Mental Health is obviously a very serious problem and I encourage everyone and anyone suffering to reach out for help immediately. There is hope, there is support, and there is help for you.
This topic is near and dear to my heart. Like most everyone, I have family members who have struggled with mental health. A few years ago, I myself suffered from terrible anxiety. It is not fun.
My daughter has started her own campaign www.projectwecarecolorado.org to try to help kids and teens struggling with mental health. She has involved herself both locally and on the state level and is determined to make a difference and maybe, just maybe, save a life.
I have learned a lot. I have learned that there is no shame in admitting that you don’t feel well, that you need help, and that you are struggling. We all, as humans, need to make ourselves available to our family, friends, and even to strangers. We need to be kind, lend a helping hand, and smile, a hug, some love, because we ALL need those things.
There are several theories as to why mental illness happens. Just like with all diseases, I believe that we need to investigate the cause and treat from there.
Imbalanced Brain Chemistry
Most antidepressants treat depression and anxiety by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain (mostly serotonin). Unfortunately, there is no way to measure neurotransmitters in the brain (some labs are able to measure neurotransmitter excretion in the urine), so it is difficult to know if someone’s brain chemicals are sufficient.
In the natural medicine world, we often try to alter these neurotransmitters as well. We use supplements and herbs instead of prescription drugs, but often times, the goal is to increase the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters.
Research actually shows limited benefit from antidepressants, calling into question the validity of the serotonin deficiency model of depression.
Stress and chronic, underlying infection can increase levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines are actually elevated in people with depression and are known to slow down brain activity and increase tissue oxidation, all of which have a big effect on the brain.
While chronic inflammation increases your need for antioxidants, other nutrients may play a role in mood. Adequate levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin D are all essential for brain function. Deficiencies are incredibly common and yet easily remedied.
Along with supplementing with these nutrients, if deficient, I cannot stress the importance that diet plays in mood. I think people often forget that vitamins are not purely something that we sell, but that these substances are naturally occurring in our bodies. We use vitamins and minerals as cofactors in every single reaction that takes place in the body, from each muscle twitch to the production of hormones to the breakdown of food. Vitamins and minerals are required by the body to function.
The general population in the US is overfed AND undernourished, meaning we have caloric excess along with nutrient deficiency. Our diets are full of foods that are lacking nutrition. If you want to improve your mood, eating healthy is a great first step in improving the functioning of your brain.
There are so many stressful things that can happen in life and there is no doubt that stressful events contribute to anxiety and depression. Practicing root cause medicine often leads me to do a deep dive into my patient’s personal lives. Sometimes we uncover a terrible life stressor such as a bad relationship or an overwhelming job that is clearly causing a mood disorder. In these cases, we can work on stress management but until that situation is removed, the depression and/or anxiety is only managed, not resolved.
I encourage you to take a good long look at your life and make the changes you need to make to live the life you want to live. Easy? Not at all. Worth it? Absolutely.
Stress management is such an important part of a healthy life. We can train your nervous system to react appropriately to stress and keep you feeling calm and happier.
To sum it all up, I just want to give you hope that there is more to treating anxiety and depression than Lexapro and Xanax. Finding and treating the underlying cause is the best way to fully recover, feel better, and live your best life.
I can do a complete workup and help get you there! Please schedule your appointment today!