
Orthorexia and food obsession
How to add more diversity in your diet
The impact of caffeine and alcohol on mental health
So much more!
Learn more about Dr. Naidoo here. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @drumanaidoo
Find her book on Amazon or your favorite bookstore. This book is so helpful and needs to be part of your mental health library!