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Dr. Uma Naidoo, Harvard Psychiatrist, Explains How Her Book Improves Mental Health & Nutrition During the Pandemic

By Dr. Uma Naidoo

LOS ANGELES, CA, UNITED STATES, October 22, 2020 / -- Prior to COVID-19 the most common mental health condition in the US was anxiety, three times more at least than depression. Depression though causes the most amount of disability worldwide and people therefore often think of it as more common.

With COVID, emotional health of our nation has suffered. Some are suffering in silence while others are taking more medications than ever before. We know this because the company Express Scripts reported that the number of new prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications was already up by 37.7% by the middle of March. By June this year the medication sertraline went on shortage in the US, it is often prescribed for anxiety and/or depression. The most concerning of all the statistics was those shared by the CDC showing that during the pandemic, 40% of Americans reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. Even more scary is that 11% of Americans have seriously considered suicide. As a nutritional psychiatrist that is one of the scariest statistics I have heard in a very long time.

What has happened during the pandemic?

• Increased Processed food sales
• Meal-time confusion
• Home Schooling
• Everyone seems to be baking!
• Multi-generational meals (many different ages living at home and each eating a different diet )
• Mealtimes are askew
• Adult children back home
• Job Loss
• Lack of structure
• Ongoing Quarantine
• Food deserts
• Food insecurity
• Less active - gyms closed
• Abuse on the increase
• Increased drugs and alcohol
• Zoom fatigue & tech issues
• Uncertainty & Fear
• Stress Eating
• Natural disasters
• Personal loss

Our mental health is suffering, and these changes are continuing, studies show that burnout is on the rise as well. Taking all this into account, where do we go from here for our mental health.

Should we all just be taking more medication? Perhaps some of us really do need to be seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist as we need the additional support to help us adjust to this new way of life.

I would argue we can do more to empower and help ourselves. How? Simply through how we are eating. Our nutrition is the basis of our better mental health. Just like we cannot exercise out of a bad diet, we cannot smile our way out of a bad diet either.

The time is NOW.

The time to embrace some positive small habit changes is right now. Today. Research shows us that our gut microbes can change within 24 hours based on how we are eating. So, make that choice to get junk food today or a healthier option. You won’t know the difference immediately, but over time your gut microbiome could be disrupted by junk food or begin to heal with healthier food. More importantly a happy gut is a happy mood. This is because of the actual communication highway that exists between the gut and the brain, called the vagus nerve, which sends signals back and forth ultimately impacting our emotional health by how we are eating.

If we don’t do something, act now, start today to help ourselves... we are going to continue to suffer emotionally as a nation. Suicides will increase, burnout will worsen, and our emotional health will reach even worse numbers. We all eat, we eat every day and at least a few times a day ….. why not eat for our better emotional health so that we fortify our brain as best we can during this ongoing pandemic. This is something we can control while with all other things it feels as though the pandemic with the necessary safety rules and regulations are outside of our control.

My goal in sharing my new book with the world is that it can be a guide to improving our emotional well-being while doing something (eating) that we have to do anyway. It is a low hanging fruit so to speak for finding our way forward and taking better care of ourselves. Perhaps it is time to cut back on all the baking, processed food and fast foods that some of us turned to during these difficult times. Or perhaps you are eating healthy, but you can up your game with keeping up with hydrating, exercising more and perhaps working on improving your sleep. Even though each of us has a unique set of emotions, we can impact our emotional and brain health through how we are eating. I say why not? Why not fortify our brain health especially as we enter the darker cooler days of late fall and we know that for many, moods dip during these seasons?

My book: “This Is Your Brain on Food

“This Is Your Brain on Food” is a groundbreaking book on what to eat to bolster your mental health. If you are depressed, anxious, distracted, cognitively foggy or have a history of PTSD, this book will explain what you should eat, what you should avoid, and how this impacts your brain. The book is written by me, Dr. Uma Naidoo, a Harvard psychiatrist who is the Director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, a nutrition specialist and a professional chef. It is a practical , realistic and research-based review of what we now understand about food and mental health, written in a simple and easy-to-grasp style by a world expert.

My book is a top ten bestseller in Canada and just recently won the Best of Los Angeles Award - “Best Mental Health Book - 2020”. The “Best of Los Angeles Award” community was formed five years ago and consists of over 7,000 professional members living and working in Southern California and celebrates the best people, places and things in Los Angeles. If you or someone you love is looking for a way to feel less depressed and anxious and more emotionally stable, energized, and clear, “This is Your Brain on Food” is the definitive guide to protecting your brain during these uncertain and stressful times.

"This Is Your Brain on Food" Purchase Here:


Dr. Uma Naidoo

Insagram: @Drumanaidoo

Dr. Uma Naidoo is a nutritional psychiatrist and serves as the director of nutritional & lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Naidoo trained at the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program, and completed a consultation liaison fellowship at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Naidoo studied nutrition, and she also graduated from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts as a professional chef. She was awarded her culinary school’s most coveted award, the MFK Fisher Award for Innovation. Dr. Naidoo is regarded nationally and internationally as a pioneer in the field of nutritional psychiatry, having founded the first US hospital-based clinical service in this area. She is the author of the upcoming title, This is Your Brain on Food. With her passion for food and nutritional psychiatry, she will share her expertise on the integration of food, mental health, and medicine.

Aurora DeRose
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