26 Apr 2017
HOW NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE CAN HELP WITH MENTAL HEALTH
26 Apr 2017
I see a lot of mental health in my practice, and what I’m finding is that so often a patient is coming in for some other reason. It’s only when I ask about mood and energy that they reveal they’ve been struggling with depression, anxiety, or chronic stress – sometimes for a very long time. These conditions are way more common than we admit. And while there may be a stigma surrounding getting help for mental health, there shouldn’t be! There is so much we can do with naturopathic medicine to help support you!
A healthy diet is the foundation for a healthy body and mind! It can be hard to take care of ourselves when we’re feeling low, and often our food choices suffer. But reaching for quick, processed food or sugary treats will only work against us in the long run. We need to nourish our body with adequate protein, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables. This will balance blood sugar, decrease anxiety, and keep our energy up! Certain foods can be used in the diet for their specific nutrients, too – pumpkin seeds are full of zinc and tryptophan to build our happy hormone, serotonin. Fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, or flax and chia seed are full of omega 3 fats – shown to improve mild-to-moderate depression! And fermented foods like yogurt and kefir provide probiotics – the good bacteria that live in our gut. Recent research is showing even the type of bacteria in our gut can affect our mood!
Truly the most underused anti-depressant! Research shows cardiovascular activity like brisk walking and jogging to be beneficial for depression, anxiety, addiction, ADHD, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s! By increasing blood flow, exercise increases mental clarity, energy, and focus, as well as performance on cognitive tests. Over time, it causes a decrease in the levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, which can lead to more stable mood. With depression, it can be hard to even want to leave the house. Trying to go for even a 10 minute walk outside can improve your mood for the rest of the day. Overall, be gentle with yourself – some days you’ll get some activity in, and some days you won’t. And that’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over your failures – focus on your successes instead!
As a naturopathic doctor, I use a very functional approach to health. I think about how we can optimize the body and the brain with the use of specific nutrients. For depression, a high quality fish oil at the right dose can make a big difference, as the omega 3 fats support healthy brain signalling and mood. If anxiety is a concern, using L-theanine or GABA can bring that down significantly. Supporting overall energy with B-vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium is also a key piece of the puzzle. And addressing any underlying sleep disturbances is necessary to get you through your day feeling well. Seeing a naturopathic doctor to address your depression or anxiety can be done whether or not you are on medication – we are trained to know any potential interactions and can guide you towards the best supplements for your needs!
Many people have heard of St. John’s wort for its ability to combat mild-to-moderate depression. It can be very useful, as can a number of other herbs! Lemon balm, passionflower, or chamomile are gentle, calming herbs that work great on anxiety. While more bitter varieties like skullcap can help ease panic attacks. If chronic stress is wearing you down, adaptogenic herbs (herbs that increase your tolerance to stress) are your best choice – Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, or rhodiola are good picks, depending on your specific symptoms.
One of my favourite treatments to provide! Acupuncture has been shown to decrease stress, improve relaxation and sleep, decrease anxiety, and improve mood! If you’ve never had acupuncture, it is definitely worth a try. No, it doesn’t hurt, and most people find it incredibly relaxing. Treatments are done once a week for 8-12 sessions and may be just the thing that works for you!
You do not have to suffer alone! Know your options, ask questions, and get the support you need to get you back on track!
Dr. Aleksandra Gasinski, ND
Dr. Aleksandra Gasinski, ND has a private practice at Natural Choice Medical Clinic in Guelph. She has a focus in cancer care, mental health, and digestive function. A firm believer in the mind-body connection, she believes that both the physical and mental-emotional need to be in balance to experience true health and healing.
Call 519-265-8035 today to book a free 15 minute Meet & Greet, or to book an initial appointment.
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