Statistics Canada reports that 1 in 4 Canadians suffers from a mental health condition.
Unfortunately, the number of people suffering from mood issues and stress-related conditions is rising, and this is mostly due to the lack of knowledge or skills to deal with this problem.
The conventional medicine prescribes antidepressants and medications which cause numerous other side-effects, while naturopathic doctors treat this from another point of view- via the connection between the body and mind.
Scientists have long established the link between the digestive system and mood, known as “Gut-Brain Connection” and the link between the mind, mental health, and the immune system.
They have even established an entire field termed “psychoneuroimmunology”, which relates depression to inflammation in the brain and body.
The conventional healthcare model treats mental health conditions apart from the rest of the body, while depression is treated as a brain chemical imbalance.
Namely, depression is corrected with antidepressants, as it is believed to be a lack of “happy” chemicals in the brain, like serotonin and dopamine, which affect mood.
This low-serotonin theory of depression is the basis of most of the conventional treatments, which prescribe drugs to artificially change neurotransmitter levels.
It is shown that antidepressants like selective serotonin and selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs and SNRIs) do provide better effects than placebo (in about 40-60% of cases), the reason for it is still unclear.
As soon as the patient takes a SSRI and SNRI drug, the neurotransmitter levels in the brain immediately increase, but it takes 2-4 weeks before there are noticeable changes to mood.
A year ago, the Neuroscience and Behavioural Reviews published a paper which challenges the low-serotonin theory of depression, claiming that improvement on SSRI medication might not be due to the positive effects of the drug, but it might be the body overcoming its effects.
This might be an explanation why patients feel worse in the first few weeks of starting anti-depressant medication. The authors even say that these drugs might make it harder for patients to recover in the short-term.
On the other hand, when we understand that the digestive system and immune system are related to mood and overall functioning, it becomes essential to find a way to help digestion, reduce stress, fuel the brain, and balance inflammation.
The first step in the treatment of mental health issues is to become aware of the fact that these disorders are not a sign of weakness, and it is a must to seek help.
These are some effective ways to treat depression and mental health conditions:
This medicine uses the natural energetic healing abilities of the body to cure itself and integrates the emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations.
Its main modalities include meditation, acupuncture, homeopathy, and visualizations. Even though some regard these methods as pseudoscientific, studies show that they provide positive effects.
According to a 6-week study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, acupuncture was as effective as medication at reducing depression.
Healing the gut
Scientists refer to the digestive system as the “second brain” since it contains the Enteric Nervous System, a collection of millions of nerve cells that control digestive function and communicate directly with the brain.
Therefore, irritation to the digestive system, through bacterial overgrowth, gut inflammation, and various other mechanisms, can cause significant changes to mood.
This link is very important as 30-40% of the population suffers from digestive symptoms like constipation, IBD, bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, GERD, and IBS.
Moreover, studies show that certain probiotics can produce neurotransmitters and thereby improve mood and mental health.
Naturopathic medicine has long established a link between the gut and brain, maintaining that conditions like IBS are aggravated by stress, depression, and anxiety.
Hence, the proper function of the gut ensures regulation of the nervous system, while a healthy digestive system ensures a proper absorption of the amino acids and micronutrients, which are essential for synthesizing neurotransmitters.
The findings of a meta-analysis conducted in 2014 indicate that fish oils are helpful in the treatment of low mood and major depressive disorder.
The fatty acids DHA and EPA are necessary for the brain function, and their ratio is important. Moreover, fish oil has potent anti-inflammatory properties, and studies have shown that depression may be correlated with low levels of brain inflammation.
Healing the adrenals
Evolutionary biology regards depression as a necessary adaptation to stress that promoted our survival and ability to pass on our genes. Alternative health fields have a term for a collection of symptoms caused by prolonged, chronic stress -- “adrenal fatigue”.
It is characterized by insomnia, food cravings, high levels of prolonged mental, fatigue, emotional and physical stress, and depressive symptoms like apathy, low mood, and lack of enjoyment in previously enjoyed activities, appetite loss or food cravings, weight changes, and changes to sleep, and energy.
Regardless of the cause of depression, there is often a significant stressor that aggravates the symptoms.
To manage low mood and promote mental health, you should do a little research, and choose some interesting stress-reduction techniques, to make some healthy dietary habits, and start using beneficial herbs.
Essential nutrients and adequate nutrition
SSRI medication keeps the serotonin levels in the brain increased, it also depletes the vitamins and minerals responsible for its production, so you should make sure you supplement with quality brands and correct doses of protein, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins B6, folate, and B12, in order to treat mental health conditions and mood.
Magnesium is essential for the production of hormones and neurotransmitters, and its deficiency might trigger various symptoms, from low mood and muscle pain to insomnia and fatigue.
A growing number of studies indicate that the Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation is helpful in preventing depression, mood disorders, managing stress, and preventing relapse in major depressive disorder.
JAMA published a study which found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is a form of secular mindfulness meditation, provides the same effects as medication in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
Mindfulness involves looking inward at the feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations in a non-judgemental manner. It improves mood by helping people to cope with emotional states in a positive way.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the founders of MBCT, explains “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
It should always accompany therapies with medications, as it improves their effects. Counseling is, in fact, a preferred first-line treatment for depression and other mood disorders, and provides positive health outcomes.
One of the main therapeutic modalities for depression is the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is based on changing ingrained and habitual thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that may be contributing to low mood.
Another model of counseling is Motivational Interviewing, and both of these are supported by numerous studies.
You need to know this option if you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health condition.
Naturopathic medicine is an excellent option as a preventive measure for those exposed to stress daily, and for people who have been newly diagnosed with a mood disorder. Furthermore, it also offers great effects as a complement to other kinds of therapies.