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How Nutrition Affects Emotions And Behavior
By Dr. Wilson
CALCIUM, MAGNESIUM, AND ZINC - THE BIOCHEMICAL SEDATIVES
Joey, age three, was diagnosed as learning disabled and hyperkinetic. It was difficult for him to sit still for more than a few minutes. Based on a mineral analysis, he began taking a food supplement containing calcium, magnesium, and zinc - three elements that help calm the nervous system. Within two days his mother reported he was more relaxed and easier to manage. He began to sleep better, and was able to sit still and play like a normal child.
Calcium raises the threshold at which nerves cells fire, thus reducing the irritability or sensitivity of the nervous system. A person whose tissue calcium level is low is prone to nervous irritability. Zinc is another anti-stress nutrient. Zinc deficiency is associated with emotional instability. Magnesium is another powerful sedative. Magnesium sulfate is routinely given to patients during heart attacks as a sedative medication.
Norma complained of fatigue and depression. A tissue mineral test revealed elevated calcium and magnesium levels, and low levels of sodium and potassium. This pattern is associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. With corrective diet and the several nutritional supplements, Norma's moods became more even within three months. She has since remained well.
While low tissue levels of calcium and magnesium in the tissues can produce anxiety or hyperactivity, an excess of these same elements in the tissues has a depressive effect upon brain chemistry.
Low levels of thyroid and adrenal hormones can also cause fatigue and consequent depression. The sodium level in the hair tissue is a reflection of adrenal gland activity, because sodium is largely regulated by the adrenal hormone, aldosterone. Thus a low sodium level on a hair element analysis is a strong indicator of inadequate adrenal activity that can result in fatigue and depression. These individuals require a diet with low fat and plenty of protein, and supplements of vitamins B, C and E. Extra manganese and zinc are also very helpful.
TOXIC METALS AND MENTAL HEALTH
Copper. Joan, age 18, was a patient in Scottsdale Camelback Hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. She responded poorly to medication and psychotherapy. Tissue mineral testing revealed a copper level of 40 mg%, about 15 times normal. Joan was placed on a diet and nutritional supplements to reduce tissue copper.
Her condition improved so radically she was released from all psychiatric care within six months, and returned to high school the following September. Excess tissue copper stimulates the biogenic amines, neurotransmitters associated with depression, anxiety, mood swings and schizophrenia. Copper imbalance is quite common but goes undiagnosed because the tissue mineral test is not often done.
Lead. Thousands of children in the United States are affected by lead poisoning. Lead can cause mental retardation and hyperactivity in children, and violent behavior in adults.
Mercury. The mad hatters in Alice in Wonderland were mercury-toxic. They rubbed mercury on felt to make hats. Mercury accumulates in the brain, where it can cause severe behavior changes. Silver amalgam fillings, fungicides and paints are sources of mercury.
Aluminum. Hair levels of aluminum are increasing rapidly in the American population. Research links excess aluminum with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Aluminum is acquired by drinking soda and beer from aluminum cans, and from anti-perspirants, anti-acids, table salt, cosmetics, salted foods, tap water, aluminum cookware and perhaps occupational exposure. It can be removed from the body if detected early enough.
Cadmium. The Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 18, #10, 1985, pp. 609-612 reported that among 980 male U.S. Navy recruits entering basic training, a significant correlation was found between hair cadmium levels and behavior problems. "The three subjects with the highest cadmium level all displayed serious behavior difficulties in recruit training".
OTHER NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES AND BEHAVIOR
B-complex vitamins are essential for proper nervous system functioning. Many people report more energy and less depression when they take thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and pyridoxine (B6). Pantothenic acid (B5) also helps energy production. Two other members of the B-complex family, choline and inositol, act as natural tranquilizers.
Many other nutrients can affect behavior. L-Taurine and l-tryptophan have a calming effect. L-phenylalanine and l-tyrosine can enhance thyroid activity and improve energy and mood. There are others as well.
HYPOGLYCEMIA AND BEHAVIOR DISORDERS
Carbohydrate intolerance is a common nutritional disorder that produces severe behavior changes. Diets high in carbohydrates, and deficiencies of manganese, chromium and other minerals are often involved. Among the most common symptoms of hypoglycemia are confusion, irritability, anxiety and at times violence. It is quite simple to identify carbohydrate intolerance and correct it with diet and food supplements, yet this common malady is often overlooked.
FOOD INTOLERANCE AND BEHAVIOR
Any food can cause reactions that affect the nervous system. One possible reason for these reactions is that histamine, the chemical that is released in allergic phenomena, can be released in the brain causing alterations in brain chemistry.
Brain allergies are often overlooked in the search for reasons for anti-social behavior. One cause of ADHD is a reaction to allergic foods or chemical additives found in children?s foods. Dr. Benjamin Feingold, MD pioneered the study of food allergies on children?s behavior. Depression can also be the result of food allergies, or allergies to chemicals in food or drinking water.
WHY ISN'T NUTRITION INCORPORATED MORE INTO MENTAL HEALTH CARE?
Most likely a combination of several factors. There is reticence on the part of medical professionals to change their mode of practice. Nutrition is not among the disciplines stressed in medical school. Also, there is much less money in nutritional supplements, and virtually none for dietary research. Hence, there is less impetus for large-scale studies and widespread publicity for the ideas discussed here.
However, there is plenty of scientific evidence to support everything discussed above. Several excellent references are listed at the end of this article. Many contain numerous medical references on the subject of diet, nutrition and behavior.
Deficiencies or excesses of many common nutrients can have profound effects on the way we think and feel. In many cases, simple dietary changes and individualized nutrition programs can do much to improve mental health.
References 1. Abramson, E.M. and Pezet, A.W., Body, Mind and Sugar, Holt, Reinhart and Winston, New York, 1951.
2. Chatsworth, L., and Chatsworth, C., Energy, Healthview Publishing, Charlottsville, Virginia, 1985.
3. Dufty, W., Sugar Blues, Warner Books, New York, 1975.
4. Feingold, B., Is Your Child Hyperactive, Random House, New York, 1975.
5. Larson, J.M., Seven Weeks to Sobriety - The Proven Program To Fight Alcoholism Through Nutrition, Ballantine/Wellspring, New York, 1997.
6. Pfeiffer, C., Mental and Elemental Nutrients, Keats Publishing, New Canaan, Connecticut, 1975.
7. Phelps, J. K., and Nourse, A., The Hidden Addiction, Little Brown & Company, Boston & Toronto, 1986.
8. Schauss, A., Diet, Crime and Delinquency, Parker House, Berkeley, California, 1981.
9. Williams, R., Nutrition Against Disease, Pitman Publishing, New York, 1971.
10. Wilson, L., Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc., Prescott, AZ, 1998.
11. Yudkin, J., Sweet and Dangerous, Peter H. Wyden, New York, 1972. Dr. Lawrence Wilson
P.O. Box 54
Prescott, AZ 86302-0054
Visit http://www.drlwilson.com/ for books, and audio tapes from Dr. Wilson.
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