Mental Health Awareness Month
“1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.” (1)
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition during part, or the entirety of their life. Nonetheless, everyone is affected or impacted by mental illness through friends and family. (1)
Whether you’re reading this for yourself or a loved one, you will see in a moment how natural therapies can improve our mental and emotional well-being, and thus help us lead more balanced, stable, and fulfilling lives. The natural starting place is to figure out why the imbalance exists at all.
A “mind-body” visit with your naturopathic doctor may delve into any of the following factors:
- Nutritional imbalances ranging from amino acids to micronutrients
- Neurotransmitter levels affecting dopamine and serotonin
- Stress management style and coping skills
- Lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise and sleep patterns
- Trauma/ abuse/ near death experiences
Based on your history and lab results, an individualized treatment plan will be constructed with your input and agreement. An honest and informative approach with your doctor will help him or her to create a more precise and effective treatment plan for you. Natural treatment approaches do not usually include prescription medications, although we can prescribe them if necessary. Rather, we may start with therapies such as:
- Nutritional support for the gut, brain, thyroid and adrenal glands
- Amino acid therapy to balance neurotransmitters
- Cognitive Behavioral Techniques to help manage stress
- Sleep hygiene changes
- Homeopathy or acupuncture which work on subtle nerve and microvascular levels
- Mind-body techniques such as EMDR and EFT to help process traumatic experiences
- Herbal medicine to support organs and systems such as the thyroid or immune system
Here are some examples of how naturopathic medicine may be customized based on unique scenarios.
Example 1: A middle aged patient with high stress at work and “sandwich generation” family-responsibilities has difficulty sleeping, difficulty getting up in the morning and an energy crash in the afternoon. The patient falls ill frequently, is irritable and short-tempered, and has sugar cravings. Due to the rigorous schedule, there is no time to exercise or cook healthy meals.
A NATURAL APPROACH: Sleep issues, combined with high stress and sugar cravings, often indicate a cortisol imbalance. Neurotransmitter testing looks at a full 24 hour cycle of cortisol and can also test for melatonin levels. These lab results would help determine if herbal and nutritional support are enough for the adrenal glands (which make cortisol) or if something stronger such as a nutrient IV or prescription would be better.
Supporting the immune system is also extremely important during periods of high stress. No single vitamin is enough to support the entire immune system, so a comprehensive plan which the patient is ABLE and WILLING to implement is critical. This may include research-supported supplements such as mushrooms and adaptogenic herbs along with therapeutic doses of vitamins. The good news is that you don’t need a prescription for each ailment! Rather, your doctor will artfully select the most targeted support for each unique situation.
We would also examine ways to incorporate healthier lifestyle habits into the busy routine. Your naturopathic doctor has myriad resources to help you cope with difficult periods of life, while still taking care of your OWN health.
Example 2: A middle aged patient with high stress at work AND home (think family and financial stressors), comes to our office complaining of panic attacks. For many, panic attacks occur randomly, but are worse in crowded areas. Anxiety associated with the anticipation of these attacks can be worsening, and can render daily life unmanageable.
A NATURAL APPROACH: Since panic attacks can be mistaken for heart conditions or events, your doctor may order in-depth cardiac labs and perform a physical exam. Once diagnosed, panic attacks are very well treated with natural approaches such as acupuncture, mind-body techniques, and cognitive re-training. Conveniently, these therapies can be done simultaneously in the same office visit! Acupuncture ear seeds and herbal medicine for calming an overactive nervous system may also be prescribed short-term until the situation resolves.
Naturopathic medicine includes many different types of therapies which can be tailored to fit your lifestyle and situation. Our doctors have specific areas of expertise ranging from chronic depression and anxiety, to adrenal fatigue and PTSD. They will compassionately support you along your way, without judgment, towards a more balanced and peaceful life.**
**This blog provides general information about naturopathic medicine, health and wellness. The content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If a person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an licensed physician or health care provider.