Find healthy, whole food options at The Ranch Gate Market in Sylvan Lake, which stocks meat, cheese and pantry items from a variety of healthy local producers.

How does nutrition affect mental health?

This ranch family says an ancestral diet has made them more physically and mentally resilient

“Throughout my residency, no-one has talked about the fact that there is a mountain of literature, A MOUNTAIN of literature, [demonstrating] that psychiatric illness is mostly brain inflammation. As a psychiatrist, through my training in psychiatry, I think of myself as a brain rheumatologist.” – Dr. Paul Saladino MD during an interview with Dr. Ken Berry, author of ‘Lies My Doctor Told Me: Medical Myths That Can Harm Your Health’.

During the last 5 years, Dr. Saladino has joined a number of medical professionals who have stepped outside the conventional western medical paradigm, and started investigating the effects of the modern diet on a multitude of diseases and disorders.

“Our family is well versed in the negative effects of gluten intolerance and celiac sprue, which includes an autoimmune reaction where antibodies attack and damage neurological tissue, often leading to fatigue and depression,” says Stewart Staudinger, an applied scientist and Central Alberta rancher who co-owns The Ranch Gate Market in Sylvan Lake.

As Dr. Berry is keen to point out, there is “no meaningful medical research” to support the theory that depression and anxiety are the product of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Yet mainstream medicine is quick to medicate these ‘imbalances’ as a first, and often only, response to mental health problems.

Unexpected benefits of quality nutrition

“In our family’s journey toward a healthier and more species-appropriate ancestral diet to treat autoimmune disease, we discovered a side-line benefit we weren’t expecting,” Staudinger says. “We changed our diet to remove the toxins triggering autoimmunity, and increased our nutrient density and the type of fats we were consuming. It had health effects beyond our expectations — we noticed increased mental clarity, increased stress tolerance and better sleep patterns.”

Staudinger, his wife and three children also connected with an enormous online community who’ve had similar experiences.

“Not only did those re-adopting ancestral paleo, carnivore, paleolithic ketogenic and meat-based ketogenic diets have improved physical health and a reduction in chronic physical disease, almost all reported an improvement in mental health.”

Building resilience, not quick-fixes

In his research, Dr. Berry is quick emphasize that environmental stressors like the loss of a loved one or other serious trauma result in natural grieving and emotional experiences. There’s no way around these emotions, and you can’t medicate your way out of them, but your ability to contend with the tragedy of life can be greatly improved by improving your baseline mental health.

“One significant factor contributing to this is diet,” Staudinger says. “Combined with adequate rest, exercise, time outdoors, healthy social interactions and relationships, diet is a solid brick in the wall that holds mental illness at bay.”

Removing inflammatory polyunsaturated fats found in seed oils and modern calorie-rich, nutrient-poor processed foods can play a significant role in reducing background inflammation in the body. Staudinger’s research suggests this has an amazing positive effect on the brain and neurological system.

“Our social fabric and economy have been severely damaged by the response to SARS-CoV-2, so mental stresses outside the ‘norm’ are inevitable. A better diet won’t make you invincible, but it can certainly contribute to making you more resilient, and that is often enough to get you through a crisis,” Staudinger says.

A recipe for stronger mental health

Staudinger suggests leaving the junk food and sunflower oil on the shelf in the store, picking up some locally raised burgers, steaks or ribs and firing up the BBQ.

“Spend some quality time with loved ones eating quality whole foods and enjoying the great Alberta outdoors. And if you can, offer a helping hand to a struggling neighbour during these difficult times. A healthy diet can’t fix everything, and we all need a friendly hand from time to time,” Staudinger says. “Sometimes it’s not the helping hand, but the message of community it carries with it, that makes all the difference.”

Find healthy, whole food options at The Ranch Gate Market in Sylvan Lake, which stocks meat, cheese and pantry items from a variety of healthy local producers. The Staudinger family ranch, MFL Bison Ranch, embraces regenerative farming practices which heal ecosystems damaged by industrialised food production. Find the store at 380-49 Hinshaw Dr., and learn more about nutrition and regenerative farming at mflbisonranch.com.

FarmingFoodHealth and wellnessNutrition