Mental Health – Underlying Factors

As we continue to explore mental health through a functional medicine lens, let’s take a look at physiological pieces you may want to investigate that may be causing or exacerbating your symptoms of depression and anxiety. Our bodies are made up of interconnected systems that rely on nutrients in order to function. You need nutrients to produce hormones and neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine. You also have certain organs and systems that when stressed too much from from various sources can lead to improper function. In the case of mental health, dysfunction can often be found in the gut, thyroid, or adrenal glands. In order to address our mental wellbeing, especially when we are feeling bouts of anxiety or depression, it is important to take into consideration physiology, as these symptoms are flags that signify to us that something is off.

The following is a list of common triggers you may want to investigate with a functional medicine practitioner in order to optimize the physiological piece of the puzzle. This is not an exhaustive list, yet it is one to help start the conversation with your doctor.

  • Nutrient Deficiencies – Our body depends on nutrients to function well. There are many reasons why you may be deficient in nutrients including depleted soil, malabsorption, and low nutrient diet (not eating enough or eating foods high in calories, but low in nutrients). Knowing if you are deficient in certain nutrients can help to paint a picture for why you may have some of the symptoms you are experiencing. A few key nutrients we look at with our patients that come to us with anxiety or depression are:

    • Iron

    • Zinc/Copper ratio

    • B vitamins

  • Adrenal Function – Our adrenals take a huge hit when we experience chronic stress. This can lead to an overabundance of cortisol in the body, or on the flip side, not enough cortisol resulting in a wide range of symptoms, including depression and anxiety.

  • Thyroid Function – Low thyroid function has been linked to depression in the scientific literature. Looking at thyroid from a functional medicine stand point goes beyond TSH to see exactly how thyroid hormones (both active and inactive) are working in the body.

  • Hormone Imbalance – The hormones in our bodies, when in balance, keep us functioning and are responsible for growth, metabolism, and fertility, amongst many other processes. When hormones get out of balance, we find ourselves experiencing symptoms. For example, both high and low levels of estrogen can cause mood issues. Low levels of progesterone during the second phase of a woman’s cycle after ovulation could also create anxiousness.

  • Calorie Intake – We find many of our patients are under-eating when it comes to caloric intake or they’re not getting enough of specific macronutrients, like fat and protein. This is detrimental to your health as it can lead to all of the previously mentioned issues such as nutritional deficiencies, malnourishment, and hormone dysfunction.

A few different approaches you may consider taking for symptom relief as you and your functional medicine doctor take a closer look at physiology, are:

  • Acupuncture – Provides symptomatic relief of anxiety and depression and allows for mental space and energy to dig deeper into issues that may be triggering these symptoms.

  • Yoga – Not the westernized kind that focuses on sculpting and shaping your body, but rather the original forms of yoga that focus on breath-work and moving energy in the body.

  • Therapy – Giving space to process past traumas that may be trapped in your body.

At 5280 Functional Medicine, we can provide the testing needed to uncover or rule out the common triggers for anxiety and depression mentioned above. Working with one of our doctors is a unique experience, as they get to know you and your specific situation and personalize your treatment approach accordingly. They are also board certified chiropractic internists and board certified in acupuncture and have supported numerous patients using this methodology. Call our office today to speak with one of our doctors and see what your next right step or course of action might be for your health journey.

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