Ken Babal, staff nutritionist, Erewhon Natural Foods, Los Angeles on the use of nutritional therapy as an alternative treatment for anxiety and depression:
Well, the brain is probably more sensitive to what you eat and what pills you take more than any other organ in the body. And certainly it's the first organ to feel the effects of that. So again, I'm most concerned with three areas actually:
1) Circulation. Obviously you have to get good blood circulation to the brain to feed the nutrients and also to get rid of the waste products. 2) Blood sugar regulation. Blood sugar is the brain's fuel. If the blood sugar is fluctuating, we may have bouts of depression. And the third area is the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. These are the chemical messengers that send signals back and forth between nerve cells. And for quite a few number of years now from studies at MIT we know that you can influence these levels of neurotransmitters by certain foods. And supplementing with certain amino acids.
For example, a lot of antidepressants target serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters. Serotonin gives rise to feelings of peacefulness and contentment. And you can influence serotonin levels by eating certain foods. Carbohydrates tend to increase levels of serotonin. But we have certain nutrients as well that help serotonin levels: niacin, for example.