DETROIT LAKES, Minnesota — A link between what people consume and their mental health has become more apparent in the medical profession.
Delores Alleckson, a nurse practitioner at Essentia Health in Detroit Lakes who specializes in psychology and is certified as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, often sees people with various mood disorders.
With more than a dozen years of mostly outpatient care, Alleckson said some disorders require medication, while others can be treated with dietary changes, or a combination of both.
Alleckson explained that food additives, such as artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup or gluten, can wreak havoc inside the body and reduce the ability to absorb vital nutrients.
Gluten, which is found in wheat, beer and pasta, can take up to six months to be completely expelled from her system, she said. In the meantime, one may experience fatigue, anemia, diarrhea and bloating.
“But after you stop eating it, you might feel better in a month,” Alleckson said. “If you eat something while you are cleansing your body, your body will tell you that it is not good. It happened to me. I was in a hurry and ate a chicken salad with sour cream on it. Before I started eating better, I couldn’t get enough sour cream on my potatoes. After eating it on the salad, my mouth hurt.
When the body is unable to absorb nutrients, there can be health effects, such as weight loss, anemia, memory problems and more.
For example, Alleckson explained that people on a vegan diet (especially children and teens) are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Those who are deficient in vitamin B12 (found in beef, chicken, and liver) may experience fatigue, depression, pale appearance, and anxiety.
It’s not just food that creates health problems. While coffee is still a staple, many are turning to energy drinks. Both can cause people to feel angry, impulsive and even sleep deprived, she said.
“People are sorely starved of water,” she said, noting that those who add flavor enhancers to water should look at the ingredients, as they’re often “cringe-worthy.”
“People go to hotels and think it’s fabulous when they have water with cucumbers or lemons,” she said. “You can do this at home, and once you’ve had more water you’ll feel much better. We should be drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses a day.
When a patient comes for help, Alleckson said, an individualized biochemical test can be done to determine if a vitamin deficiency exists. Anyone interested in learning more about how diet and mental health are linked should ask their primary care provider for a referral.