Tag Archives: mental health

Eating Disorder | The Paleo Diet

There are currently 30 million people in the United States alone who suffer from eating disorders,1 where the related science and mental health are overlooked in their diagnoses.2 3 A new study, published by the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, found new evidence of an association between the gut microbiota and the eating disorder anorexia.4

Researchers (and more mainstream sources) are beginning to understand just how much impact our gut has on nearly everything in our body – including our brain.5 6 7 Since nearly 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract – what’s going on in your gut – may be causing what’s going on inside your brain.8

Montiel-castro AJ, González-cervantes RM, Bravo-ruiseco G, Pacheco-lópez G. The microbiota-gut-brain axis: neurobehavioral correlates, health and sociality. Front Integr Neurosci. 2013;7:70.

Holzer P, Farzi A. Neuropeptides and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:195-219.

The researchers’ findings were remarkable. Individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa have not only one of the highest mortality rates,9 but also have very different microbial populations residing inside their guts, compared with healthy populations.10 How does this relate to a Paleo diet? Quite simply – what you eat plays a huge role in influencing your microbial population.11

There are of course a host of other factors, excluding diet that can influence your microbiome, but for our purposes, think of it as a basic equation: Bad food = bad microbial population in your gut = depression and anxiety, among other conditions. Good food = the opposite.

This is certainly an over-simplification, but for practical purposes, it works well. I’ll preface this with the importance of keeping your health and wellness in perspective and go from one extreme to another. A Paleo approach is meant to guide your lifestyle, not consume it. Since a Paleo diet focuses upon food qualitynot calories – it is oftentimes a good antidote to those who have food restriction behaviors.

If you were to go back to the 1950s, and tell a scientist or member of the general populace that what we have in our guts, in terms of microbes, would affect our weight or behavior – they would have escorted you away to a psychiatric ward. But, in the fascinating world of present day modern science, studies have shown the gut microbiome is indeed linked to weight gain, behavior, and even attention deficit disorders like ADHD.12 13 14 15 It’s not all so farfetched after all.

In the context of eating disorders, the microbiome is basically that of a spiral. The worse you eat, the worse your microbe population becomes, and the worse your mood and behavior fairs. Again, this is an oversimplification, but the analogy works. In a life filled with constant stressors, unpredictability, and other problems, if you follow the simple paradigm to make positive changes to our health and lifestyle, we can take back control.

A Paleo diet will provide your body with a wide array of beneficial nutrients that allow your gut bacteria to thrive, not hurt you. The human microbiome is basically an interface between our genes and our history of environmental exposures. Eating a healthy diet can only positively influence your gut microbiome.16

The science is far from definitive yet, but explorations of our microbiome continue to provide the chance of providing new answers into our own neurodevelopment – and behavior. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, know that you are not alone and that healing your relationship with food and your body is possible, and professional counseling to help you overcome it is available.

For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727). SAMSHA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website that can be searched by location.


1. Wade, T. D., Keski-Rahkonen A., & Hudson J. Epidemiology of eating disorders. In M. Tsuang and M. Tohen (Eds.), Textbook in Psychiatric Epidemiology (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley, 2011. p. 343-360.

2. Bulik CM, Tozzi F. Genetics in eating disorders: state of the science. CNS Spectr. 2004;9(7):511-5.

3. Wilson GT. Eating disorders, obesity and addiction. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2010;18(5):341-51.

4. Kleiman SC, Watson HJ, Bulik-sullivan EC, et al. The Intestinal Microbiota in Acute Anorexia Nervosa and During Renourishment: Relationship to Depression, Anxiety, and Eating Disorder Psychopathology. Psychosom Med. 2015.

5. Gareau MG. Microbiota-gut-brain axis and cognitive function. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:357-71.

6. Holzer P, Farzi A. Neuropeptides and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:195-219.

7. Montiel-castro AJ, González-cervantes RM, Bravo-ruiseco G, Pacheco-lópez G. The microbiota-gut-brain axis: neurobehavioral correlates, health and sociality. Front Integr Neurosci. 2013;7:70.

8. Kato S. Role of serotonin 5-HT₃ receptors in intestinal inflammation. Biol Pharm Bull. 2013;36(9):1406-9.

9. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.

10. Available at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151005121310.htm. Accessed October 8, 2015.

11. Conlon MA, Bird AR. The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health. Nutrients. 2015;7(1):17-44.

12. Petra AI, Panagiotidou S, Hatziagelaki E, Stewart JM, Conti P, Theoharides TC. Gut-Microbiota-Brain Axis and Its Effect on Neuropsychiatric Disorders With Suspected Immune Dysregulation. Clin Ther. 2015;37(5):984-95.

13. Turnbaugh PJ, Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, Knight R, Gordon JI. The effect of diet on the human gut microbiome: a metagenomic analysis in humanized gnotobiotic mice. Sci Transl Med. 2009;1(6):6ra14.

14. Sweeney TE, Morton JM. The human gut microbiome: a review of the effect of obesity and surgically induced weight loss. JAMA Surg. 2013;148(6):563-9.

15. Sampson TR, Mazmanian SK. Control of brain development, function, and behavior by the microbiome. Cell Host Microbe. 2015;17(5):565-76.

16. Gonzalez A, Stombaugh J, Lozupone C, Turnbaugh PJ, Gordon JI, Knight R. The mind-body-microbial continuum. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011;13(1):55-62.

Schizophrenia and The Paleo Diet

If you have a loved one who suffers from the debilitating mental condition of schizophrenia, the quality of life is often very low.1, 2 With a growing rate of schizophrenia worldwide, any measures that may help improve this, should be considered.3, 4

Even more sadly, sometimes improvements in symptoms do not necessarily equate to a better quality of life.5 Cognitive impairment, however, can be correlated with perceived quality of life, where improved cognition could potentially lead to a better life in schizophrenics.6, 7, 8

Scientifically, it seems mental disorders, like schizophrenia, may be an issue of glutamatergic transmission.9, 10 Researchers note the deletion at the SLC1A1 glutamate transporter gene,11 which has also been shown in sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder.12 Glutamatergic theories of schizophrenia are based on the ability of N-methyl-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonists to induce schizophrenia-like symptoms.13

Schizophrenia and Diet

(As Seen In: Zhou Y, Danbolt NC. GABA and Glutamate Transporters in Brain. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2013;4:165.)

If the glutamatergic hypothesis is indeed correct, it stands to reason that altering one’s diet may result in cognitive improvements.14 Couple this with the fact that schizophrenia has been shown to present with intestinal permeability.15 Also of note, schizophrenics are 50 times more likely to have celiac disease,16 a correlation that is very intriguing, if somewhat unsurprising.

We have discussed gluten’s negative cognitive effects previously in Gluten and the Brain, 17, 18 but besides gluten, deficiencies in vitamin C, niacin and folate may worsen symptoms of schizophrenia.19 As researchers noted in 2003, a growing body of evidence implicates GABA (an important inhibitory neurotransmitter) in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.20, 21 Schizophrenics, especially when eating an unhealthy diet, may have altered GABA synthesis.22 Researchers found that a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, may be useful in treating schizophrenic patients.23 This is thought to partially be from the increased synthesis of GABA in the brain.24

Schizophrenia and Diet

(As Seen In: Gordon JA. Testing the glutamate hypothesis of schizophrenia. Nat Neurosci. 2010;13(1):2-4.)

Schizophrenia and Diet

(As Seen In: Schwartz TL, Sachdeva S, Stahl SM. Glutamate neurocircuitry: theoretical underpinnings in schizophrenia. Front Pharmacol. 2012;3:195.)

The Paleo Diet is rich in “brain foods,” that are shown to have positive effects on cognition.25 These foods include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can be found in wild-caught fish.26 It also includes flavonoids, which have been shown to help with cognitive decline.27 Choline is also an overlooked essential nutrient. It can be found in egg yolks.28 In fact, lower amounts of choline acetyltransferase in the pontine tegmentum of schizophrenic patients suggests involvement of pontine cholinergic neurons in the disorder.29
Schizophrenia and Diet


Schizophrenia and Diet

If you, or a loved one, are diagnosed with a debilitating mental disorder like schizophrenia, it’s important to try any and all methods, in hopes that quality of life can be improved. A Paleo Diet that is low in carbohydrate, and removes problematic proteins like gluten, would be a good start. Couple this with a regimen that is high in vitamins and minerals, and great results are likely be seen. The formula is simple: If improving the quality of food, can help improve the quality of life, what have you got to lose?


1. Cardoso CS, Caiaffa WT, Bandeira M, Siqueira AL, Abreu MN, Fonseca JO. Factors associated with low quality of life in schizophrenia. Cad Saude Publica. 2005;21(5):1338-40.

2. Solanki RK, Singh P, Midha A, Chugh K. Schizophrenia: Impact on quality of life. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008;50(3):181-6.

3. Bray I, Waraich P, Jones W, Slater S, Goldner EM, Somers J. Increase in schizophrenia incidence rates: findings in a Canadian cohort born 1975-1985. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2006;41(8):611-8.

4. Burns JK, Tomita A, Kapadia AS. Income inequality and schizophrenia: increased schizophrenia incidence in countries with high levels of income inequality. Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2014;60(2):185-96.

5. Wilson-d’almeida K, Karrow A, Bralet MC, Bazin N, Hardy-baylé MC, Falissard B. In patients with schizophrenia, symptoms improvement can be uncorrelated with quality of life improvement. Eur Psychiatry. 2013;28(3):185-9.

6. Alptekin K, Akvardar Y, Kivircik akdede BB, et al. Is quality of life associated with cognitive impairment in schizophrenia?. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2005;29(2):239-44.

7. Savilla K, Kettler L, Galletly C. Relationships between cognitive deficits, symptoms and quality of life in schizophrenia. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008;42(6):496-504.

8. Harvey PD, Green MF, Keefe RS, Velligan DI. Cognitive functioning in schizophrenia: a consensus statement on its role in the definition and evaluation of effective treatments for the illness. J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;65(3):361-72.

9. Tamminga CA. Schizophrenia and glutamatergic transmission. Crit Rev Neurobiol. 1998;12(1-2):21-36.

10. Kantrowitz J, Javitt DC. Glutamatergic transmission in schizophrenia: from basic research to clinical practice. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2012;25(2):96-102.

11. Myles-worsley M, Tiobech J, Browning SR, et al. Deletion at the SLC1A1 glutamate transporter gene co-segregates with schizophrenia and bipolar schizoaffective disorder in a 5-generation family. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2013;162B(2):87-95.

12. Arnold PD, Sicard T, Burroughs E, Richter MA, Kennedy JL. Glutamate transporter gene SLC1A1 associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63(7):769-76.

13. Moghaddam B, Javitt D. From revolution to evolution: the glutamate hypothesis of schizophrenia and its implication for treatment. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012;37(1):4-15.

14. Kraft BD, Westman EC. Schizophrenia, gluten, and low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets: a case report and review of the literature. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009;6:10.

15. Wood NC, Hamilton I, Axon AT, et al. Abnormal intestinal permability. An aetiological factor in chronic psychiatric disorders?. Br J Psychiatry. 1987;150:853-6.

16. Dohan FC. Genetic hypothesis of idiopathic schizophrenia: its exorphin connection. Schizophr Bull. 1988;14(4):489-94.

17. Available at: http://thepaleodiet.com/gluten-brain/. Accessed August 15, 2014.

18. Kalaydjian AE, Eaton W, Cascella N, Fasano A. The gluten connection: the association between schizophrenia and celiac disease. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2006;113(2):82-90.

19. Hoffer LJ. Vitamin therapy in schizophrenia. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2008;45(1):3-10.

20. Wassef A, Baker J, Kochan LD. GABA and schizophrenia: a review of basic science and clinical studies. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003;23(6):601-40.

21. Ben-ari Y, Gaiarsa JL, Tyzio R, Khazipov R. GABA: a pioneer transmitter that excites immature neurons and generates primitive oscillations. Physiol Rev. 2007;87(4):1215-84.

22. Vierling-claassen D, Siekmeier P, Stufflebeam S, Kopell N. Modeling GABA alterations in schizophrenia: a link between impaired inhibition and altered gamma and beta range auditory entrainment. J Neurophysiol. 2008;99(5):2656-71.

23. Pacheco A, Easterling WS, Pryer MW. A PILOT STUDY OF THE KETOGENIC DIET IN SCHIZOPHRENIA. Am J Psychiatry. 1965;121:1110-1.

24 Bough KJ, Rho JM. Anticonvulsant mechanisms of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia. 2007;48(1):43-58.

25. Gómez-pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008;9(7):568-78.

26. Horrocks LA, Yeo YK. Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pharmacol Res. 1999;40(3):211-25.

27. Letenneur L, Proust-lima C, Le gouge A, Dartigues JF, Barberger-gateau P. Flavonoid intake and cognitive decline over a 10-year period. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;165(12):1364-71.

28. Mccann JC, Hudes M, Ames BN. An overview of evidence for a causal relationship between dietary availability of choline during development and cognitive function in offspring. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2006;30(5):696-712.

29. Karson CN, Casanova MF, Kleinman JE, Griffin WS. Choline acetyltransferase in schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry. 1993;150(3):454-9.

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