We chat with Olga Preston and Lorraine Perretta, whose practice combines nutrition and health science to optimise brain health.


What is the ‘optimum nutrition’ approach to mental health? 

“The optimum nutrition approach to mental health and wellbeing is an integrative approach that looks to nourish the mind to its level of best performance with the help of food, supplements, and lifestyle changes.

“We work with clients to identify nutritional or biochemical imbalances which may be contributing to their symptoms. We aim to identify these imbalances through consultation and testing in order to develop a tailor-made diet plan and supplement programme that will aim to restore balance. 

“It is important to note that we find nutritional therapy works well alongside traditional prescription medicines and we believe it shouldn't be exclusively one or the other. We have found that in some cases a nutritional programme may even help medications to be more effective.” 

Which mental health conditions can you support?

“We can support anyone looking to improve their mental wellbeing. We support adults with depression and anxiety, psychosis, postpartum psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, paranoia, phobias, cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer's, and neurological disorders like Parkinson's. We also support people in recovery from addictions.

“Many clients look for support with stress, mental fatigue or just want to invest in a 'tune up' for their future mental wellbeing.

“We see many children and teenagers with anxiety, ADHD, ADD, ASD, problems with learning, development and behavioural issues, OCD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and Down’s Syndrome.

“Nutritional therapy takes time and commitment but can provide lots of support on your journey to an overall improvement in physical and mental wellbeing.”

How does our gut health affect our mental health? 

“The gut and the brain are in constant communication through the gut-brain axis. Around 80% of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that is associated with mood) is produced in our gut, therefore what you eat and drink has a direct effect on how you feel.

“The key function of your digestive system is to digest and absorb key nutrients which are important to support mental health. In addition, an imbalance of gut bacteria or dysbiosis may also have a detrimental effect on mental health. 

“Foods which are particularly important for gut health are nutrient dense foods, rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. These include wholegrains, brown rice, oats, millet, quinoa, kamut, spelt, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, beans, lentils and chickpeas. We recommend fresh fruits and vegetables too.

“Making dietary changes can be challenging. Your nutritional therapist will work with you in recommending a diet which is most appropriate as well as practical to your lifestyle and living circumstances.” 

Are there any nutrient deficiencies that are particularly associated with depression and anxiety?

“...we have found that problems with depression and anxiety may be caused by a variety of factors including nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, food intolerances, imbalances in the neurotransmitter pathways or accumulation of toxic elements. 

“Each individual won't have all of these imbalances but will usually present with a unique combination of factors. For example you need good levels of Vitamin D to support uptake of serotonin by the serotonin receptors.”

Which lifestyle interventions do you often recommend to support mental health?

“We have often found that the following lifestyle interventions may be beneficial to work alongside dietary modifications: exercise, time with family and friends, laughter, sleep hygiene and music.”

Would you recommend a combination of therapies?

“Nutritional therapy should not be considered an exclusive therapy and we have always been happy to work with medical practitioners, as well as any other complementary therapist such as herbalists, homeopaths and acupuncturists. 

“We have found that an integrative approach is always best. Nutritional therapy works very well alongside psychological support for mental health such as psychotherapy, CBT, counselling, mindfulness, music therapy, art therapy and animal therapy.”

How does a consultation work? 

“A typical consultation will include taking a comprehensive case history including your medical and family history. We may also advise on functional tests that will be able to identify biochemical imbalances that may be contributing to your symptoms. Based on the information we gather from you, we will build a dietary programme that is tailored to your needs. 

“...The tests range from nutritional testing of individual vitamins, minerals, fats, hormones, food intolerances, neurotransmitters and many more. You and your nutritional therapist will work together in making any decisions about appropriate tests for you.

“Please understand that we won't just recommend you make changes to your diet, we will also help you to make these changes. And we will work with you at a pace that is comfortable for you.”