Food Does Not Cure Mental Illness
Does food “cure” mental illness? No. Can a stress reducing, nutritionally dense diet be associated with reduced risk? Maybe. We need more longitudinal studies with extended follow up and large sample sizes and repeated measures.
Diet being a supportive factor, associated with lower risk, helping some folks, doesn’t mean it’s a cure. Also, anecdotal situational stories aren’t valid cases to generalize the role of food in treatment. Mental illness is complex & multifaceted, there is no one “cure.” Even in eating disorders, where food relationships are deeply disrupted, the implementation of food therapy doesn’t “cure” the illness. It’s one piece of the pie. MENTAL illness includes beliefs, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and patterns. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Here are a few key points to understand:
1. Mental illness is a manifestation of genetics and environment. Today we know your genes, temperament, family system, micro and macro systems, trauma, oppression, SES, abuse, race, fatphobia, diet culture, political climate… alllll types of factors influence the manifestation of mental illness. Eating kale will not offset the complex diathesis stress model of mental illness development.
2. What we KNOW is therapy and medication are powerful interventions for mental illness.
3. We also have close to ZERO mental health education. Education is the number one factor we can improve to prevent mental illness.
4. Remember, believing food is medicine is a slippery slope. Associations are not causations. No one in the mental health field will say diet doesn’t matter (food scarcity is a major risk factor). But understand, rigid, rule-based, righteous-eating comes with the very high risk of developing Orthorexia, a real mental illness. STRESS created from over-focusing on food is indeed a RISK factor. Stress increases the likelihood of the manifestation of illness.
5. Trauma is not unwound by food. It displays a gross misunderstanding of trauma and neurology to claim organic, non-gmo, nutritionally dense foods will heal mental illness.
6. As a Clinical Mental Health Counselor I recommend intuitive eating for my clients. Healing a relationship with food will include flexibility, variety, peace, and finding satisfaction. And importantly reducing stress.
7. Please do not assume food is the cure. It can be a great supplement to overall health, and can reduce RISKS and be associated with outcomes, but mental illness must include acknowledgment of the many systems we live in, plus our genetic tendencies that pre-dispose us to have varying mental health outcomes throughout the lifespan.
8. Mental illness isn’t a choice. You’re not to blame for your illness. Simple food choices aren’t the holy grail, panacea, to end mental suffering. Mental health struggles are part of being alive. You can learn skills, develop support, change your brain, and get real help.
Therapy thoughts are for educational purposes only and are not a replacement for a therapeutic relationship or individualized mental health or medical care.
Therapy and tacos for all