The Emergent Grace Movement

Christian Hope for Lasting Mental Health

Thinking about diet and ill health

green salad with red cabbage and radish

Diet and ill health. Everything these days depends on recognizing the connection between diet and ill health–and there is a lot of ill health these days. The medical and mental health industries are trying to solve problems that we will prevent in the future. I have hope that we can, over time, focus on what we put into our bodies in the first place. Let’s will that thought into reality by stating it as a fact: we can do better.

I sometimes feel medicine in the west exists to subsidize the eating habits we have in the Standard American Diet. The Standard American Diet causes innumerable diseases and conditions.

But at least we have been developing all of these expensive medicines that no one can afford(!).

The Sanctified Imagination

I believe in the sanctified imagination, and that via the sanctified imagination we can visualize a day when children won’t be fed pastries and milk for breakfast for their free and reduced lunch in public schools–and then diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD that they don’t have the financial means to treat.

Where people with eczema and psoriasis won’t be told they need laser treatment without being first asked if they’re eating eggs and dairy. My primary care doctor several years ago referred me to a dermatologist who asked me if I wanted self-tanner while informing me I needed laser services for my eczema–in the same breath! The “doctor” assured me that diet and skin weren’t related. I went to an herbalist: “stop eating eggs.” It worked!

My mom had three sinus infections in one year, and was repeatedly prescribed medications, and then they told her she would need sinus surgery.

She said to her doctor: “Aren’t you curious why I’m getting all these infections?”

A naturopath did an allergy test. She has a dairy sensitivity and had started getting a latte every day when she got a new job. Once she cut out dairy and was fine. She hasn’t had a sinus infection since–twenty years later.

What if people with cancer learned in time that they shouldn’t eat meat at all? Highly recommended: the book China Study–or, related: How Not to Die and its cookbook. Eating meat and dairy, turns out, are contributing to our cancer epidemic!

What we informed students about first episode psychosis and yet went further, encouraging sustainable support like that found in NYC?

What if we screened young people before the paranoia took over and they were beyond help and involuntarily hospitalized? (Which is what happened to me.)

Dr. Uma Naidoo

Diet and ill-health are inseperable. In her crucial, path-breaking book This is Your Brain on Food, Dr. Uma Naidoo sets the tone for what future mental health will look like when we patients take the time to inform ourselves. Better yet: what if doctors read her book, took it seriously, and made it required reading for their patients?

What if they gave it the weight that their prescription pad had?

And in their own minds above all, so that their patients would take it just as seriously?

What if doctors read Integrative Psychiatry and Brain Health? The book is very expensive and also hard to understand if you don’t read psychiatric journals all the time (like I do). So what if they explained it to their patients? Repeatedly?

Dr. Naidoo’s book is not perfect, nor is it comprehensive. I don’t like how it’s written, honestly, since I prefer formality from doctors. But she is a woman on a mission. I highly recommend her website and blog, which can be found at She’s always coming up with new things.

Vitamins are so important

Until discovering the link between nutrition and health, I thought of vitamins as an add-on, not essential. Incidental. Now, I’m not saying medicine isn’t necessary. It’s essential. But as I write in a different post, you can maximize success by tending to medicine and diet/vitamins. It doesn’t have to be either/or. And they should be taken equally seriously. Were I to stop taking my B12, I would have to be on a much higher dose of antipsychotic. I have to treat my B12 with the same weight as my antipsychotic. If you have a different condition and find the right vitamins to supplement, you should be just as cautious.

I remember picking up my belongings as I left the psych ward and noticing that I had a “stress away” spray in my purse. Oh, thinking that I could spray away psychosis! In short: yes, antipsychotics are still necessary. But consider this: a normal dose of B12 doesn’t do anything for me. It has to be an extremely high dose. Shouldn’t this mean that doctors should take doses of their medicines more seriously?

Psychiatry could have an important role in getting people to eat well. And getting us to treat vitamins like medicine, with specific doses even, for each given condition.

Also: Vitamins don’t have side effects!

I didn’t know that there were doctors called naturopaths, and that they weren’t quacks. These doctors make sure your vitamins are the right brand (some brands aren’t well-regulated), and that your doses aren’t toxic.

They also ensure that there aren’t adverse side effects between your vitamins and your prescription medications.

Naturopathic Doctors

My naturopathic doctor is amazing, and she definitely sees the connection between diet and ill-health. I hope that she will write a book and will keep you posted if she does. I don’t intend to see her regularly because I’m doing well and got what I needed from her. Imagine that!

Dr. Pujari is an internal medicine doctor (a traditional MD, American-trained) and also a doctor of naturopathy. That she has this dual degree is everything. I have been recommending her to psychiatric leaders left and right, as well as to families who have sought my encouragement since the publication of my Seattle Times article.

When I saw my primary care physician to check out my vitamins when I was told they were fine. In reality they were not fine. Nor was I on reputable brands. Dr. Pujari set me straight. I also brought her a Christian book on diet and health that I highly recommended she use for her traditional, perhaps conservative, clients, should she have any (the book is by Rick Warren, called The Daniel Plan).

At the same time, she respected my pronouns (I prefer she/they pronouns) and was very aware of gender and sexuality.

In short, she is very versatile. Nonjudgmental towards conservatives and progressives, but up to date in best practices medically regarding respecting gender identity and sexuality.

Most amazing of all, when I told her about my metformin and that my psychiatrist had actually essentially given my brain poison given my specific condition (about more here), she was supportive, non-judgmental of the doctor, and yet very affirming of my negative experience with Western medicine while stressing its overall value.

She told me her colleague had published a paper about Metformin and the fact that it causes B12 deficiency, and that she was trying to get it traction with the doctors at Virginia Mason.

Regular Doctor Woes

I told her my frustration that my doctor didn’t believe me that B12 deficiency had caused my psychosis. She explained that medical doctors in the West, especially in the US, have a specific, very rigorous, lens. Their training encourages their faithfulness to it.

I have to say, she “speaks” that western language, but has a comparatist’s spirit about her. She validated my B12 victory, honoring that the details of why it works for me may always be a mystery.

But she also signed me up to get a genetic test that may shed further light on the situation.

By comparison, my primary care physician had told me I didn’t need genetic the genetic test (!). She even went so far as to suggest that I go off the B12 even though it was lifesaving and making it so I could leave the house. Because she wanted to test whether or not I had a deficiency in the first place. It’s like it’s not real to them if they can’t test. The opposite of holistic, integrative approaches.

In sum…

It is time to consider the connection between diet and ill health–mental and physical. Some cases of severe schizophrenia are not responsive and it is just bad schizophrenia. I wrote my first two books when I was similarly suffering. I’m glad I wrote them before my miraculous recovery. They will always be there for people who can’t be healed with vitamins and antipsychotics–yet.

If that applies to you, practice acceptance paired with hope. Keep in mind there have also been stories of miraculous recoveries from 20+ years of catatonia when the “schizophrenia” turns out to be lupus (like the story of April Burrell). Keep in mind that this is where the DSM and psychiatry’s desire to treat just symptoms betrays its lack of holistic vision and pathologizing tendencies. Just because certain disorders make a certain symptom cluster, doesn’t mean that people with that symptom cluster have the same ailment.

Because we’re all different, I recommend going to an integrative doctor. One who honors the extremely important insights of Western medicine, while asking questions like, When was the last time you felt well? Psychiatry is important, but it puts knowledge above wisdom. As a Western discipline, it trains its practitioners to do just that. It is not enough. (Read my previous, related post by clicking here.)

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