I’m really excited to announce the launch of our first ‘Food for Thought’ course this September.

During the course we will be looking at new, innovative ways of supporting mental health using whole person approaches – all based on the latest cutting-edge theories about the underlying causes of depression.

9% of the UK population are now taking antidepressants (alarmingly, these rates have doubled over the last 10 years) and some psychiatrists are concerned that if these rates continue to rise at their current rate that depression will be the leading cause of disability by 2030 (higher than cancer and heart disease).

It’s concerning that in the last 30 years there have been no major advances in medications for depression. Joanna Moncrieff (a psychiatrist based at UCL in London) has been challenging the notion that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain for some years now and although she acknowledges that many people feel they’re helped by anti-depressants, she believes the evidence that people with depression have low serotonin levels has simply not been proved..

It’s not at all surprising that levels of depression are on the rise– we live in really challenging times with recent recessions, fast pacing change and all the new demands that social media and the internet bring.

The underlying factors which can lead to anxious and depressed thinking are complex and some may be out of our control to change. It is becoming more and more clear however that there are certain things we can do to support ourselves to keep as steady and as well as possible during these chaotic times – this course will be addressing these

A forward-thinking psychiatrist called Edward Bullmore (based at the University of Cambridge) has written a book called ‘The inflamed mind’ which lays out a newly emerging theory that underlying inflammation is linked with depression. The book explores a whole new way of looking at how the mind, body and brain all work together and makes fascinating reading.

Underlying factors that can cause inflammation include poor diet and stress. A recent article in the prestigious journal the Lancet concluded that nutrition should become part of mainstream psychiatry. Sadly, I think that might take a bit of time to take place – there’s often a lag of several years before new scientific thinking changes clinical practice, but meanwhile this course will offer lots of evidence-informed ideas that are achievable to bring into everyday life.

More recently the links between digestive health and mental health are becoming more widely understood and the importance of not only eating the right foods to support mental health, but ensuring our gut bacteria are in balance appear to be very relevant. The pathway is bi-directional – when we aren’t eating the right nutrients or unable to absorb them because of digestive problems this can contribute to low mood. Also, when we are stressed, our digestion is compromised or when we have an imbalance of gut bacteria, the vagus nerve (which links the brain to the gut) sends an inflamed input signal to the brain.

During this course we will be covering new ideas about how to dampen down vagal nerve stimulation using stress reduction techniques as well as the latest thinking about nutrition, gut-brain health and sleep.

There are limited places and we will be booking on a first come, first served basis. We’d love to meet and share this new thinking with you, so look forward to hearing from you.

Call Helen FFI [07905 383203] or email to book your place; helen@helencookenutrition.co.uk

‘Food for Thought’: Whole person approaches to mental health

Shirley Gracias (Psychiatrist) and I will be running our first ‘Food for Thought’ course in Bristol (at the Helios Medical Centre) this Autumn (4 consecutive weeks from Wednesday 26 September – 18.30-20.30. The 4-week course will cost £250.

We will incorporate the latest thinking about gut/brain health and underlying causes of low mood/depression (inflammation/imbalanced brain chemistry etc.)

We’ll introduce innovative and natural approaches including nutrition/supplements, advice about sleeping well, stress reduction and other strategies that can safely complement (or with your medical team’s agreement, be used instead of) standard mental health approaches.

If you are feeling low, anxious or stressed, this course will equip you with strategies to help bring you back to balance.