top of page

Book Review: This is Your Brain on Food by Uma Naidoo, MD

The most recent book I have devoured (almost.)

I'm currently part way done this book, but not sure if I will finish it through in-depth reading or skimming it.




As someone with certifications in both mental health & nutrition - this book was a fascinating find. It was even more fascinating when I flipped it open to find the table of contents & how the book was organized.


Chapters:

  1. The Gut Brain Romance

  2. Depression: Probiotics, Omega-3s and the Mediterranean Eating Pattern

  3. Anxiety: Fermented Foods, Dietary Fiber and the Tryptophan Myth

  4. PTSD: Glutamates, Blueberries & Old Friends Bacteria

  5. ADHD: Glute, Milk Caseins & Polyphenols

  6. Dementia & Brain Fog: Microgreens, Rosemary & the MIND diet

  7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: NAC, Glycine & the dangers of Orthorexia Nervosa

  8. Insomnia & Fatigue: Capsaicin, Chamomile & Anti-Inflammatory Diets

  9. Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia: L-Theanine, Healthy Fats & the Ketogenic Diet

  10. Libido: Oxytocin, Fenugreek & the science of Aphrodisiacs

  11. Cooking & Eating for your Brain


First - the early chapters of this book are insanely quotable. Between the introduction to chapter 3 I polished off a stack of sticky tabs on great pieces of research & phrases she uses to describe the brain-gut nutrition connection & its impact on mental health.


I want to preface the critique I'm about to offer on this book: this book is necessary. MOST people should read this book. The nutrition recommendations she makes for each individual mental health issue is supported by a lot of the research & training I've been privy to already. The references & studies she uses are pretty legit & not stretched for her own agenda. The way she has laid out the book & the information she's offering is great. She also prefaces the topic of the book in the beginning, explaining that in no way is she inferring that 'just eating properly for your mental health issue' is the answer for anyone. She explains that people with 'symptoms' can alleviate many of them by eating differently & many people who require pharmaceuticals & are still struggling (because they are sabotaging their progress with an unhealthy diet) have shown massive improvement when they begin eating properly, in conjunction with their medication.


That being said - I have a few specific comments about the book.


Despite the separated chapters for mental health issues & their supporting title descriptions of their main focus for nutritional adjustments - just about all of the mental health issues are inflated by the same things & eased by the same foods & nutrients.


To be more clear:

Nutrition choices that advance symptoms of mental health problems: trans & saturated fats, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy that has the A1 milk caseins, nitrates & basically the typical 'Western Diet' of fast food & take-out (or just not having enough variety in the first place)


Nutrition choices that alleviate symptoms of mental health issues: Omega-3, magnesium, folate (Vit B9), fermented foods, fiber, zinc, spices like turmeric, saffron, capsaicin, anything with antioxidants (NAC supplementing), healthy fats like avocado, olives & nuts, Vit D & Vit C, plus, of course, green vegetables (it bothers me when I talk to someone who hasn't eaten a green vegetable in a 48 hour time span.)


Then there are a few of the extra treats if your getting into the nitty gritty like fenugreek, chamomile, rosemary, ginger, cinnamon, ginko biloba & other fun things that can create massive change if taken in the right dosage.


So that's the next part. Although people creating an overhaul in their diet can see massive mental health improvements in as little time as 7 days or feel like a whole new person in a month - she doesn't spend any time talking about quantity in this book. As a coach, asking most people to make a huge switch in their eating (or any behavior) cold turkey style is typically a recipe for disaster. Her approach is encouraging people to make 'some' specific shifts that are attune to their symptomatic struggle - which is a preferred path for most & gains results in an average timeline from a few months to under a year. Especially when that shift if from someone eating COMPLETE garbage to way less garbage, then adding high nutrient dense foods.


As someone from the West Coast of Canada, I actually work with people in a much healthier range & sometimes have clients that are battling Orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating) who think they are eating pretty well, but are still struggling with symptoms that are lowering their general quality of life (because their diet is to restrictive or obsessive.) Or they have moved into a healthier eating style but still can't shake a diabetic reading or their post menopause brain fog.


That's where we get into the Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, Andrew Huberman & Ben Greenfield research of hardcore science, latest research papers & studies that are coming out & we need to optimize, talk about focusing on higher dosage through supplementing & coaching through phycological mental models that are holding them back.


Which is another small critique, but is rather harsh considering the constraints of the author's training - she's not a coach & how we eat is a behavior. A quote from her PTSD chapter:


"When I work with PTSD patients, I tell them to think of the fat in their diets as brain sludge, gumming up all the delicate folds and crevices of their precious grey matter. This image is usually vivid enough to help them cut down on fats."


Although she finds this effective, it's not a great way to guide behavioral change. With her psychiatry background (not psychology) I know that 'coaching' is not a major part of her degree.


Further to my prior point about dosing & time lines for mental health shifts, there are 2 points she doesn't cover:

  1. Every piece of food, all by itself, is an orchestra of wonderful, interconnected & mutually supportive nutrients. They work better together & every piece of food is designed by nature in a special way to better your health. Rather than cherry-picking out the vitamins in pill form. But eating average amounts get average results.

  2. mega dosing with supplements (ONE supplement at a time) can become a controlled aspect for improvement. There are benefits to taking a vitamin, mineral or supplement, while having a generally healthy nutrition plan so you confirm that ONE thing is making a difference. Instead of diving into a bunch of things at once, not seeing results, getting mad & giving up.

Therefore: it's best if you actually do both. Eat generally healthy (avoid basically everything that sucks while constructing a nutrition plan full of the awesome stuff - see list above) then pick a specific ailment, find research with dosing for a certain supplementation & pick an appropriate timeline to see if that method is an effective answer. If you do step 1 & feel amazing, you don't really need to do step 2.


Chapter 11 covers an overview of what to have in your pantry (how to grocery shop,) how to set up your kitchen & the daily menu suggestions with a recipe for each suggestion.


Her "Appendix A" of Glycemic Load of Carbs made me want to punch a wall. This book was published in 2020 & not only would any Google search render a HUGE list - hers would have a diabetic in the hospital - it was an extremely slanted representation of the Low, Medium & High glycemic load foods. With 'tortilla, wheat' in the low list & the entire medium list loaded with grains - this list becomes dangerous rather than helpful if someone is not well educated in nutrition or doesn't possesses critical thinking skills to cross check it with a second source of info.


So all in all - her book, although written for practitioners in the field, is written in such a way that civilians, not already well educated in nutrition or mental health psychology & science can read it & get amazing information from it. The layout of the book is easy to digest & the supporting research for what she covers is there. BUT if you are way outside of the scope of this info, it may be hard to put together that

  • First! Healthy nutrition can amplify your mental health (while shit eating can ruin your life)

  • Second - if you require medication, eating shitty can sabotage its effects

  • AND third - you can't JUST "eat better" to alleviate your mental health issues & carry on your marry way. Reorganizing your behavioral habits to stick with eating better could require a trained coach for support & then pivoting the unhealthy mental models you have been operating with could require trained mental health support to build long term resiliency tools for a better life.


Which is me - I do that. That's my training & my job, with a nutrition, fitness & addictions background to support that.


 

If you loved this blog, sign up for my Pretty Aggressive Weekly Newsletter!

to sign up & receive blogs on physical health, mental health, nutrition, great podcasts, book reviews, building resiliency, bio-hacking products & more!

 

If you would like to start building your Core Resiliency Skills contact Coach Julia today. You will learn how to Thrive beyond your damage, become a Transitional Character, break abuse cycles in your family cycle & build the core resiliency skills most often missed when being raised in a low nurture environment.


Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. PrettyAggressiveRecovery@gmail.com 

3 views0 comments
bottom of page