Review of "Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health"

By Leslie Korn
W. W. Norton, 2016
Review by Lynne Trevisan, D. C. on May 24th 2016
Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health

The author of this book begins by discussing how the standard American diet (SAD, as identified in the book) leads to inflammation, which leads to changes in how the nervous system functions, which leads to changes in mood and mental health.  Korn takes the time to identify the process in professional language.  She also provides sample language of how she explains the concepts to her patients in a manner that is easy to grasp and is relatable to regular events that commonly occur in a person’s life.  She ties together how inflammation changes a person’s mood and identifies normal lifestyle habits, beyond diet, that lead to inflammation.  Korn’s comments that the standard American diet is often missing required nutrients, and that these are often lacking in a person’s diet for an entire lifetime. 

In chapter one, Korn identifies body types based on how fast a person metabolizes carbohydrates.  These are called fast oxidizers, mixed oxidizers, and slow oxidizers.  She provides information on how to test for and determine the oxidation rate, which are easy to determine with affordable, over-the-counter supplements. 

Next, Korn talks about medical conditions that can be an underlying cause of mood changes, such as reactive hypoglycemia, food allergies, and others.  She explains how stress, alcohol, and smoking affect reactive hypoglycemia, identifies people who commonly suffer from reactive hypoglycemia, and covers which nutrients are missing from the diet and symptoms of hypoglycemia.  She states, “Hypoglycemia contributes to mood lability and inattention.  This condition is often misidentified as the rapid cycling of bipolar disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)” (Korn, 2016, p. 11).  Suggestions to overcome hypoglycemia are shared in the first chapter.  Korn ends the chapter with patient questions and answers, case scenarios, and suggested substitutions for cravings, along with scope of practice considerations.

The following chapters address how stress interferes with digestion, which changes the production of neurotransmitters.  Korn shares steps to help the client learn to relax while eating and afterwards so digestion is uninhibited.  She then explains the different nutrients and their sources as well as the organs of digestion.  This is followed by assessment techniques, which includes a food-mood diary and a health intake form the client completes.  Korn discusses major diagnoses and the underlying nutrition connections, along with alcohol, tobacco, and substances, which can affect the client’s physical and mental health.  Food allergies and sensitivities as well as specific diets (i.e., vegan, low-carb, fasting and detox diets, Mediterranean diet, and more) are explored. Korn looks at the benefits/deficiencies of each diet and offers recommendations for supplementation as needed. 

Midway in the book, the focus is on stocking the kitchen and eating for mental health.  Korn provides a list of foods that are essential for mental health and encourages her clients to eat real butter and bacon to get healthy brain fats.  This section of the book has numerous recipes that use the essential foods.  It is followed by a chapter that covers vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glandulars, and special nutrients.  Glandulars are the use of supplements and organ meats.  For example, a supplement may include adrenals, kidney, or liver in a pill or capsule form.  Eating organ meats is also addressed.  Special nutrients are shared as protocols for specific diagnoses.  The chapter titled “Medications, Side Effects, and Withdrawal” covers steps to educate the patient, self-care, involving the prescribing clinician, developing a withdrawal schedule, support, and strategies (Korn, 2016, p. 283). Korn addresses how to nutritionally support the client through the withdrawal process from different types of medications.  In the final chapter of the book, Korn shares practical tips to help patients successfully transition through this process. 

This very interesting book is written for the clinician.  While it does share some information in non-technical language, these segments are examples of how Korn explained difficult concepts to her clients in a manner that is easily understood.  There are excellent case scenarios, question/answer sections, recipes, and activities throughout the book.  The material is aimed at psychology professionals.  However, any healthcare professional with a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology will benefit from reading the book and learning how food and nutritional deficiencies can negatively affect a person’s mood, mental health, and physical health. 


© 2016 Lynne Trevisan


Lynne Trevisan, D. C., Assistant Professor, College of Health, Human Services, and Sciences, Ashford University



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