Felice Jacka is onto something. You might know her as the daughter of Judy Jacka (naturopathic trailblazer who established the SSNT), you might know her as the Australian researcher who really started the bigger international scientific conversation about diet and its potential to prevent or increase individuals’ risk for depression and anxiety. But Felice has moved onto something bigger. You could say she’s moved onto ‘the guts of the problem’.
Under the stewardship of Prof. Michael Berk, Felice has been studiously following the research trail of chronic low grade inflammation’s role in mental health and this trail, together with her findings of the potency of food on mood, has brought her and her research focus, not surprisingly, to the microbiome.
‘Microbiome Madness’ not an entirely new concept to you? Me neither. Naturopaths and integrative practitioners have been pointing the finger in this direction for some time and getting good results with treatment that addresses this. I think, however, when someone as prolific as Felice and as internationally collaborative & respected, puts the microbiome-mood nexus centre-stage – we should all sit up and pay attention, because chances are she’s going to discover something that helps fill the current gaps in our understanding and may even redefine our approach.
No bone broth (wink wink) about it – Felice is not a clinician and this is apparent listening to her present. And I know as clinicians we can find the whole research mantra of…’we need to wait for a meta-analysis before we can conclude anything about treatment’ , incredibly frustrating and unrealistic. ‘Great I’ll just cancel all my patients booked this week shall I?’ said one colleague at a recent conference where these words were uttered..’just tell them we need to wait a decade or so for the published meta-analysis to prove efficacy before I can recommend anything!’
But this is the law of the land in research world, this is the script that must be followed by any researcher – & what we can gain from listening to researchers, are all the incredible insights, clues and gems that they can share of their preliminary discoveries along the way, that we can pick up and run with…a decade or so before the meta-analysis 😉
Check out Felice’s huge list of publications on diet, and gut and mental health and you’ll see, at least, that she is one to watch. Speaking of which – you could watch her yourself at the upcoming Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine Conference 15-17th Sept in Manly, NSW, where she is the keynote speaker, bright and early Sunday morning. I’ll be there – maybe still in my jim-jams 😉 but I’ll be there, keen to hear just where her research trail is leading us all now and how that changes my thinking about my mental health patients today.
The ASLM Conference is on in just over a month and if you didn’t go last year or haven’t been to a conference that is multi-disciplinary and promotes a wellness model then you should try and get there. The conference brings together an interesting blend of people from all areas of health: research, general practice, policy & public health, psychology etc etc. and explores something we all share: a vision and goal for making our individual patients, humanity and the planet, healthier.