Mental illness and biochemical individuality

Today, mainstream psychiatry/psychology uses diagnostic manual to evaluate and diagnose someone with mental illness based on a cluster of symptoms they are experiencing, length of time they have been experiencing these symptoms for and intensity of the symptoms.

What do you think is missing?

It is not seeking to discover the causes of these symptoms, which might be physiological. This is vitally important because today, psychiatric drugs prescribed to treat mental illness are only effective for a small number of people, whilst the rest are labeled ‘treatment resistant’.

In general, psychiatrist or psychologist will rarely examine a person physically and almost never discuss person’s diet, nutrients they are eating or might not be eating. It will almost never include laboratory tests to evaluate person’s nutritional status and if they are deficient in important nutrients essential for neurological function, or food allergies/sensitivities, infections or toxins that might be affecting person’s mood.

Research has shown that nutritional deficiencies have been implicated in the pathophysiology of various mental disorders. (1) The most common nutritional deficiencies are of omega–3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are precursors to neurotransmitters. (2)

Omega 3 fatty acids:

Omega 3 fatty acids are a family of essential fatty acids that play important roles in the body and provide numerous health benefits. As human body cannot produce them on its own, we must get them from our diet. The three most important types are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). ALA is mainly found in plants, while DHA and EPA occur mostly in animal foods and algae.

Compelling population studies link high fish consumption to a low incidence of mental disorders; this lower incidence rate has proven to be a direct result of omega-3 fatty acid intake. (6)

B vitamins: 

Clinical trials have indicated that vitamin B12 delays the onset of signs of dementia, if it is administered in a precise clinical timing window, before the onset of the first symptoms and supplementation with cobalamin enhances cerebral and cognitive functions in the elderly.(3)

People with depression have 25% lower blood folate levels than healthy controls. Low folate levels have been a strong predisposing factor of poor outcome with antidepressant therapy. (4)

Amino Acids:

Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins. Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life.

Tryptophan, one of the amino acids,  is a precursor to serotonin and is usually converted to serotonin when taken alone on an empty stomach. Therefore, tryptophan can induce sleep and tranquility and in cases of serotonin deficiencies, restore serotonin levels leading to diminished depression. (2)


Nutrigenomic studies in humans, animals, and cell cultures have demonstrated that macronutrients (e.g., fatty acids and proteins), micronutrients (e.g., vitamins), and naturally occurring bioreactive chemicals (e.g., phytochemicals such as flavonoids, carotenoids, coumarins, and phytosterols; and zoochemicals such as eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) regulate gene expression in diverse ways.(5)

Much of the nutrigenomic focus has been on single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), DNA sequence variations that account for 90% of all human genetic variation. SNPs that alter the function of “housekeeping genes” involved in the basic maintenance of the cell are assumed to alter the risk of developing a disease. Dietary factors may differentially alter the effect of one or more SNPs to increase or decrease disease risk. (5)

Nutritional Therapy can provide support that can be integrated into your current healthcare programme. If you are interested how I can help you, contact me for a free, no obligation chat to discover many other options available to you, beside psychiatric drugs and talking therapy.


  1. Rao, T. S., Asha, M. R., Ramesh, B. N., & Rao, K. S. (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian journal of psychiatry50(2), 77–82.
  2. Lakhan, S. E., & Vieira, K. F. (2008). Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutrition journal7, 2.
  3. Bourre, J.M (2006) Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging, 10(5):377-85.
  4. Coppen A, Bailey J. Enhancement of the antidepressant action of fluoxetine by folic acid: A randomized placebo controlled trial. J Affect Disord. 2000;60:121–30.
  5. Mead M. N. (2007). Nutrigenomics: the genome–food interface. Environmental health perspectives115(12), A582–A589.
  6. Reis LC, Hibbeln JR. Cultural symbolism of fish and the psychotropic properties of omega-3 fatty acids. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006 Oct-Nov;75(4-5):227-36