How a good diet and the right nutrients can benefit our mental health.

Brendon McIntosh

Kia Ora koutou, my name is Brendon McIntosh and I am a Community Pharmacist. I am very grateful to be asked by Corinda Taylor from the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, to talk today about how a good diet and the right nutrients can benefit our mental health.

Now I know mental wellbeing is multi-factorial and there are a huge number of factors contributing to our outrageous suicide rates and rates of depression, but today I am just going to focus on some dietary things we can be doing to improve our mood.

So what would a Pharmacist know about diet and mood you may ask? Well we know a lot about biochemistry and specific human body systems including the nervous system. But for me personally, I also have a degree in Neuroscience, so I have studied the brain for 3 years and I have also completed postgraduate study in nutritional medicine so I have looked at the effects different nutrients have on our bodies and in turn, the effects our bodies have on these nutrients.

The effects our diet has on our mental health has been well documented and more and more research is coming out in support of certain foods that have a positive effect on our moods and those that can have a negative effect. Numerous studies on depressed people have shown that even minor adjustments to their diets such as eating less junk food and eating more nutrient-rich foods can lead to improvement in symptoms and depression scores.

So what are some nutrients we should be eating to help our mental wellness and what foods are these found in?

  • Selenium – This is important as our soils in New Zealand have low levels of selenium, which in turn means our food will have low levels. Low selenium has been linked to low mood. Foods to increase for selenium intake are whole grains, Brazil nuts, seafood and organ meats.
  • Vitamin D – This is the sunshine vitamin. There is a theory that our depression rates are so high due to our position relative to the sun. The same is true in countries like Sweden. It is highly recommended that kiwis supplement with Vitamin D over winter. Not only is it good for mood but has also been shown to help our immune systems.
  • Omega 3 – This is an essential fatty acid made up of EPA and DHA. The DHA is the part that’s good for brain health. A quality and environmentally conscious fish oil supplement is good for increasing our levels but ensure it is a reputable brand that the fish oil hasn’t been sitting in the Pharmacy window and been degraded by the sunlight. You can also increase omega 3 intake via food. Sardines are the best. You can also get it from salmon or tuna but beware that the bigger the fish the more risk of toxins such as mercury which have the opposite effects on our brain health. Some plants have good amounts of omega 3’s like flaxseed, hemp and chia seeds, also walnuts and almonds can be a good source.
  • Antioxidants – These include Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Beta Carotene. Antioxidants may help us deal with the stress associated with mood disorders. These can come from foods like kiwifruit, oranges, carrots, raw nuts and leafy greens. If you are going to supplement ensure they are in the correct form, especially the vitamin E as a cheap supplement can cause negative effects.
  • B vitamins – These are great for those with busy lifestyles. Important for energy production and stress management. Especially vitamin b12 and folate but the B’s work best all together so eating whole foods like eggs, meat, poultry and fish but also whole grains, leafy greens, fruit and nuts. Basically if you eat a varied diet you should get enough B’s but in times of high stress you may need to supplement with a quality B complex vitamin.
  • Zinc – Zinc is an essential trace element important for most reactions in our bodies. It has also been shown to increase effectiveness of antidepressants. Zinc can be found in oysters, beef and lamb or also in whole grains, chickpeas and cashew nuts.
  • Protein – lastly it is important we are eating enough high quality proteins, as these are the building blocks for life. This comes from foods like meat but plants also have good protein levels, especially pea or hemp.

The above are all nutrients and foods we can increase to improve our mood. There are also foods to avoid if we want to give our bodies the best chance of vitality.

  • Caffeine – This is hard for me to say, as I love long blacks. But for those with depression that has anxiety associated with it, it is important to try and limit stimulants such as caffeine.
  • Alcohol – Again another hard one to say. But we all know the consequences of excess alcohol consumption. I cut alcohol out of my life for 9 months once and the things I learnt about myself were very eye-opening, especially in social situations.
  • Refined foods – These are high in calories but low in nutrients and usually high in sugar, which can cause a crash and obviously affect a person’s mood. Do I need to say no Big Macs or Wikid Wings?
  • Processed oils – Like Safflower and corn oil, these are high in omega 6 which can contribute to inflammation – one theory on the cause of depression.

Lastly I want to touch on our gut health. 70% of our feel-good hormone serotonin is made in our gut. This is the gut-brain connection via our microbiome. Increasing fermented foods like low-fat, low sugar yoghurt, Kim-chi and sauerkraut are good for general gut health but if you are taking certain medications or have a poor diet then I highly recommend a strain-specific probiotic that can help grow the number of good bacteria in our gut and help with depressive symptoms. Our microbiome can be improved with a diet that includes all the above nutrients I just talked about.

So to summarise, here are some foods and how many servings you should have to help improve mood. Some people would call this a happy meal:
1. Whole grains – 5 servings a day
2. Veges – 6 servings a day
3. Fruit – 3/day
4. Legumes – 3-4 servings per week
5. Low-fat unsweetened dairy – 2 servings a day
6. Raw nuts – 1 serving a day
7. Fish – at least 2 servings per week
8. Lean red meats – 3 to 4 servings per week
9. Chicken – 2 to 3 servings per week
10. Eggs – maximum of 6 per week
11. Olive/coconut oil – 3 teaspoons per day

And at the very least, please do you best to reduce intake of:
1. Sweets
2. Refined cereals
3. Fried foods
4. Fast food
5. Processed meat
6. Sugary drinks

Thanks for listening, if you have any questions you can add SnapChemist on Snapchat or follow SnapChemist on Facebook or Instagram and send Brendon McIntosh a direct message.

Huge thanks to Brendon for this very informative messsage, Keep following our page as we will bring you more on good healthy diets and lifestyles.


Kepler Challenge

With the support of friends and family, Austen Haig, Ella-Rose Haig, Rusty Anderson and Shannon Edgar are setting out to raise as much money as they can for the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, based in our home town Dunedin. By taking on this mammoth challenge, we want to show that with love and support around you, you can achieve anything.

Every 17 hours a person in New Zealand takes their own life. New Zealand loses 10 to 11 people every week due to suicide. Our youth suicide rate is the worst in the developed world. An average of 100 people are affected by every life lost in this way. While these numbers are distressing, it’s important we remember suicide is preventable. These statistics are simply inexcusable, we hope to reduce New Zealand suicide rate by both raising money and awareness.

Recently, we experienced first-hand the devastation suicide causes to friends and family as we lost a close friend who had always come bearing a smile. This has reminded us all of the importance of checking in with those around us as you never know what battles people are going through alone.

Run for Life Matters

I decided to get involved because I was sick of the drinking culture in Dunedin, and wanted to show that you can have a fun, memorable flat event that wasn’t focussed around drinking. I hopped on the fundraising idea initially brought up by my mate Sevu, and it all just happened from there 🙂

John Laurenson, 2017.

Donate via Givealittle


I lost my son

Corinda Taylor
I woke up this morning and reality hit me like a cold hard slap in the face.

I lost my son to suicide.

Not only did we lose our beautiful boy to suicide but we have kept relatively silent about it for four years. This is my first blog about the terrifying experience that no parent wants to have. I have kept silent because of the ongoing investigation into the care that my son, Ross Taylor, received at the hands of his psychiatrist and nurses.

This week the Mental Health Commissioner released his report after more than four long excruciating years after my son’s suicide.  The Southern District Health Board and the consultant psychiatrist Dr C  failed to provide services to Ross Taylor with reasonable care and skill and breached Right 4(1) of the Health and Disability Code. The independent psychiatrist who did the investigation for the commissioner stated that in her opinion the quality of clinical care that Ross received during the last three months of his life is a significant deviation from expected clinical standards. They have validated our complaint that the individuals concerned and the services failed our son.

This week our story also went public in New Zealand. We are extremely private people but felt compelled to speak up for the sake of current and future users of the mental health system.

I will be blogging regularly about our experience and how we were stonewalled repeatedly by the Southern District Health Board and clinicians before and after Ross died and how we battled to get positive changes to happen to ensure that nobody suffers a similar fate.

This week showed us who were prepared to support us to bring about positive changes. People from agencies have shown support for what they described and I quote “unethical conduct”, “neglect” and many more harder words that cannot be mentioned here. It has brought disgrace to the medical profession and tarred many good professionals with the same brush unfortunately. That was not our intention.

Some have said that they admired how I have channeled my energy into holding people accountable. I do not want admiration and I do not want sympathy. I want to see change.

I have been inundated with stories by many parents who have experienced similar tragedies and shared with me their pain and the battles to navigate a complicated mental health system. They also shared how families have been treated with such disdain and contempt with some trespassed or banned from services after trying to get the best care possible for their loved ones. I now realize that what happened to us is a common theme and only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s lance this sore and expose it for what it is.

Many have been unable to get fair investigations happen. They expressed support for our cause but stated that they did not have the strength to do what we did.

We would like to see more support for people and their families when in distress and we would also like to see good postvention support put in place. We have had no support offered to us by the Southern District Health Board during the four year investigation that would have paralyzed most people. This needs to change.

My hope is that our case has paved the way for many others to bring about change and hope. Nobody should have to beg services to help our loved ones in distress. Nobody should have to go to the lengths like we did to get a fair hearing to expose the truth.

Better systems, healthy communities and workplaces with committed health care professionals will result in safer and more effective outcomes with less people in crisis.

Corinda Taylor mother of Ross Taylor

The scars are a part of me but not all of me. The story of my recovery.

Amanda Hutchins

This beautiful story of recovery was sent to us to share with you.

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression in my late teens. This followed numerous admissions to the Mental Health Unit in Whangarei. My behaviour and emotions were gradually becoming more and more erratic and destructive. Still some days were okay where I could function and achieve everyday tasks. However these functional days were becoming few and far between. Every other week I was being taken to the inpatient unit as I could not control my actions. I was self-harming; not only cutting but I developed a desire for alcohol to block all my thoughts and feelings out. I would drink until I passed out or drink until I lost all self-control and overdose, which ever came first. There was no logic to this, the more I drank the worse I felt. I hated myself with a passion. My only goal in life was to destroy myself.

 As a little girl I never imagined this is the war I would be fighting. A war within myself that nobody else could fight and it was beginning to look like I would lose. A decision was made that I would be sent to a private clinic in Dunedin as that was the place to ‘deal’ with my problems. Everyone had so much hope. It was such a sure thing that I was going to recover at this wonderful place that people forgot to mention it would only succeed if I worked my ass off. I was turning up to the clinic under the impression that these skilled professionals would share their knowledge and then I’d be good to go. There was never any discussion around, this may not work for you, or, if this doesn’t work for you.

This was the place. Needless to say it did not work and I became really unwell. This clinic was not a stable place for me to find myself and overcome my illness. Budget cuts, staff lay-offs and the constant politics of living with a large number ‘clients’ saw me spiral into a deeper depression, one that I honestly thought would end my life. I was discharged as I was not meeting the expectations of the health professionals. The only things I took away from here was new ways to self destruct and a greater fascination with death.

I returned home worse than when I left, and with the added guilt of wasting all my parents money for a treatment that never worked. I felt like I was the biggest burden, that everyone (including people who did not know me) would be better off without me. My days were taken up with finding the best ways to die, while also dreaming of the day someone would save me. I could not get out of bed. I would stay there for days. I would barely eat. I could not manage to do anything except swim in the destructive thoughts that plagued my head. Days turned into weeks and nothing changed. I hated myself so much. I was evil and worthless and I was so angry that I was so weak and pathetic that I could not snap out of this. The only times I would go out would be when I was going drinking. My parents hating me drinking because 9 times out of 10 I would end up in the hospital after taking an overdose. I was playing Russian roulette with my life and I did not care. I hurt everyone around me, but I was so stuck in my own destruction I did not see what I was doing to others. It’s not that I didn’t care about others, I couldn’t see them. I could not hear them begging me to live over the raging voice in my own head telling me to die. I was labelled the problem patient. My team at mental health were frustrated at my lack of improvement and sometimes that frustration simmered over into anger. I did not trust them. I did not trust anyone.

One particularly bad overdose landed me in intensive care. I think my parents thought that was it, that I was going to die. When I woke up I dismissed the whole situation. Instead of accepting my actions, I decided that it was the doctors at the hospital trying to trick me in to living, that I was never in danger, the doctors just exaggerated the whole thing. That is how distorted my thinking was. Of course now I see how bizarre that belief was, but it was my reality at the time. This behaviour went on for years. A cat and mouse game with the grave.

When I was around 27 a group was offered in Whangarei that specialised in helping patients with BPD. I had not attended any group since leaving Dunedin so I was skeptical as to how this would even work. I did not want to go, nor did I want to participate in my recovery (if I could even recover). My counsellor was extremely supportive, encouraging me to at least give it a chance. I mainly agreed because she was nagging every time I saw her, which was rather annoying.
Whangarei is a 2 hour drive from where I live and the group was every week so this was going to be a serious commitment for me. I met with one of the facilitators who asked if I was committed to this, to changing. I gave her a less than enthusiastic nod. I was left with the impression that she had about the same amount of faith in me as I did in the course. However, on the drive home I make a commitment to myself that I would give this a proper go. Even though it was going to be hard it could not be worse than what I was already feeling.

Going to the first group was one of the scariest things I had ever done in my life. We had to talk in group, about ourselves, which I hated. But I did it. And to my surprise the world did not fall down. We had homework each week, which I found myself doing well at. We tracked our emotions and thoughts which was surprisingly validating. It also helped to get them out of my head. We were taught skills, helpful ways to manage strong emotions, how to challenge our distorted thoughts and how to identify filters. Each week I gained more confidence in myself. I was improving. It was not a straight line improvement, some weeks were crap, I went back to old behaviours, I could not decide if I wanted to give up alcohol, at times I felt like I could not use the skills. However, I kept going back to group. I think this was a key step in my recovery. Even though some weeks I didn’t reach my expectations of being ‘perfect’ in my recovery I still returned to group. I think that is the most important time, when you don’t do so great, but you go back to group and learn from it. I started to believe I could get better. I graduated this first group and the following year moved on to the next group where we cemented what we had already learnt. I started to set goals, I thought about the future, even my future. I started to believe in myself.

Still during this group it was not all smooth sailing. Old behaviours continued to surface, old thoughts
still made an appearance daily. The difference was that I understood where they came from. I did not have to act on the thoughts, I could distract myself. I did not have to spend the whole day thinking horrible things about myself. If I did go back to an old behaviour, I did not have to hate myself for it. I did not have to ruin everything because I made a mistake. I could carry on my journey, I could learn from it. I learnt that nobody is perfect. I learnt that I did not have to be perfect. I learnt I could be proud of how far I have come.

Today I am at university, following my dream of becoming a psychologist. I had never thought this was possible. The days where I could not get out of bed I had all but given up on this dream. The two years of group were the hardest years of my life. So much harder than the years I spent trying to end my life. Fighting to live while your brain is telling you to die is the bravest thing I believe anybody can undertake. Even when you think nothing will ever get better, give tomorrow a chance. Even when you think therapy or group is not going to help, give it a chance. You never know what is going to help you lay the foundations upon which you can rebuild your life. I am so glad I gave myself a chance.

I still have BPD, as far as I know there is no ‘cure’. I have good days and I have bad days like the rest of the population. Sometimes I have old thoughts running through my head. Sometimes I want to go back to old behaviours. Sometimes things get a bit too much for me to handle on my own and I need help. I lost many relationships through my illness, some friends, some family. I work to rebuild the ones I can, and, though incredibly painful, I work on accepting the ones I have lost. This is okay though. This is what life is, up’s and down’s, asking for help, sharing your experiences, and connecting with others.

I have many scars from my war with mental illness. Many are visible and many more that are not.

I sometimes get asked about the scars on my arm and if I would ever get them removed. I have thought about that a lot. I don’t believe I would ever get them removed. They are a part of me, a part of my story, a part of where I came from. But they are not all of me, just like BDP is a part of me but it is not all of me. I am much more than a mental illness.

Challenge For Life

The main focus is to support and promote a greater awareness of grass-roots community issues and at the same time raising funds for much needy youth and children’s camps fees, benefiting those most at risk and enabling children and youth to attend and enjoy a happy and healthy holiday experience at the same time by not reinventing the wheel. As proud members of our communities and Citizens of NZ, ‘Take a Minute, help Change a Life’, lets show that ‘We Care’ and that ‘Life Does Matter’.

I am a proud mother and citizen of Dunedin NZ. I care deeply for my family, community and its people. Sadly, I lost a much loved and treasured son to suicide in 2017.

I have been inspired to inspire others by showing that ‘We Care’ and that ‘Life Does Matter’.

My son was a much loved and respected family member who cared deeply for family. He loved and valued his friends and respected his work colleagues and associates. He was a brilliant man who had worked conscientiously and passionately through-out his educational and professional years he had at all times achieved to a very high standard.

Help me to support those who need our help.

Carolina Anne Meikle, 2017.

Donate Now

Powder Ridge Punisher

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Now for the good news…. you will feel a true sense of achievement finishing this loop & be rewarded with some stunning bush, rivers, tussock & views! If you can run even 20% of this loop you are a star! There is no rush, so take your time around the course & feel more confident on the trails from when you started!
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The Chalkies Challenge, 2017