It seems to have reached epidemic proportions how frequently I am now seeing and treating mental health conditions in practice. Sometimes its just depression, sometimes it's anxiety but often times it is both of these prevalent mental health conditions that people are quietly battling against. Here are 5 ways naturopathic medicine can help someone suffering from depression and/or anxiety.
1. Diet - The gut-brain connection is so profound! People don't realize how important having a healthy and well functioning gut is for their mental health. Most of our neurotransmitter receptors are found in the gut (oftentimes we now refer to the gut as our second brain). If there is lots of inflammation in that area, caused by eating processed, unhealthy foods, or even foods that are healthy but people are sensitive too, there can be huge effects on mood, memory and concentration. Healing the gut, decreasing inflammation, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and putting in good bacteria are all important to maximize nutrient absorption and keep the balance in brain chemistry.
2. Acupuncture- An ancient Chinese practice that has powerful effects on treating anxiety and depression. Several patients that come in for acupuncture treatments report feeling calm, relaxed, empowered and ready to take on life after treatment. There are several points on the body that can help to balance neurotransmitters, calm the mind, improve sleep and help energy flow better throughout the system.
3. Lifestyle counselling/support system - Counselling can be one of the most effective tools for dealing with anxiety and depression. It allows patients to develop coping skills so that at any point in their life when feelings may resurface they have tools to help them cope with the feelings and emotions. It also helps to get to the root of the feelings and has been shown to have great efficacy especially when combined with the proper medication and supplements.
4. Supplements (in addition to medications) - There are lots of adrenal support supplements which support how we deal and cope with stress, there are also herbs called nervines that help calm the nervous system and act more acutely. We also know that several nutrient and mineral deficiencies can make anxiety and depression worse- things like B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, chromium etc. It is also important to note that several antidepressant and anti anxiety meds can decrease nutrient absorption and compete with certain nutrients. This can mean that being on these medications long term will lead to nutrient deficiencies which in turn can contribute to other symptoms or side effects and even make anxiety and depression worse.
5. Cupping - An ancient Chinese therapy that utilizes suction cups to increase blood flow, support immune function and detoxification. This is great for helping to relax tense muscles especially around the shoulders and neck where most people hold a lot of their tension. These tense muscles can impinge on the cranial nerves making sleep, anxiety and panic worse. Relaxing them with cupping can help to ease feelings of anxiety and improve sleep quality.
These are just touching on some of the therapies I use effectively to treat patients with depression and/or anxiety. Each patient is different and reacts and responds differently to treatment, therefore it is really important to make sure my patients have a specific plan tailored to their individual needs in order to have them receive the most benefit. It is very important to note medications should never be discontinued or adjusted without discussing with your primary health care practitioner.
Dr. Claudia Truglia practices Naturopathic Medicine at the Stoney Creek Natural Health Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic in Stoney Creek, Ontario. She has an eclectic practice treating a broad range of health conditions with an emphasis on diabetes, mental health, cardiovascular health, women's health and gastrointestinal conditions. Dr. Truglia also works as a Naturopathic Consultant for CanPrev Premium Natural Health Products and as a columnist for the local Hamilton Spectator. She is a member of the BDDT-N and CAND.