Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD… these are very common mental health concerns. In naturopathic medicine, we take a whole person approach when helping someone, and this includes your mental health. Feeling valued and appreciated, having meaning and purpose in life, cultivating a sense of community connection: all of these are important for mental health. Sometimes, therapy and medications can be necessary and extremely helpful. But did you know that there can be physical causes as well? Keep reading to learn about physical factors that may be affecting your mental health.
Neurons are the cells that make up the brain, and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, are compounds made by our neurons. Our neurons need nutrients and energy to function, and some nutrients activate serotonin and dopamine so that we feel happy, alert, and calm. Foods rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, and omega 3 fatty acids are especially important to eat for nourishing the brain and activating the neurotransmitters that influence how we feel. A quality multivitamin, multimineral, and cod liver oil are also good ways to get adequate nutrients for brain function.
Our brains are very sensitive to changing blood sugar levels. Eating 3-4 times daily, with a balance of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates at each meal or snack, relieves stress on the brain by providing a consistent supply of energy. Avoiding refined sugars and excess caffeine helps prevent over-stimulation of the neurons.
Some infections can cause neuroinflammation. Similar to how a sore muscle tells us that our musculoskeletal system is strained, symptoms of anxiety and depression may let us know that our nervous system is strained. Common infections, such as Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) and Candida, are known to be detrimental to our mental health status. These infections can be diagnosed with a simple blood or urine test, and once treated can really make a difference in brain function.
Environmental toxins, such as metals, mold, and agricultural run-off, can have a significant impact on neuronal activity. The symptoms of these toxicities present very similarly to ADD, ADHD, and anxiety when their levels overwhelm our cells ability to clear them. Keeping hydrated helps our cells to detoxify and using a water filter is an excellent preventative measure. It is hard to avoid exposure of all toxins, but fortunately, they are easy to test for, and can be treated when identified.
Sleep is the last thing I’m going to mention in this blog post. There are many things I’d like to include (like thyroid!!!), but for the sake of brevity I’m focusing on the most under-diagnosed influences on mental health. And sleep may be the most important of them all! During sleep is when our neurons do most of the work of clearing out toxins and repairing cells. However, disrupted sleep can also be one of the ways our brain lets us know it needs help. It’s a tricky situation! Check out this blog post to learn some tips for creating excellent sleep. If you try these tips and you are still struggling to sleep well, your brain may need some support and I recommend making an appointment for assistance.
I hope you have found this information helpful! As usual, this blog is for information only, and does not constitute personal medical advice. Mental health has a physical health component, and it is important to include this aspect of treatment for any concern. Please make an appointment if you would like to learn more about a personalized, naturopathic approach to treating your unique health care needs.
Dr. Tremblay holds degrees in horticulture, plant ecology and ethnomedicine, and a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. Her diverse background and personal experience with chronic disease gives her unique insights and experience in providing naturopathic care for patients. Read more >>