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Jun 23, 2017

Naturopathic Medicine and Mental Health

Stress, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression are some of the most common reasons people go to their physicians today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 9.5% of the population in any one year period or about 20.9 million American adults suffer from a mood disorder.  By the year 2030, the World Health Organization states, depression will be second only to HIV in terms of disability caused worldwide.  A concern for safety of antidepressants is driving many patients to naturopathic medical care.  For naturopathic physicians, the best approach to mental health is getting to the cause of the issue.  There are many reasons a person has anxiety, depression, stress issues and ADHD.  The typical approach is to take an antidepressant which can have many side effects such as anxiety, irritability, low libido and even suicide.
A better approach is to assess the cause of the problem.  For instance, stress can be related to the body producing too much or too little cortisol.  Cortisol issues can cause anxiety, hypoglycemia, inflammation and memory problems. Cortisol should be assessed and treated accordingly.
A person can have a hormone imbalance such as thyroid, excess testosterone, estrogen and progesterone imbalances that can cause all kinds of mood disorders.  Iron deficiency is a common problem which is rarely identified which can cause fatigue and depression.  Anemia is commonly present with poor diets and in menstruating woman. 
Nutritional deficiencies are a common issue with mood disorders.  These can include vitamin deficiencies, methylation issues which is related to B vitamins, especially if anxiety is present.  Antioxidants have been shown to prevent neuronal damage and vascular disease thus can be effective in treating depression.
Diet can play a big role with our mood.  Food allergies, alcohol, sugar, dyes, preservatives and artificial ingredients can all effect our mood causing ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, autism and depression.
Omega fatty acid deficiency is very common and can also cause mood problems and depression.
Many medications can cause vitamin deficiencies. These can include oral contraceptions, proton pump inhibitors, diuretics, metformin etc. which can affect our mood.
Many people are low in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine so testing for these deficiencies and giving the correct neurotransmitter will help get to the problem.
As you can see mental health issues are complicated.  Mental health issues can be due to psychological issues such as divorce, loss of a job or a death in the family or physical problems such as vitamin, hormone, nutritional deficiencies, neurotransmitter imbalances and dietary factors.   It is always best to get to the cause of the issue and get a complete assessment before starting a drug with side effects.
Mental Health America has launched a web site “Live Your Life Well” promoting mental health thru ten steps which are 1) Connecting with others this can make a person happier and live longer, 2) Staying positive 3) Exercise can prevent depression and insomnia 4) Helping others these individuals have less depression and pains 5) Getting enough sleep, not sleeping effects weight issues, memory, mood, stress and heart disease. 6) Create joy and satisfaction in your life.  Positive emotions can help a person bounce back from stress. 7) Eating healthy - make sure you’re getting protein with each meal and 5-12 veggies a day 8) Take care of your spirit. People who are spiritual are healthier and live longer. 9) Deal with hard times. People who tackle problems and get support live longer 10) Get professional help when needed.  Assessing mental health issues can be very complicated.  These are simple steps to start with that can produce an awarding life.
I assess the whole individual when addressing mental health such as hormone deficiencies, nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, medications and neurotransmitters.  You can live your life to the fullest with the correct therapies.

Dr. Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic physician at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic in Edwards, CO.  She is an author, educator and practitioner.  She has been in the medical field for forty years.  She can be reached at www.healthref.com or 970-926-7606.