Kelly Brogan’s new book, “A Mind of Your Own,” offers hope and a plan for women who want to heal themselves from depression. The book debuted on the New York Times bestseller list, and I quickly ordered my copy. I agree wholeheartedly with the premise of the book, that lifestyle medicine—including balanced nutrition, meditation and physical activity—offers a better long-term solution to depression than medication.
Brogan’s book outlines a detailed 30-day plan to get healthy, followed by a very gradual discontinuation of medication under a doctor’s supervision. She says, “Before I stopped prescribing, I had never once cured a patient. Now people are cured every week in my practice.” Though not for everyone, her book offers practical advice for those women who want to take control of their mental health.
She challenges the conventional thinking, and says that “depression is epigenetic, not genetic.” She explains that epigenetics is “the study of sections of your DNA … that essentially tell your genes when and how strongly to express themselves.” Your genes might make you more susceptible to conditions such as depression, but they don’t determine your fate. I totally agree, as I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after my postpartum psychosis. I think that was a mistake and I rejected the medication route. For the past 36 years, I’ve tried to live a healthy lifestyle and have never had a relapse.
She encourages women to look at their intestinal health, hormones, immune system, blood sugar balance, and exposure to toxicants. Her plan focuses on food protocols, exercise, restful sleep, and meditation/relaxation techniques.
Brogan is a practicing psychiatrist with a degree in cognitive neuroscience from MIT, an MD from Weill Cornell Medical College and clinical training from NYU School of Medicine. Her book is a “must read” for all psychiatrists and professionals working in the field of mental health. Our understanding of mental health is constantly evolving, and although many of her ideas are controversial, I would encourage mental health professionals to read with an open mind.
For women who are currently taking an antidepressant, read the book thoroughly, and then find a mental health professional who will work with you on a comprehensive plan. Going “cold turkey” off your antidepressant can be dangerous and increases your change of relapse. You may have underlying health problems, and Brogan suggests a variety of tests that can rule these out.
As a nutritionist and food scientist, I must say that I do not agree with some of her stances on nutrition, particularly her suggestion to drink raw milk. Drinking raw milk is like playing Russian roulette with your health. However the section about the risks of low-grade inflammation, cultivating a healthy microbiome, and the benefits of probiotics are right on. This is an area that warrants more research.
Read Brogan’s book, but don’t be afraid to develop “A Plan of Your Own.” Adopt the parts that make sense to you and apply them to your life. It’s okay if you can’t afford organic vegetables and pastured meat. It’s also okay if you’re a committed vegan, or if you chose to include dairy and gluten in your diet. We can all benefit from her tips on exercise and relaxation.