Every Adolescent at Paradigm Malibu receives a nutritional evaluation so that individual, specific, nutritional needs may be met throughout their treatment stay and beyond. The goals of this evaluation and its role in the teens’ overall treatment plans is essentially two-fold: part of it is in effort to help support and stabilize any mood symptoms or physical symptoms teens are experiencing that may be related to the foods they’re eating. And the other part is to educate teens in making informed choices related to nutrition so that they may ultimately incorporate healthful, intuitive eating in to their lives. We find that it’s much more poignant for teens to actually experience feeling better when they eat better, as opposed to simply being told that there’s a connection and therefore, they should eat healthily. Our teen nutritional evaluation is one aspect that makes Paradigm’s adolescent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorder treatment plans specialized, individualized, and holistic.
At Paradigm Malibu, we believe that overall human wellness includes wellness of the mind, body, and spirit. As countless pieces of evidence and studies continue to show, an unhealthy body will negatively affect the mind and an unhealthy mind will negatively affect the person’s overall physical health. In relation to both of these, it seems clear both in science and in experience that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to experience an overall sense of ease, peace, and happiness in life, if either the mind or body isn’t well. Because of this, we believe that teen mental health treatment must include all of these aspects, including our teen nutritional evaluation. As stated by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:
“A truly integrative approach to mental health includes a thorough assessment of dietary habits, level of exercise/physical activity, environmental exposures, medications, co-morbid conditions, life stressors, level of social support, and family history.”
Because we acknowledge these inherent connections, we take them into careful consideration, both in our diagnosis of teens, as well as the design and implementation of our treatment plans. Our goal is to create individualized treatment plans that are as holistic as possible, one aspect of which is to carefully study how we can not only address but take advantage of these connections in order to further and strengthen the treatment we provide.
Though sometimes diet can be a difficult or tense topic, the medical community has long understood the link between good nutrition and optimal physical health. The emergence of new research continues to demonstrate clearly what we have long suspected to be true, because of our experiences: there are direct links between an adolescent’s diet and their emotional and behavioral health. Essentially, what teens are eating is inevitably going to affect the way they feel. Just as with any other factors or forms of exposure, these effects are going to be greater in some teens than others. Some teenagers can get away with copious amounts of junk food throughout their adolescence and because of a combination of their genetic make-up, metabolism, and perhaps also some luck, neither their physical or mental health is noticeably negatively effected. However, especially in teens that are susceptible to Mental Health Disorders because of their presence hereditarily, diet can play a powerful factor. This can be especially true in teens that are also currently dealing with imbalance and/or strong fluctuations of their hormones, as diet can also contribute- either negatively or positively- to the endocrine system.
When we use diet and nutrition as positive forces in an adolescent’s treatment plan, there are multiple resources available to support the work we’re doing in other areas. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that diet can be used to effectively reduce drug cravings, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, ADD/ADHD and other disorders. This can include such approaches as removing or adding certain foods to the diet, adding vitamins or supplements that may help with symptoms and/or ease the side effects of medication, help with insomnia, and improve and balance energy levels. As with so many of the different treatment tools we implement at Paradigm, we believe that the positive effects this nutrition planning can have in teens’ lives lasts not only during their treatment, but extends beyond, into their daily lives. As teens learn a number of different techniques to face their own struggles and triggers moving forward, implementing nutrition can be a tangible way for them to support their own health and overall well-being.