Mental Health - Depression and Anxiety

Mental Health Support – Depression and Anxiety


Mental Health is something that I am very passionate about. I am glad that talking about mental health needs is becoming more acceptable and that awareness is increasing, while stigma is decreasing. As we continue as a society to open up to the fact that health encompasses body, mind, and soul in balance, we move further in the right direction.


Naturopathic medicine is a great addition to any health plan, and mental health is no exception. In order for our brains to be efficient, they need to have optimal conditions. This requires proper nutrition, a functioning digestive system to make use of that nutrition, positive thoughts and ways of thinking, a healthy exercise plan… the list goes on.


Whether you choose to use conventional medicine or naturopathic medicine to help you feel better, what is important is individual care. Conventional medications – TCAs, MOAIs, SSRIs, etc – can be very effective, but sometimes they do not work the way they should. Having a relationship with your medical doctor and being able to talk to them about what is going on is KEY. Finding the right dose or right medication sometimes takes a few tries, so continue to advocate for your health and GET what you need.


This is where naturopathic intervention can also do a lot of good: with proper nutrition and at times supplementation, there are ways to help increase the efficacy of medications. Some supplements to take a look at include:


★ Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is necessary for the synthesis of serotonin (our “feel-good, happy neurotransmitter). Patients with higher mean baseline serum Vitamin B12 levels had better response to their antidepressant medications compared to patients who did not respond (1). You can take vitamin B12 orally, or take B12 “shots” – administered intramuscularly. When choosing a B12 supplement, look for one that is sublingual as this is better absorbed, and choose methylcobalamin. (cobabalamin is the vitamin, methyl is what it is attached to. Sometimes it is attached to cyano – which is cyanide… just not necessary to add to your daily intake).


☾Other B vitamins: There are a lot of them: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, folate, B12 – and all of these come from different sources of food. I always recommend a good B complex, especially in those with added stress, suffering from mood disorders and anxiety. Studies show that treatment with a B complex supplement can result in significantly lower personal strain, and reduction in depressed mood.


★ Omega 3s. Everyone’s favourite fish oils. Omega 3s contain 2 essential fatty acids: EPA and DHA. EPA is the big one here – the one studied for its effects in reducing depression and having a wide neurobehavioural effect. Fish oil is a great addition, but make sure you take care of it: keep it in the fridge, and consume quickly – as they can become oxidized and therefore ineffective. Look for a dose with at least a 3:1 ratio of EPA:DHA. If you are vegetarian/vegan, you can supplement with flaxseed.


In addition to supplementation, a healthy diet can do wonders. Eliminating food allergies improves digestion and helps to heal the gut. Gut health is EXTREMELY connected to mental health: have you heard of the gut-brain axis?

The gut-brain axis is the link between the gut microbiota (the lovely bacteria in your intestines) and your brain. Serotonin – the mood-modulating neurotransmitter, along with being made in your brain, is ALSO made in your digestive tract. The gut and the brain are in constant communication – do you ever have to run to the bathroom when you’re nervous? Get that queasy feeling in your stomach when you’re scared or excited? That is no coincidence.


Therefore, always look at digestion when taking care of the mind. This is where the naturopathic principle “treat the whole person, or tolle totum” comes in. Decreasing inflammation, rebalancing the body with proper nutrition, and supplementing nutritional deficiencies are all imperative in treating conditions such as anxiety and depression. I implement a modified elimination diet – a way to improve health without increasing stress.


Other important lifestyle modifications include:


☾ Exercise: walk, dance, play sports, yoga – do something you enjoy doing, and get the blood moving. Regular exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants and psychotherapy.


★ CBT and counseling. Get to the root cause of what is going on. Changing automatic thoughts is not an easy process but in the long run, gets you to where you need to be. Using mindfulness techniques and meditation, through programs and apps such as calm.com can help you reach a better state of mind.


☾Reduce use of stimulants: caffeine, alcohol, nicotine.


While working and shifting towards balance, botanical medicine can help provide relief and a safety net. There are many herbs that are safe to take while on medications, that can help aid relaxation. Some of these include:




★Lemon balm

★Kava kava


These herbs also help to tonify and feed the nervous system.


For those who are not on medications and do not want to take conventional medication, naturopathic medicine has a lot to offer. Along with everything listed previously, there are options to help with depression and anxiety.


★ St. Johns Wort: This sunny yellow flower has been found to be effective for mild-moderately severe depression, and is well tolerated.


☾Rhodiola – one of my favourite herbs – this is an adoptogen that helps the body cope with stress. It is useful in depression and anxiety with fatigue.


★ SAM-e: An effective and well tolerated antidepressant with fast response rate – useful in even major depression.


☾ GABA – an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the CNS – can have a therapeutic effect comparable to benzodiazepine medications – induces relaxation and helps with sleep.


★ Acupuncture – all around a great addition to any health plan as it helps shift all patterns of disharmony to one of harmony. Increases sense of well-being, aids digestion, increases relaxation, and is a great stepping-stone on the path to meditation. Effective in treating and preventing reoccurrence of depression and anxiety.


Honestly – this is a very short list of things that can help with mental health issues. These are some of my go-to treatments, as well as things to look at and work on together.


No matter what you decide is right for you, the important thing is to make sure you are working with someone who you can trust and talk to about your health. You always deserve to feel your best.


If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, talk to a health professional. There are a number of free helpful resources online, including Big White Wall (www.bigwhitewall.ca) and Bounce Back (www.bouncebackontario.ca). If you are thinking about adding any supplement or change to your routine, always discuss with your healthcare provider first as there are possible interactions and it may not be right for you.


This post is meant to be informational and is not medical advice. 

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