Brookhaven Retreat Participates in National Nutrition Month®

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Brookhaven Retreat, a unique residential treatment facility exclusively for women with mental health and/or substance abuse, uses nutrition as tool to aid in recovery from mental illness.

March is National Nutrition Month®, an education campaign sponsored by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The annual theme, “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day,” focuses on the importance of creating healthy eating habits that maintain realistic expectations and make room for individual lifestyles. Brookhaven Retreat recognizes that informed food choices are critical to recovery from mental health issues.

Women suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses may fail to eat healthfully. A calorie is not simply a calorie and diet consists of more than the amount of energy women consume. Oftentimes, due to lack of interest and self-care, women suffer from malnutrition or eat in ways that contribute to a worsening of mental health symptoms.

The modern diet has shifted away from whole, local foods to an increase in consumption of inexpensive, heavily processed convenience foods. Australian researchers recently found that a high-quality diet of whole foods is associated with lower rates of depression, and a higher intake of processed foods is associated with a greater risk of anxiety. The same researchers studied the diets of Australian women and found that a regular diet of unprocessed foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and good quality protein reduced risk of major depression and anxiety disorders by more than 30 percent.

Sugars have been similarly found to affect mental health. A 2004 British study found that refined sugars trigger inflammation, which increases risk of depression and schizophrenia. And while some fats increase the risk of coronary heart disease, omega-3 fatty acids have been found by several studies to influence mood and reduce risk of depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.

Because of nutrition’s significant influence on mental health, a dietitian plays a key role in recovery from mental illness. A registered dietitian can help recovering women navigate nutritional information that would otherwise seem overwhelming: women learn what types of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to consume; how much to consume; how to put together a healthy meal plan; how to limit sodium, sugar and unhealthy fats; and how to take health conditions into consideration when eating.

Nutrition can be harnessed to improve happiness and speed recovery from mental health issues, yet is a type of self-care unfamiliar to women who have lacked the interest or self-compassion to eat well. Brookhaven Retreat’s residential program makes diet an integral part of the recovery process. Individual consultations with a registered dietitian, healthy meal options and several weekly group classes help women make informed nutritional choices that support treatment goals.

This week, women in Brookhaven Retreat’s Healthy Habits class will learn simple meal planning techniques to use at home. This helps create and maintain healthy nutritional habits that support recovery and are easy to incorporate into busy lives.

About Brookhaven Retreat
Brookhaven Retreat is a women's treatment center nestled on a naturally beautiful 48-acre site secluded in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. It has helped hundreds of women across the United States overcome depression, trauma, anxiety, substance use and a range of other behavioral health challenges. Brookhaven’s Founder, Jacqueline Dawes, has predicated its gender-specific treatment on “healing emotional breakage” for women. In this way, she has established a sanctuary and a place where women can feel safe, secure and cared for by a staff of highly trained professionals.

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Jessica Wirth
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