Ep15: Nutritional Psychiatry & How Nutrition Affects Mental Health with Dr Ann Childers

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Psychiatrist Dr Ann Childers

Dr Ann Childers: Nutritional Psychiatry Expert

In today’s interview I get to speak with psychiatrist, Dr Ann Childers MD about the benefits of nutritional psychiatry, how food affects our moods and what the best solution is.

Dr Ann is very passionate about avoiding foods that affect your glucose & insulin levels in a negative way.

She was diagnosed with ADHD and has seen the personal benefits to her mental health by changing what she easts and knowing what foods to avoid.

As a practicing psychiatrist in Oregon in the US, she helps patients of all ages get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Dr Ann does use nutrition and diet in her treatment plans to help improve the function of the brain. Along with psychiatric medications if needed.

She also shares some great advise on how some people may think they have a normal glucose response test, but they haven’t don’t it correctly and could be missing a big piece of the diagnostic puzzle. (Top tip: see the show notes below for the answer)

If you know someone who is depressed or has a mental health illness then this episode highlights the importance of nutrition on mood levels.

I enjoyed this interview as it just highlights how powerful food affects our mood and neurotransmitters of the brain. What we eat helps to determine our emotions and how we perform mental tasks.

Special thanks to Dr Ann for joining me on the show. Enjoy the episode!

Show Notes with Timestamp Links

Highlights of what we talk about during the interview:

[0:20] – Introducing Dr. Ann Childers MD.

[0:48] –  For those watching, Ann explains her head shake is due to an inherited neurological condition called dystonia and is benign and she is ok.

[1:30] – Connecting psychiatry and nutrition and the role of nutrition in mental health. Ann believes sleep and nutrition are the foundations which every psychiatrist should work from. How Ann’s personal experience sparked her interest to study the connection further. (ref & ref)

[3:08] – Ann’s personal story of growing up and finishing her medical studies whilst having ADHD.

[5:46] – The biggest changes from a dietary point of view that helped Ann manage her ADHD symptoms and food that helped her increase her focus. How quitting grain and powdered skim-milk, as well as, other powdered and processed foods made a big difference (about 60% improvement).

[9:21] – How Ann implements dietary treatment changes to help her patients treat their mental health condition. Testing for B12 and folate, homocysteine, iron and vitamin D levels among others to determine nutritional status. How cutting out refined carbohydrates and switching from a processed to a whole-food diet leads to improvement for majority of patients. (ref) Also, don’t forget about sleep!

[12:51] – Talking about the importance of sleep in healing the brain. Dr Ann’s tips on things to look out for; duration of sleep, waking up during the night, getting up to urinate, gasping/snorting (possible sleep apnoea) etc… (P.S. I wear blue blocking glasses at night to protect my melatonin and body clock a.k.a circadian rhythm)

[14:47] – The effects poor sleep can have on your cravings, health and mental state including cravings for junk food, increasing the likelihood of diabetes and causing mood swings.

[15:37] – Ann explains mood swings. How the Women’s Health Initiative study found an association between a high G.I. diet and depression in post-menopausal women. Measuring blood sugar levels with an easy to use device like a glucometer in some patients reveals that mood swing and symptoms such as shakiness, panic, headaches and feeling depressed are often brought on by hypoglycaemia (i.e. low blood sugar levels).

[18:56] – ADHD symptoms in kids managed with bacon and eggs and muffin frittatas! (example recipe on Youtube)

[20:44] – The mood swings we experience are caused by an addiction to sugar. (Read Sugar Free Book on Amazon) Ann explains how these acellular carbohydrates act a lot like a drug; like Xanax, they have a short life span in the body but pack a punch and leave a person wanting more. How with every peak there is also weight gain and why it can leave you feeling ‘hangry’! (see Dr Ted Naiman infographic explaining what is hangry)

[23:00] – Is Ann an outlier in the psychiatry practice or are there others who take the time to get the nutritional foundation right when treating patients? Ann recommends learning more about this – it is very satisfying being able to reduce or even eliminate the patient’s need for medication and see people get better.

[25:01] – What about ketones and brain health? It is interesting to note that a lot of the mood stabilising drugs used are actually anti-epileptic drugs and that the ketosis/ketogenic diet has been used since at least the 1920s to stabilise epileptics. (Listen to the Matthew’s Friends interview for more information on using ketones to help stabilise epileptic children or Michel Lundell on benefits in adults)

[26:13] – Ann tells us about the study run by the University of Hawaii at Manoa (in collaboration with Shriners Hospital) on the effects of a ketogenic diet therapy on autistic children. The results  were seen within days – kids were more outwardly focused and in tune with their environment.

[27:35] – Today the approach to the ketogenic diet is using whole foods and so it is very low on negative side-effects. In the past it was a medical foods approach with certain unwanted side-effects.

[28:06] – The biggest chronic chemical we are exposed to everyday is the food we eat. How by switching our diet we can change our physiology and see the clinical results within days/weeks. Ann encourages seeking medical supervision when considering switching to these diets as they can have unforeseen side-effects; particularly if taking medications and/or have medical conditions e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes.

[29:59] – Ann explains what her approach to diet is: real food, taking out the refined sugars and starting with an extended overnight fast to lay down the groundwork – she does this by having a ketogenic breakfast and introducing carbs at lunch. More keto or low carb muffin frittatas!

[32:52] – It’s fine to go at your own pace, taking a gradual approach to change a life time of habits. Is psychiatric health linked to the body’s ability to manage energy? Ann believes when people don’t have the high-low dips in energy during the day they are less stressed and less hungry.

[34:3] – Ann talks about obsessing over the next meal, body consciousness and women especially having control over their bodies; learning exactly what causes the weight gain. Keto nutritonist Emily Maguire, also talked about eating disorders and control when it comes to food.  

[36:18] – Why Ann is looking forward to the new Apple watch with a continuous glucose monitor, the current one through Dexcom is invasive. The Apple CEO,Tim Cook, tested the non-invasive one for three weeks and it changed the way he eats. Because we are all different in the way we process sugars seeing what is happening in real time will help us better understand and be in control of what we eat. How Silicon Valley could lead the way. (Geoffrey Woo mentioned the rise of intermittent fasting in Silicon Valley)

[39:38] – One thing to be aware of with the Apple watch is that it does not tell us what insulin is doing. Ann mentions the oral glucose tolerance test with insulin study by Joseph Kraft to illustrate why that might be important. If you don’t know how much insulin you are producing to keep glucose levels normal you can’t know whether you have a metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. (Read Dr Joseph Krafts’ Book on testing for diabetes on Amazon)

[41:23] – If you suspect that you have insulin resistance, Dr Ann recommends getting a three-hour oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) with insulin.

[41:58] – Talking about optimising our brains with nootropics. Why Ann recommends fish oil and methylated B12 (or a diet with plenty meat, fish, eggs and poultry). Explaining how analyse B12, which is synthetic analogue we commonly get in pharmaceuticals, still shows up on a blood test. Homocysteine blood test reflects active B12, active B6 and folate and gives an accurate picture. (I’d say look at Natural Stacks Krill Oil or Kado3 from HVMN)

[44:27] – Ann explains that, if you take type 2 diabetes drug Metformin, Prilosec or other proton-pump-inhibitors for acid reflux or heartburn, you need to take B12 and how a dose of 900-1100mg of fish oil daily helped her improve her typing speed.

[46:47] – Ann shares an interesting brain biohacking tip on how using coconut oil (MCT oil from coconuts) may be able to promote ketones in the brain without being on a ketogenic diet. She mentions Dr. Mary Newport, whose husband Alzheimer’s improved by taking coconut oil. However, studies show that this only appears to make a difference in non-apoe4 gene dementia and could actually interfere with other forms of dementia.

[48:26] – Simple tips include methylated form of B12, good source of fat to raise ketones, fish oil and quality sleep.

[48:57] – To get in contact with Ann or find out more find her on Twitter @AnnChildersMD, Facebook or her official site, lifebalanceNW.com

Ann also recently gave an interesting talk on Jimmy Moore’s Low-Carb Cruise, so keep an eye out for that. The next cruise is May 20, 2018 for those interesting in joining in and meeting Dr Ann in person!

Go to http://lifebalancenw.com to find out more on Dr Ann’s psychiatric practice or follow her on Twitter or see the practice Facebook page.

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Last updated: July 14, 2017

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