Steering our mental health through nutrients
With the increase of mental illness patients among Malaysians, the conventional methods are complemented by treating the root cause of the issue
The national mental health level has been deteriorating over the past few years in Malaysia. Mental health is indiscriminate – it can affect anyone regardless of gender, age and nationality.
The demands of living nowadays, coupled with polluted surrounding could affect a person physically and psychologically. Research shows that unemployment, financial crisis, marital problems can be one of the main contributors to the doubled mental cases over the last decade.
“It’s an issue that has been going for a while with its leaps and bounds in Malaysia and even globally. Now if we look at the statistic in Malaysia in 2015, about 30 per cent of the population is affected by mental health issues as opposed to 2011 when it was at 11 per cent. In other words, one out of three people are estimated to have been affected by some kind of mental health issue,” says Dr NorAshikin Mokhtar, the founder of PrimaNora Medical Centre TTDI.
Mental illness is seen as the second highest form of health problem after heart disease by 2020. There’s an urgent need to further the enlightenment to the matter as mental illness may affect the global economy as productivity is lost within the patients.
However, the usage of anti-depressants and other conventional medicines creates dependency and there’s little evidence that they are safe for long-term usage.
“The problem with conventional medicines now is that they aim to treat the diseases instead of the patients. Mental treatment has always been about counselling and medications. The fact is that treating mental illness is beyond that.
“Whether its anxiety, depression or panic attack – we need to look at the root cause of the illness – are we at risk? Now with the knowledge of nutrigenomics and genetics, we can prevent it with nutrition supplements,” she says.
Foods for thoughts
We live in a fast-paced society where 24 hours are not enough for a day. Fast food becomes one of the popular selections to fill our stomach. Coupled with the consumption of processed food, the population today are not getting the essential nutrients for their mental health.
Poor mental health and nutritional deficiencies are related as mental health conditions are caused by inflammation in the brain. This inflammatory response in our gut is associated with a lack of nutrients such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins and minerals that are required by our body.
Food supplement such as zinc, magnesium, omega 3, and vitamins B and D3, according to research – has the property to improve moods, relieve anxiety and depression and so does magnesium citrate supplements.
Meanwhile, probiotics vitamin B complex and zinc proved to improve mental health and significantly reduces depression and anxiety in a patient.
“People are now always in a hurry. Working class citizens usually opt for fast food and that means you don’t consume healthy meals daily. Your body works how you fuel it to work – at the cellular level.
“There are definite nutrients that are required for your body to work optimally. Deficiency in vitamin D can cause depression, panic attacks and anxiety. Also amino acids are required to make the neural hormones – the dopamine and the serotonin.”
“All in all, the food we eat can consume us in a bad way as there is a gut-brain connection. Almost 80 per cent of serotonin ( our happy hormone ) is produced in the gut. The chemical laden food will cause inflammation and disrupt the proper function of the gut to also absorb healthy nutrients and produce the serotonin.”
Mental illnesses can cause an economical decline, that’s why it’s important that the awareness is raised among the public. There’s no sure way to prevent mental illness; however, proper nutritional intake can delay the process by keeping our brains strong and healthy.
“Greater awareness about mental health and early diagnosis can reduce the statistic of suffering from mental health related problems Nevertheless, there is room for improvement for the finding and methods to do future research,” Dr Ashikin says, with hope in her voice. — The Health