Book Review: A Mind of Your Own, Kelly Brogan
Tammy Shephard, Nutrition MS Student, Hunter College
My interest in nutrition and mental health first started after reading Patrick Holford’s inspirational book, ‘Optimum Nutrition for the Mind’ a few years ago. Ever since I have been fascinated with the potential of food to treat and enhance our mental function. Dr. Kelly Brogan is a board-certified psychiatrist based in New York who focuses on treating women with mental health complaints through a holistic, integrative approach. Her controversial book, ‘A Mind of Your Own’ was launched last March and has already attracted an impressive following and sparked interest from nutritionists and other doctors in the field.
In many ways, I found that the book echoed Holford’s recommendations about improving mood through natural healing. Both of the books focus on the reduction of inflammation and the addition of ‘healthy fats’ to our diets. However, as a trained psychiatrist, I found Dr. Brogan’s take on western psychiatry and the link to diet particularly insightful.
Dr. Brogan exposes the mythology conventional medicine has built around the causes and treatment of depression and other common mood disorders. She illuminates her belief that depression is not simply a disease caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain but a set of interrelated symptoms which signal a broader dysfunction throughout the entire body. This dysfunction can stem from several common triggers – including underlying thyroid problems, birth control methods and the gut microbiome. Details are shared around the frightening promotion of antidepressant medications by the pharmaceutical industry and the dangers associated with taking these drugs in the long-term. Despite accentuating the consequences of an unhealthy diet, poor sleeping habits and chronic stress, Dr. Brogan emphasizes that the mechanisms underlying the inflammation can be reset with a dietary and lifestyle makeover. Recommendations center around balancing blood sugar, improving gut health and thyroid function– and most importantly reducing inflammation. Her insights are backed up by extensive research from peer-reviewed journals, her own ‘health awakening’ after the birth of her first child and firsthand experience working with patients in her clinic over many years.
I was particularly engaged by Dr. Brogans ‘Pet Peeves’ – this includes a long list of seemingly harmless household products, over the counter medications and common prescriptions which she strongly believes can have a detrimental effect on our mental health. The first is the birth control pill – she explains how synthetic hormones have been found to increase thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG) and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) which disrupts the bodies normal function and can lead to increased insulin resistance and inflammatory markers. She is a strong opponent to the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, especially statins, and quotes multiple research studies which link the drug to over 300 adverse health effects including cancer, liver damage and hormonal chaos throughout the body. Cholesterol is highlighted time and time again as a key ingredient for a whole range of bodily functions including Vitamin D production and in the maintenance of myelin sheaths in the brain – these are particularly important for those struggling with mental health complaints. Acid blocking drugs/ proton pump inhibitors are cited as being a key cause of poor digestion and decreasing our ability to effectively absorb Vitamin B12 – a nutrient which plays an essential role in methylation and homocysteine recycling throughout the body. Most surprisingly, the popular pain relievers, Tylenol and Advil, are also on her black list, along with fluoride in drinking water, found to blunt mental function and antibiotics which have been linked to increased gut permeability.
After elucidating the biological mechanisms which underlie depression– Dr. Brogan offers an actionable 30-day plan to help people adopt her recommendations. The plan incorporates high nutrient dense foods and the exclusion of gluten, sugar, alcohol, dairy and caffeine. The exclusions have been found to reduce inflammation and repair the gut lining. Controversially, Dr. Brogan also recommends a high consumption of red meat (a food commonly associated with high saturated fat and heart disease) as a food for healing. The plan encourages an abundance of poultry, fish, eggs and healthy fats from seeds and nuts and readers are encouraged to stop using toxic household products.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book – especially if you’re looking to learn more about the biological mechanisms underlying mood disorders and the relationship between mental health and nutrition. The book is scientific in nature and gives a fascinating insight into the interrelationship between different areas of the body.