Why Nutrition is the Foundation of Mental Health – Dr. Bonnie Kaplan and Dr. Julia Rucklidge – HPP 86

Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD

Julia J. Rucklidge, PhD

Thanks to the work of two very committed researchers, there is a growing body of research linking micronutrients to mental health. This research is not well known but should be.

In today’s episode, we are delighted to discuss with Dr. Bonnie Kaplan and Dr. Julia Rucklidge what they’ve learned through many years of clinical research about the role of nutrition and supplements in mental health. They are the co-authors of a new book about to be published:  The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition. Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD and Julia Rucklidge, PhD.

Show Notes:

Nutrition At The Forefront – 03:18
“And what stunned me when I kind of immersed myself in that was that less than 20% of the North American population is meeting the targets for their fruit and vegetable consumption. And that about 50% of the caloric intake is from ultra-processed food. So when you look at that in itself, you realize it sort of hits you on the head. That’s where you need to start. People are simply not eating foods that are nutrient dense”

The Truth Behind Ultra-processed Foods – 05:33
“We should stop calling ultra-processed food, food. Food is defined as what we ingest to build and maintain ourselves. And as Julia said, the micronutrients that are needed for building, and some of the macronutrients needed for building and maintaining ourselves, just not there in that stuff, that ultra-processed stuff. And I’m also shocked by that”

Diet Versus Supplements – 10:34
“And absolutely, the number one step is to get people to get rid of the ultra-processed stuff, and to improve their dietary intake. But that is not enough for everyone. And we discuss in our book the reasons for individual differences”

Nutritional Resiliency: Keeping Balanced Levels – 16:31
“All we’re taught about is eat a balanced diet so that you have strong muscles and bones. And that’s been true in my entire lifetime. Nobody is saying by the way, your brain metabolism is dependent upon cofactors, which are called vitamins and minerals. And that you need billions of times every minute. You need those in your brain”

Considering Micronutrient Supplements – 21:31
“And so when that happens, it’s wonderful because they probably then don’t need as much or even any micronutrients if they can change their diet. For some they may need to continue to take the micronutrients—And that has to be a good thing”

The Significance Of Remineralizing The Soil – 24:52
“I don’t think most people know how we get our vitamins and minerals. Plants absorb minerals from the soil, if they are there. That’s the important thing. The plants then synthesize vitamins from those minerals, and also from water and sun and so forth, right? I’m oversimplifying it, but we cannot synthesize minerals, we cannot synthesize vitamins except for a very small amount of some B vitamins in our gut”

Choosing The Right Food And What You Should Know – 31:20
“But in general, organic farmers are better stewards of the soil. So that’s something to look at. We skipped the really big issue though. We went right down, we drilled down very quickly into the nitty gritty, but the number one thing is learn to cook. Cooking is not stuffing something into a microwave. Learn to cook from scratch”

Full Episode Transcript


Dr. Julia Rucklidge, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan, Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  00:00

I don’t think most people know how we get our vitamins and minerals. Plants absorb minerals from the soil if they are there. That’s the important thing. The plants then synthesize vitamins from those minerals and also from water and sun and so forth.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  00:23

Thank you for joining us for the higher practice podcast. I’m Dr. Will Van Derveer with Keith Kurlander. And this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Well, today we have a special treat in getting to have a conversation with Bonnie Kaplan and Julia Rucklidge, two of the leaders in the clinical research connecting up the role of micronutrients in optimizing mental health. So nutrition is an often under emphasized aspect that I think doesn’t usually get as much attention as it deserves in terms of its role in mental health. And so we gotta talk today with two of the folks who have really dedicated their careers to proving the essential nature of getting adequate amounts of micronutrients into our system. So our brains can be healthy, and they’ve recently put their research and their thoughts together in a terrific book. I got an early copy, I was fortunate to get to read it already. This book is called The Better Brain overcome anxiety, combat depression and reduce ADHD and stress with nutrition. This is brand new, it’s just coming out now. So it’s great timing to have our guests on the show today. Bonnie Kaplan for many years has studied developmental disorders in children, especially ADHD in reading disabilities. She was part of a team from the University of Calgary and University of British Columbia, which helped in the search for genes that predispose children to dyslexia. Also with her students, she investigated the characteristics of adults with ADHD and such work led her to further investigations of the role of nutrition. Another interest has been the mood symptoms that accompany ADHD and learning difficulties, and the role of micronutrient treatment of mood aggression and explosive rage. This progression of topics has resulted in a research program focused on the role of nutrition in brain development and brain function, especially in the use of broad spectrum micronutrient treatment for mental disorders. Our other guest Professor Julia Rucklidge is Canadian born clinical psychologist who is the director of the mental health and nutrition research group at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her research has centered on mental health and nutrition. Work from this research group has explored the impact of nutritional interventions in ADHD in children and adults, anxiety and stress and adults and children following a series of earthquakes, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, depression and addictions and emotional dysregulation.


Keith Kurlander  03:12

Hi, Bonnie, and Julia, welcome to the show.


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  03:15

It’s a pleasure to be here.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  03:17

Thanks very much for your interest.


Keith Kurlander  03:18

Yeah, we’re super excited about this particular episode, because as I was saying to you both just a little bit before, unfortunately, nutrition doesn’t tend to be one of the first things a lot of mental health providers are really leaning into in terms of trying to get somewhere with the symptoms they are seeing. And there’s some that do, but many don’t. And it might not even be the last thing they do to try and help people in terms of really looking at whether it’s deficiencies or just diet and this link between nutrition and mental health and mental illness. And so I thought we could just start off hearing from both of you just with ever all the research you’ve done over the years. Why is it so key that nutrition is right at the forefront of the conversation when we’re looking at somebody that’s not really well mentally and is really struggling? Why is nutrition right at the front of that conversation?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  04:16

I think one of the things that I learned from writing the better brain with Bonnie was that we had to delve into a lot of the research around eating habits of North Americans. And what stunned me when I kind of immersed myself in that was that less than 20% of the North American population is meeting the targets for their fruit and vegetable consumption. And that about 50% of the caloric intake is from ultra-processed food. So when you look at that in itself, you realize it sort of hits you on the head. That’s where you need to start is that people are simply not eating foods that are nutrient dense. So ultra processed food is high in calories, but very clearly low in it’s nutrient, its micronutrient content. It’s high in your macronutrients, your fats, your proteins and your carbohydrates, but really is not hitting even the RDA the Recommended Dietary allowance for many of the key nutrients that are essential for our brain health. And so that alone says we need to start there, we need to change this ratio, we need to be increasing the whole food consumption of the population and reducing and personally eliminating the consumption of ultra processed foods.


Keith Kurlander  05:33

Yeah, thanks, Julia. That’s a good answer. I’m totally in agreement. Bonnie, you want to fill in any gaps there or any additional pieces?


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  05:39

A couple of very related pieces, we should stop calling ultra-processed food, food. Food is defined as what we ingest to build and maintain ourselves. And as Julia said, the micronutrients that are needed for building some of the macronutrients needed for building and maintaining ourselves, just not there in that stuff, that ultra-processed stuff. And I’m also shocked by that. And it’s particularly just this one other comment about how relevant this is right now. Nutrition is the foundation of our physical and mental resilience. And that has been known for millennia. I mean, we know that when people are starving, they are more vulnerable to every kind of infection. Ever heard of COVID? And it’s a matter of one nutrient at a time. It’s having all of the nutrients in our brains and bodies all the time for our resilience. And that was shown very well for mental health in the starvation experiments from the University of Minnesota published in 1950. So we’ve known for 70 years that people who are reducing, that was an experiment with 36 healthy men, reducing their nutrients and caloric intake by 50%. And what you end up with, they’re all the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even inattention, which we associate with ADHD. So this is really the key thing to focus on.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  07:13

Right. And from that study, I’m glad you mentioned that Bonnie sounds like the finding the symptoms that were found way back when 70 years ago, are some of the very same symptoms that you see that you have seen in terms of response to broad, micronutrient treatments. I wonder if you could speak to that in terms of what you two have seen in your research for our audience here who may not be familiar with the studies you’ve published.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  07:41

I’ll give one generality, Julia, and maybe you can chime in with some of your data, okay? So if you look across all the studies that have been published that involve dietary intervention, and micronutrient supplementation, the theme, the really consistent theme is improved mood regulation. And so this is a really trying time we’re all going through. And so mood regulation, in whatever form, is something that’s a really a very worthy goal.


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  08:14

The thing I might add is that the research that we’ve done, I always like to look at it as proof of principle, because we don’t want to supplement the whole population, or certainly we don’t see that as being the solution. But what we are able to do that you can’t do with diet studies, is that you can have those very controlled experiments. The medical community will believe I mean, we could have big debates about whether we want to just rely on controlled studies with placebos. But what they prove is that the nutrients are important. It puts nutrition back on the map in a way that you can’t do with the dietary studies. Because of dietary studies, you can never adequately control for a whole host of the other variables, the other factors that can influence why people get better. With a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, you can. So we really do with the research that has been done. And there are dozens and dozens of placebo-controlled trials looking at the idea of a broad spectrum of nutrients as an alleviator of psychiatric and psychological symptoms. And so many of them I’ve counted, about 80% of them are positive. And that’s not a bad number in terms of the wealth of all the RCTs that have been conducted. And it all points to the idea that nutrients matter. Nutrients are relevant to the brain. And if you said that 10 years ago, definitely 20 years ago, you would be laughed at.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  09:44

That’s right. Yeah. And also keep in mind that those positive studies that means that the group data showed positive benefit of the micronutrients and of course some people respond very, very strongly. There are always people who do not benefit from taking micronutrients. But I wanted to say one more thing about dietary studies. They’re very hard to do. And the problem is, I’ve seen this in some of the work that I’ve done is that people really are not honest. Fill in a diet record, you might forget to mention that your morning snack was a candy bar, right? But you should remember to mention your healthy oatmeal with blueberries and nuts or whatever. Is it an intentional deception or not, I don’t know. But some of the dietary researchers are totally frustrated about that. It’s a real problem.


Keith Kurlander  10:34

So this kind of leads me to a more macro kind of philosophical question about; so we’re basically talking about diet, which is kind of under this you are what you eat concept and the food we put into our mouths. And then we’re also here talking about supplementation, micronutrient supplementation, and I’m wondering more on a philosophical level about all the information you’ve gathered over the years. First of all, like, what most matters here, where do we start? Are we starting with diet? Are we starting with supplements? And like, we’re doing both? Is there any way of thinking about this practically in terms of getting well if we’re suffering quite a bit in ourselves mentally? And, you know, just kind of what do you do here?


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  11:15

In our book, we talk about three steps. And absolutely, the number one step is to get people to get rid of the ultra-processed stuff, and to improve their dietary intake. But that is not enough for everyone. And there we discuss in our book the reasons for individual differences. And actually, just two weeks ago, another article came out in JAMA neurology showing or identifying 24 diseases, where there is an inherited need for an unusual amount of the B Vitamins, A, E and another vitamin like compound in those diseases, and they’ve inherited that need. And if you give them the nutrients at the time, when this is discovered, and early on in the disease process, it can be very helpful. We think that a lot of that individual differences are very relevant to mental health. Do you want to take it from there, Julia?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  12:10

Sure. I mean, I just want to add to what you’re saying there. And something that we’ve observed in our research to date is that, especially with the resilience studies that I’ve been involved after the earthquakes here, with Bonnie after a flood, and then more recently, after a hideous mosque shooting, that happened in Christchurch, which is those clinical observations of just about to be published, is that when you capture someone, at the time when their stress levels really accelerate, and go up, we can have an enormous impact by giving additional nutrients at that stage. And the way we conceptualize that and understand it is via something that Bruce Ames and McCann put forward in 2009 was this idea of the triage theory, which is that when you’re under an enormous amount of stress, and immediate stressor, the fight flight response always wins. And all your nutritional needs will get diverted to the fight flight response. And that makes sense because of survival. If that didn’t happen, then we would all be dead. And we wouldn’t have survived as a species. But the downside of that is that if your stressor just keeps going, like with earthquakes, we had these just constant, constant aftershocks every single day triggering your fight flight response, then, that over time, you can see that a whole bunch of other bodily functions are going to suffer, like your mood, your ability to regulate your mood, or your concentration, your energy. So then we gave them additional nutrients. And that seemed to really, really change the course of their recovery, very much better than those people who didn’t receive nutrients. And so for me, that tells me what Bonnie’s saying about the get in early. That’s what I think is the best thing for micronutrients to have, the quickest and most impactful effect is to get in early. And it’s too bad that this kind of information isn’t well known in terms of COVID is that there’s people who have been in lockdown for a year and that just ongoing stress associated with so many different factors is wearing people down and the recovery and being able to replenish the nutrients i think is going to take a lot longer. That’s just my hunch.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  14:27

That’s right. Actually, in that context, I don’t know if you’ll want to put this in here or somewhere else. But I always bring up what I’ve been calling lately, the unsung hero in the resilience literature that Julia was talking about in our recent article I am hoping attracts a lot of attention because it puts together all these studies, she mentioned post-earthquake, post flood, post mass shooting. But in the flood study in Alberta, one of our competitors was B complex. And there is a literature on B complex, I usually say reducing stress, we should be saying, improving coping, or improving resilience. That’s what it’s about. And in countless situations, I’ve had friends like one who was widowed recently who knew she was, how can you overreact to losing your husband in 50 years, but she knew she was not regaining her control adequately. She’s a psychologist. And a single B complex, taken every morning with food has a tremendous effect in our flood study, there was no difference between the benefits from a broad-spectrum formula compared to B complex. Julia hasn’t didn’t used a B complex in the earthquake study.


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  15:42

I did. I did.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  15:43

Or you did sorry, what did you find?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  15:46

We found a similar effect. But that when we drill down into some of the sort of other measures, what we found was that those who were taking the broad spectrum, were more likely to report to us that they were much to very much improved, and it was twice as many people were reporting that compared to the B complex, but when we looked at the measure of stress, there were no differences between Baraka, which was the B complex that we used, and the broad spectrum,


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  16:14

Right, but being the unsung hero is very easy. I think, in terms of COVID, so many people who don’t have preexisting crises, that it’s not a single earthquake, it’s just ongoing grinding stress that they could benefit from taking just the B complex in the morning.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  16:31

It makes a lot of sense. I mean, I think, in the general public, we think it’s a no brainer to think about cycling, no pun intended, no brainer. But it’s an obvious thing to think about psychological resiliency or physical resilience, in terms of like, if I want to go run a marathon, I have to build up my resilience or I have to train over time. But what I think is missing and what I love about what you’re bringing in the better brain book is this issue of nutritional resiliency, inside of a human body. And I think it’s a really important new direction for all of us to be talking about. How do we keep the levels adequate, so that our resilience doesn’t suffer under additional stress? And it’s a relatively common practice amongst holistic medical providers to say, well, you need to make sure your vitamin D levels are high, so you’re not going to be as vulnerable to the common flu or to these stressful events may get a cold. And we know even in the COVID conversation that people with low vitamin D are having a much harder time with infection. And studies are happening in that. But in terms of nutrition, it’s so interesting to me that this has not been an area that more people are looking at. And I’m curious what your thoughts are about why this remains such a hidden factor in the conversation amongst providers.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  18:01

I just made up a slide of this. And the first part of the slide I’ll come in on but the second part is Julia’s contribution. And it’s why people are dismissive of vitamins and minerals. And the first reason is education, education, education, people. And by people, I mean, lay people. And I mean, all the way up through physicians are not taught what nutrients do in the brain. All we’re taught about is eat a balanced diet so that you have strong muscles and bones. And that’s been true in my entire lifetime. Nobody is saying by the way, your brain metabolism is dependent upon cofactors, which are called vitamins and minerals. And that you need billions of times every minute. You need those in your brain. So education, education, education. So Secondly, we tend to distrust things we don’t know about. And then third, Julia, talk about the media. As you may know, a wonderful slide with all those headlines. When does the media cover nutrition and mental and health?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  19:04

Yes, well, I mean, they usually cover it in a negative way. And that vitamins are killing us. And that’s usually the only type of stories that they like to report on. But I think to add to what Bonnie said, was that the dietitians are the ones that we would typically go to, to get advice on what we should be eating. And I think I feel a little bit let down to be honest by dietitians. I hope that’s not going to offend anybody out there. And I’m sure there’s some wonderful dietitians out there, but they just typically say as long as you eat a balanced diet, then you don’t need to be worried about taking in additional micronutrients are concerned about that just a balanced diet. But when you kind of grill down on what do they mean by a balanced diet? I honestly think that they’re just focusing on fats, carbs and proteins. Recently, I was talking to a reporter who said yeah, I looked at my diet, and he, you know, struggled with it. He’s the guy who’s been struggling with depression for years, and I know what to do, I look at labels and I look at the sugar content. And I’m like, Oh my god, you have totally got it wrong. If you’re looking at labels, then you don’t get what a balanced diet is because you shouldn’t be looking at labels because you’d be eating whole foods with no labels. So the fact that kind of that’s what people are doing is that they think they need to look at the labels and how much saturated fat is in there. And there’s the star ratings in New Zealand. I know they don’t have them in North America, but they really grind on me. And in the UK, they have a traffic light system, but the same idea. It’s about low and sodium, low in fat, low in calories. And what’s the last one? And I’m trying to think of the last one.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  20:47

Did you say sugars?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  20:48

Low in sugar, there you go, low in sugar. And then one star rating for having one nutrient in there. So a cardboard box would get you a four star rating, and that doesn’t mean you need to eat it. So that is so wrong, that the advice and the way that we’re helping people guide their way around which ultra-processed food to eat is based on what’s not in the food, rather than what is. And so we need to completely reverse that. And change the way we understand food. And the food industry has a lot to answer for in terms of the mixed and bad messages that have gone out there to the public.


Keith Kurlander  21:31

Yeah, and I mean, it’s quite clear that first of all, we’re facing a massive mental health crisis across the planet right now. The amount of mental health disorders that we’re facing is pretty incredible. And those are the ones we know about in terms of people actually getting diagnosed and then the food crisis is what I would call it, which is that it seems evident to me at this point that one of the critical issues. One of them, there’s others, one of the critical issues of why there’s so many unwell people is food, which is obviously you’ve both through your work and are looking at nutrients. And I guess I’m also wondering about supplementation, micronutrient supplementation, like if people don’t deal with the way they’re eating, is that going to help them enough? If they don’t actually deal with the way they’re eating, but they’re just starting to pop some supplements?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  22:26

I think one of the things that we have to do and be very mindful of when we run the clinical trials and these very controlled trials is that we never talk to people about their diet, we do some assessment of their diet, fairly basic assessment of number of fruit and vegetable servings they eat per day, that kind of thing. But we don’t focus on the diet, we don’t make comments when they go to the lab with Coca Cola or with a Kentucky Fried Chicken. We don’t say anything. That’s the mantra in my lab. But many people when they try the micronutrients, and are eating that kind of diet, if there is some for some of them, not all of them. But sometimes this is kind of like a eureka moment of Oh my God, I feel so much better taking these nutrients. Maybe I should look at my diet. And so when that happens, it’s wonderful because they probably then don’t need as much or even any micronutrients if they can change their diet. For some they may need to continue to take the micronutrients. And I know a number of people who had fallen actually quite a few people who would fall in that camp, but it may mean they don’t need to take as much. And that has to be a good thing. So I hope that answers that question.


Keith Kurlander  23:37

I think it answers it a lot. And I shared with Bonnie before you came on. I’ve taken daily essential nutrients for years, and truehope before that, and this is one person’s experience. But these have been very helpful for me, very helpful with a lot of mental health symptoms. And I also noticed that I was slower to change my diet. I was one of those people. I haven’t been a Coca Cola fast food person since I was a teenager. But I was much slower to actually really ask the questions of, well, what will happen if I keep refining my diet over and over? And I’m wondering, just like your thoughts here, it’s so at least for me, and a lot of people I’ve worked with, it’s definitely a lower hanging fruit to be able to go take that supplement, in terms of Okay, I’ll take it and for some people, it’s even hard to comply with that, especially when you’re taking 20 supplements a day or something but it’s a lower hanging fruit to do that versus like changing core behaviors and cravings and all day long and yeah, I’m just wondering, what’s the drawbacks to just relying on the supplements only and with this food crisis that we have here going on? Again, I’m a big fan of the supplements because they’ve changed my life and what else do we need to be thinking about here around food?


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  24:52

So there is a drawback for people to think they can solve all their problems with vitamins and minerals in pill form. And that is that they’re, they’re getting maybe 30, vitamins and minerals. And that’s great. That’s a broad spectrum. And we know, these are very important. But what about the like, what’s the latest estimate on phytonutrients that’s in fruits and vegetables? 1200 or 2,000, I see numbers tossed around. Very few of them, even have names very, very few of them have known functions. We have to have these things the way they’re meant to arrive on our plate. And that is in the whole fruits and vegetables. Now, that brings us to something else we cover in our book, though, and that is half of a chapter is on the problem of the microbiome, not of our guts, but the microbiome of the earth, and how this is a huge problem. And factory farming really had a very adverse effect. I don’t know if you want to get into this in the podcast. But more and more of our agricultural experts are becoming aware of the importance of remineralizing the soil, and maybe just for this level of podcast where we can’t show pictures at all, just leave your audience with this bit of knowledge, which is I don’t think most people know how we get our vitamins and minerals. Plants absorb minerals from the soil, if they are there. That’s the important thing. The plants then synthesize vitamins from those minerals, and also from water and sun and so forth, right? I’m oversimplifying it, but we cannot synthesize minerals, we cannot synthesize vitamins except for a very small amount of some B vitamins in our gut. And even then we are doing it, it’s the microbiota that are synthesizing it. So we are dependent upon getting minerals and vitamins for brain function by eating plants that have been grown in healthy soil, or eating the animals that have come along and eaten the plants. So that’s a very important thing that we explain, so that people become more aware of and support agricultural experts who are trying to improve the soil and get rid of chemical treatment, and instead do natural kinds of ways of growing food.


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  27:12

I’ll just add to that. I recently interviewed well, a good colleague of mine, but for an online course that I’ve created, and Ian Shochet really eloquently explained the role of glyphosate in reducing the mineral content of soil. I had thought about it as the effect that glyphosate was having on the plant. But actually, the way he describes it is that the glyphosate gets into the soil, it binds to minerals, and then all you have to do is have the rain, and it washes it away. And so that, to me, was kind of heart wrenching around, wow, these things that we’re putting on every plant all over the world are having this effect and really detrimental effect on the nutrient density of our food.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  27:54

Well, just to riff off of the glyphosate theme, so a real pet peeve of mine, I’m glad you brought that up, Julia. In addition to collating the minerals in the soil, it also, as you probably know, interrupts the shikimate pathway of plants. And one of the interesting things that’s not well known about glyphosate is that it also blocks the shikimate pathway in the microbiota in the gut. And the shikimate pathway for some microbiota in the human gut is instrumental in producing enough tryptophan for us to then absorb enough tryptophan to then have precursors for serotonin and melatonin and so forth, and so on, and there are other issues with glyphosate that are even beyond that, as well. But I think it’s an important pathway for our audience to know about, specifically around key lighting the minerals in the soil, but also deeply disturbing tryptophan issues. And I think that inside the human organism and our ability to absorb tryptophan, it’s interesting that in my practice, as an integrative psychiatrist, when I encourage people to make dietary change, and specifically trying to lower glyphosate levels in their system, what I usually do, I usually start with eliminating American wheat from their diet, because, as you probably know, glyphosate had a second sort of boom in terms of its worth to Monsanto, which is that it desiccates wheat berries. And so because American wheat is 30 times, genetically modified to have at least 30 times more gluten than heirloom wheat from Europe. It’s very greasy, and it interferes with the columbines that harvested so from a practical sense, it makes sense to desiccate wheat berries, and because glyphosate works to do that, they douse the American wheat with glyphosate, not as a weed killer, but to make the berries drier for harvest. And so people who eat American wheat are getting a massive dose of glyphosate that they don’t even know is going on. So what’s interesting about it, and I’m trying to get to the point briefly here is that when people stop eating American wheat, often their anxiety levels drop tremendously, very quickly. And I think my sense and this is only a hunch from a clinician, and not a research-resolved by any means. But I think that the tryptophan levels are coming up for those folks because as we restore the microbiota, and we replace disabled microbiota, whose shikimate pathways have been blocked by glyphosate, and we replaced them by healthy microbiota, then we can now make more tryptophan, we can absorb it. And I think we see symptomatic change simply just from that. And there’s a lot of other factors involved. But I think it’s an interesting thing when you start going down the rabbit hole and looking at these biochemical pathways and how things work.


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  30:45

Oh, exactly. And I mean, they are there to solve problems, but they just have created a whole bunch of new ones that we then have to try kind of then solve that problem. And so it just goes on and on, doesn’t it?


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  30:56

I missed some of what you said there. But I think that it relates to something I often say in lectures, which is that there’s good reason to believe that a lot of people’s gluten sensitivity is in fact, a reaction to the glyphosate. And there’s now one animal study. I can’t remember if we got this into the book or not, Julia, I think we did. That shows that pretty clearly.


Keith Kurlander  31:20

What would you say kind of practically about shopping for foods, with knowing our soils depleted, knowing that there’s a ton of ultra-processed foods all over the supermarket, what’s our best chance at getting the nutrients we need when we walk into a supermarket?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  31:41

Sure, I mean, I think the what I said earlier, which is try to stay away from packaged foods. And that’s not entirely realistic. Because there are some things that are in packaged foods in packages, that would be perfectly fine. Like I don’t know, I’m thinking of maybe rice or some pastas might be perfectly fine. But at least looking at the ingredients in a packaged food and seeing how many are in there. And when you start to have a lot of those E numbers, then that might be a sort of a clue that it’s going to be more ultra-processed and having emulsifiers and preservatives and artificial colors in that food. Eating whole food in season would be a great start going to your local markets, maybe joining a local market around growing food that’s happening a lot more around the world. I know Bonnie’s a big fan, and I’m in total agreement with her but she’s the one who often would say that first which is eat your legumes, you know, go for your beans and your lentils, because they are so rich in proteins and get providing you with fiber and nutrients. Those would be really good staple foods. Canned food, if you have to is not necessarily a bad thing. We talked about that in the book But canning is a form of processing, but it can conserve the nutrients of that food like your tomatoes, for example. And that’s a really cheap option as well. Because often people are looking to see how can they eat well, economically. Bonnie, do you want to jump in? I know, frozen fruit vegetables would be another great way forward around that. And that again, that isn’t a package. But that’s a great way of preserving the nutrients because they’re picked fresh and then frozen.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  33:18

Yeah, freezing and canning can be very low amount of processing. Actually, tomatoes in jars are better than in cans because you do get a lot of sodium and also, the dried beans and legumes are better than in the cans just because you get a lot of sodium in the canned stuff. But if you put it in a colander and you rinse it off, then you’ve gotten rid of most of the sodium. So Michael Pollan’s recommendations, eat more plants. I don’t know if he was the one who generated the idea of shopping around the outside of the grocery store. But that’s a really good one. Don’t buy anything that your grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food, that’s a really good guideline. Sometimes think about what our ancestors would think if they went into a 711 or something. There’s nothing there that’s food, you know, by their criteria. I mean, also eating organic can often be very good. Organic growers tend to be better stewards of their soil, even though we were disappointed in one analysis where we compared two adjacent fields in Canada one organic and one not and found no difference in the mineral content. But in general, organic farmers are better stewards of the soil. So that’s something to look at. We skipped the really big issue though. We went right down we drilled down very quickly into the nitty gritty, but the number one thing is learn to cook. Cooking is not stuffing something into a microwave. Learn to cook from scratch. So that’s really important and for the clinicians out there on my own website I have, I think it’s eight tips for clinicians, including how to talk to people about what they eat, because I think a lot of clinicians worry that they’re going to sound judgmental. And so there are ways to introduce the topic. But pause for a minute, because I just lost my train of thought, eight tips to say something. You can read in my mind usually, Julia?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  35:24

Well, it’s an article that’s just come out, which we’ve written directly for psychologists. I have the proof sitting here right now, which is that nutrition provides the essential foundation for optimizing mental health. And that’s going out to clinical note, any psychologist, obviously, I think the target audience was child clinical psychologist, but really excited about having put this together with Bonnie and with another colleague, Jenny Johnston, because it is going I really hope it gives that confidence to psychologists that they can talk about some food, because we got so many comments back from the reviewers. No, we can’t possibly tell psychologists to do this. But psychologists tell their clients to exercise and other lifestyle changes. Why is it that diet is such a taboo thing for psychologists to talk about, anybody should be able to talk about the really basic idea, which is to eat real food. I don’t think you have to be a trained dietician to say that.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  36:22

That’s exactly the point I wanted to make. Because I often tell people, there is no reason nowadays, that the clinic would not be educating, any mental health clinic would not be educating their clients as to the importance of nutrition. And maybe generating or organizing some cooking classes or sharing of recipes, and one of the points we make in the book, and I often do this in my lectures is that it’s been shown very clearly and individual people have proven it, you save money. People think eating a whole foods diet means you have to be rich for it. It’s only true if you’re going to be eating steak and lobster every week. But if you learn to cook and turn your attention to those dry beans and legumes, you will save money.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  37:10

That’s been my experience when I cook.


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  37:11

Sorry, there’s recipes in the book. Yes.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  37:17

Did you do any cost comparisons?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  37:19

Oh, for me, it was just incredible how much we saved by shopping locally and making simple fresh meals ourselves. And I think it’s like you said, it’s a thing you have to get into and you have to appreciate. For me cooking is a really relaxing experience. When I get home from work my wife and I connect and after I say hello to the puppy and he can calm down. We have a small puppy at home right now. But after that I can start chopping vegetables. And it feels like a really good way to ground myself after being in my head all day long. So I think there’s a lot to understanding the value of the ritual and the habit of cooking for people who can find their way into a different, it’s a big lifestyle change, as Keith mentioned, but it’s so worthwhile on so many levels. I’m wondering, Keith and I like to invite our guests on the podcast as we wrap up. We’d like to ask the same question to each guests we have and curious, we haven’t done a co-interview with two guests before but we’d love to offer each of you an opportunity to respond here that if you had a billboard that everyone in the world would see one time in their lifetime, and you could put a couple sentences on that billboard What would you like them to see?


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  38:35

Okay, I have one idea. Nutrition is the foundation of our mental and physical resilience.


Keith Kurlander  38:44

That’s great. Thanks, Bonnie.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  38:47

May I add another one? Every child should have the right to be treated first with nutrition before they’re ever exposed with their little developing brains to medication. That isn’t to say that medication isn’t relevant. But nutrition and exercise and lifestyle should be primary treatments. Medication should be the supplement. And that’s why I try not to take nutrients in pill form as supplements because it’s medication which should be the supplement or seen as the second if it’s needed.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  39:29

Thank you. Beautiful. Julia?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  39:31

I’m thinking of the end of my TEDx talk. Nutrition matters, and we’re really ready to get serious about mental health. It’s time to get serious about the critical role played by nutrition.


Keith Kurlander  39:41

Great. Thanks, Julia.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  39:42

Beautiful. Thanks, Julia.


Keith Kurlander  39:44

So you can both answer this separately, Bonnie and Julia, anything you want people to be aware of about your work or things you’re up to or your book or anything ways for people to reach you that type of stuff?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  39:55

Well, there’s the book, which is coming out in April. So We are super excited about this. We’re hoping this is going to be a bestseller. The MOOC that I put together would be, I hope is a really great resource for not just it’s geared towards the public, but I really go grill down and I interview wonderful experts for it, like Bonnie’s comes onto the MOOC. And I like the toxicologist, professor Anne Shawn, I have a nutritionist, a clinical nutritionist, walk us around a market, so that we can talk about different types of foods and what we should be thinking about when we’re buying food in a market. I did a cooking class with an Italian chef on the Mediterranean diet, and I made naki last night again. So it has an effect on me, which is great. The secret, though you don’t probably have to put on the podcast is that my husband is the cook in our house. And that’s been the case for a long time. But I’m cooking more as a consequence of this book. So Bonnie will be thrilled. We eat great food, but he does all the cooking. Or he has been.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  41:02

Julia, do you wanna define MOOC for the listeners who would not know what that is?


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  41:07

Mass online open access course. It’s a platform called edX. And it’s an American platform, and so easy to find if you go onto the edX platform and just look for Rucklidge and mental health and nutrition.


Keith Kurlander  41:19

Yeah, we’ll put that in the show notes. That’s, great.


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  41:22

But it’s a six week course and it’s free. It’s free to audit it. So all these videos I spent, like, Oh my gosh, days and days and days doing these videos last year. Finally, they’ve been all edited. They’re all quite short five to 10 minutes, and essentially walks us through the book, but in a visual format, rather than in a written format. So if people prefer that format, then it might be a really good resource. And we got out there in New Zealand. I don’t know if you know that we’re really lucky here because we can pretty much live a normal non lockdown life. But we got out into lots of different locations to do the filming.


Keith Kurlander  42:04

That’s so great. And what about you, Bonnie? Are there some things you want people to be aware of?


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  42:07

Right. Well, I try to keep a lot of this information on my website, which is bonniejkaplan.com. You have to have the middle initial j because Bonnie Kaplan’s a common name, as it turns out. And also one of the things on that website is relevant to what I spend a lot of my time doing in retirement, which is I set up two charitable funds in 2015. They are Donor Advised funds one is in the US and one is in Canada. And I’ve raised if you treat the $2 as being the same, which is not the case, but it’s easiest, raise around $900,000 in these five plus years, all of it is distributed. We’re always looking for more where we have funded a little bit of research that Julian has done. We have funded a number of clinical trials going on in the US until the federal funding agencies wake up to the importance that it’s not just vitamin D that’s important, right. People glom on to these magic bullets. But it’s important to provide the brain with all of the vitamins and minerals that we know function as cofactors. Even NIMH is not yet willing to fund that work. And so that’s why I set up these funds. And if anybody is feeling like they want a charitable tax receipt, contact me. I assume you’ll be giving our email addresses out.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  43:34

Absolutely. Well, that’s great. Bonnie, thanks for sharing that. We’ll make sure that’s in the show notes.


Keith Kurlander  43:39

Well, thank you both so much for being on the show.


Dr. Julia Rucklidge  43:43

Thank you.


Dr. Bonnie Kaplan  43:43

Thanks for your questions. It’s fun to talk to you.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  43:52

Well, we hope that you learn something from these incredibly well endowed with information guests, Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Rucklidge are a couple of my idols in the research realm of proving the importance of an integrative perspective in mental health in particular around nutrition and how significant the improvements can be for folks when they get their nutrition right. And again, I would recommend the book that they have just put out called the better brain highly recommended, not just an intro, but a really nice deep dive into connecting micronutrients to mental health. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the Higher Practice Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.

Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD

Dr. Bonnie J Kaplan, PhD, is a research psychologist, and semi-retired Professor in the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. She has published widely on the biological basis of developmental disorders and mental health–particularly, the contribution of nutrition to brain development and brain function.

Her nutrition-related studies have focused on 1) broad spectrum micronutrient treatments for mental disorders, and 2) the effect of intrauterine nutrition on brain development and maternal mental health.

Now, in retirement, her passion is to teach people how our diet influences our brain and mental health.

To learn more about Dr. Bonnie Kaplan:

Julia J. Rucklidge, PhD

Julia J. Rucklidge, PhD, is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Over the last decade, she has been running clinical trials investigating the role of broad-spectrum micronutrients in the treatment of mental illness, specifically ADHD, mood disorders, addictions, anxiety and stress associated with traumatic events.

Rucklidge has over 130 peer-reviewed publications and textbook contributions. She is regularly featured in the media across social media, newspaper, radio, and TV and has given over 150 invited talks across the world on her work on nutrition and mental health. She was named one of the top 100 Most Influential Women in New Zealand in 2018. Her 2014 TEDx talk has been viewed over 1.7 million times. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

To learn more about Dr. Julia Rucklidge: