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The Doctors discuss a study out of John Hopkins School of Medicine which found there may be a link between nitrates, which are often found in cured meats as a preservative or color enhancer, and people with a history of mental illness. Psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow explains more about the findings.
The study looked at over 1,000 patients over 10 years and found in patients hospitalized with manic episodes, they were three and a half times more likely to have consumed a cured meat which had nitrates in it. Dr. Dow says in an animal study, they also found when they gave rats nitrates the rats had hyperactivity in their brains which affected their sleep/wake cycle.
Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra says people with bipolar disorder who are predisposed to mania may have a switch where nitrates become more problematic. She asks if this affects the microbiome. Dr. Dow says that it likely does. Many of our feel-good chemicals that travel to the brain are produced in the gut. These neurotransmitters which turn certain brain mechanisms on and off can be affected by the chemicals and processed foods we ingest. There's research that found the standard American diet has low levels of good bacteria and high levels of bad bacteria.
Instead of eating food that is poison, focus on food that can be your medicine! There are “brain foods” which contain antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory, which can help with certain forms of mental illness. Dr. Dow shares a UCLA study which found just consuming foods with a probiotic (foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchee) had a significant effect in reducing anxiety. Another study found, in human subjects, the Mediterranean diet (which is low in processed foods) can treat a major depressive disorder. They’ve said it before and The Doctors will say it again, “Let food be your medicine.”