Mental Health Disorders and Functional Medicine

As a functional medicine doctor, I see patients with a multitude of different health issues. Today, I want to talk to you about a topic that is growing in popularity and is very near and dear to my heart. Mental Health.

A study from 2019 showed that mental health disorders were at a historic rise. This study showed, in the United States alone from 2018 to 2019, Generalized Anxiety Disorder had tripled from 8.1% to 25.5% and Major Depressive Disorder had increased from 6.5% to 24.3%. That’s almost quadruple the amount reported from the year prior. And you wanna know the piece that I find the most disturbing? This was a whole year before we met COVID-19. Yeah… Before the isolation of modern plague years, we were already spiraling towards exponential growth in the amount of mental health disorders.

When it comes to treating, or more accurately mitigating, these types of disorders the current paradigm includes talk therapy, prescription drugs (like SSRI’s and Benzodiazapines), and the exciting newcomer to the group entheogens (historically known as psychedelic drugs). To varying degrees of success, these three interventions focus primarily on cognitive reprocessing, increasing neuroplasticity, and balancing neurotransmitters. Or to put it in less-sciency words, altering brain function through chemical and electrical rewiring. There’s another piece of the equation that science is just beginning to unwrap: Mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression, are hugely inflammatory in nature. 

We now have evidence that those suffering from mental health disorders have increased levels of inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (read this as “inflammatory on the brain that shouldn’t be there”). In order to decrease these levels of inflammation, we have to start looking at what’s sometimes referred to as the second brain… nope, it’s a little bit higher than that… the gut. Once inflammation becomes present in the gut some of those buggers are able to cross over the blood brain barrier and throw an inflammation party in and around your brain. So what are ways to shut down this party, you might be asking? Decrease foods that trigger inflammation, improve the habitat of the gut, and eliminate harmful bacteria. 

I know I threw a lot at you in a short amount of time. It shouldn’t be any surprise that our bodies are complex systems with a lot of shit going on both figuratively and literally. If you are one of these individuals, or know somebody else, who suffers from an anxiety or mood disorder and have not achieved the results that you’d like, please reach out. I’d love to explain further how functional medicine and changing our gut health can improve brain health.

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