Anxiety & Depression
We are fortunate that mental health is now becoming something more openly discussed and supported as a part of good health and happiness. However, I theorize it's because now more than ever our society is struggling with mental health than ever before. Our social, dietary, physical, and mental environment has continued to shift and change over the last few decades and our bodies and brain are challenged to adapt.
We are not designed for constant use of technology, to be kept indoors, limiting our social circles, and fed nutrient poor food. In fact, I think it’s truly amazing we do so well as a society in spite of the challenges we place on ourselves rather willingly each day.
But, I’ll step off my conceptual musings to focus in on mental health in the context of naturopathic medicine.
You’ll likely see a common theme in my writing or video posts about the interconnectedness of it all. Because, truly, it is all connected. Your brain and thought is not separate from the rest of your body. Every part of you “talks” to each other at both a conscious and unconscious level. You are a beautiful superorganism of complexity. We all are.
When people experience significant levels of anxiety or depression they are in a state of imbalance. It is normal to have short periods of anxiety, like before a big event (eg wedding, sports performance, presentation) but then they should settle and you adjust. It’s also normal to have periods of depression, like after the loss of a loved one or a big life change (eg laid off, financial struggles) but this too should settle and resolve and you return to neutral.
It’s the chronicity and severity of the anxiety and depression that makes it something in medicine to be a “diagnosable illness”. It’s something that can be quantified and tracked via the DSM-IV criteria which is a rubric for psychological evaluation. But, I’d like you to bear with me for a moment as I explain this further- this book does not include biomarkers for evaluation. In hypertension, I take my patient’s blood pressure and can know for certain if it’s elevated or not and diagnose them with high blood pressure. With hypothyroidism, I know that their blood levels of circulating thyroid hormone are reduced and I can track these levels. This is not the case for psychological conditions according to the DSM IV criteria.
So, this suggests a different paradigm to consider in respect to anxiety and depression, or even conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. HOW can we track biomarkers evidencing signs of psychological imbalance?
And, thankfully, science is catching up. More and more studies are coming out suggesting strong correlation between inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and even gastrointestinal dysbiosis (‘bad’ bacteria) and poor mental health. ALL of these aspects of health are treatable! Together we can shift your body to influence your mind and vice versa.
Sometimes the darkness of depression or the spiral of anxiety is so great that patients feel helpless to get out. It takes time and concerted support by both a physician, support of family and/or friends, as well as, that part of you that truly wants out and craves something different. It’s not easy. You can’t ‘snap out of it’ as some people would like to tell you or people with mental health issues would say. But there are so many tools, resources, and therapies to help! I promise.
In my practice, as is the case with all naturopathic appointments, everyone is treated as an individual. While there is definitely overlap in treatment, each person has a unique plan to get them back to optimal health and mental wellness. I always start with treating the gut as this is the root of most health conditions and it’s truly amazing how simple dietary changes and even probiotics can already start to shift mental health for the better.
Additionally, I commonly use botanical medicine which is the use of plants as medicine. There are many herbs that have natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety actions just like drugs do, but without all the side effects and do not become addictive or require weaning.
I regularly work with people currently on psychiatric medications and offer support while on drug therapy, as well as, support while weaning off drug therapy.
Comprehensive labs also help me look at those aforementioned points like hormonal health, nutrient deficiencies, underlying inflammation, and gastrointestinal health. These aspects of your health are also addressed so that all aspects of the ‘superorganism’ that you are are shifted for the better. In addition to dietary changes, botanical medicine, and supplements other potential therapies include: acupuncture, neurofeedback, and IV therapy.