The topic of taking a natural approach to anxiety and depression can be a difficult one to tread. I fully realize there are legitimate needs for prescription medications in this area. But in all honesty, I do believe that our society over-medicates these conditions without trying to address the root causes first. There are absolutely times and places for medications, and mental health should be taken seriously, but I wanted to share some resources with you for mental health.
My approach for helping patients overcome anxiety and depression is one that first attempts to address the conditions through holistic, natural, and non-prescription measures… and we go from there.
Let’s take a closer look at anxiety and depression as well as where I start in remediating these conditions.
Like any other condition, anxiety, and depression are often the outworkings of some sort of root cause. The following are some of the more common root causes I see in my practice behind anxiety and depression:
Before jumping to prescriptions, I like to paint the whole picture for my patient. I want to know why he or she may be struggling with mood swings, sadness, flat affect or more.
When we understand more about what’s going on in the brain and body, we may be able to address imbalances or “problem” areas naturally. In doing so, I often see my clients’ anxiety and depression lifted as a byproduct of treating the root cause.
These are the tests I first consider when a patient shares they are struggling with anxious thoughts or depression:
These five tests can indicate imbalances, inflammation or deficiencies that may have a strong effect on mental well-being.
I like to exhaust non-prescription remedies before turning to pills, which often sadly have undesirable side effects. Further, prescription meds are not one hundred percent effective. Remember, pills are “band-aids” that cover the problem. If at all possible, let’s get rid of the problem!
Here’s how I naturally tackle anxiety and depression naturally:
Research has found that an increase or decrease in thyroid hormones can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, which can be resolved by addressing the thyroid imbalance. Hypothyroidism is seen in 1-4% of people with affective disorders, and subclinical hypothyroidism is found in 4-40%.
Clearly, the thyroid plays an important role in emotional and mood regulation. Treating thyroid disorders often resolves mood disorders.
Here are the optimal numbers I look for when testing for thyroid hormones:
TSH between 1-2
Free T4 > greater than 1.1
Free T3 > greater than 3.3
Reverse T3 levels <12
Thyroid Antibodies- negative
The most common nutritional deficiencies seen in patients with mental disorders are of omega 3’s, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are precursors to neurotransmitters. In fact, research has even shown symptoms of depression significantly decrease upon supplementation of vitamins and minerals in which suffering patients have been found deficient.
The gut and brain communicate directly through the vagus nerve or indirectly through gut and microbial metabolites and other gut messengers. This means your gut and brain are literally speaking through the health of your nervous system and the composition of good bugs versus bad bugs. This is why nervous system regulation through the vagus nerve and the makeup of your microbiome is so important.
The vagus nerve is the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system – the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system – which controls so many bodily functions: mood, immune function, heart rate, digestion and more. It is a part of the gut brain axis, and stimulating the vagus nerve is crucial to healing anxiety and depression due to its parasympathetic rest and digest role. This is why nervous system regulation plays a huge part in healing your gut and recovering from anxiety and depression. I love using Primal Trust (use code TAYLORDUKES) in my practice to help patients learn how to do this. And I wrote an entire article on How to Naturally Support Your Nervous System if you’re looking for further resources!
Furthermore, research has shown that the gut microbiome is closely linked to depression and anxiety. This is why I created my Get Your Gut Right Program. So participants can test and see what is going on in their gut – overgrowth of bacteria, not enough bacteria, maldigestion, malabsorption, parasites, candida overgrowth, and more – to finally have answers and the ability to target the exact gut imbalances.
Your brain might be responsible for using up to 30% of the calories you consume for energy. Y’all, the brain is a metabolic machine! When you eat foods that are inflammatory as well as foods to which you may be sensitive, it can cause increased inflammation in the brain as well as a rise in the hormone cortisol. We know there is a connection between mental disorders and high cortisol levels and inflammation.
Food sensitivities and allergies are ultimately caused by gut issues. So cutting them out of your diet will help decrease anxiety and depression quickly, but ultimately you need to work to heal your gut. Another reason why I created the Get Your Gut Right Program is to give you answers about imbalances in your gut that could be attributing to food sensitivities and allergies. And finally help you heal!
When treating depression and anxiety naturally, it’s important to cut out the foods that increase both inflammation and cortisol.
Prioritize as many organic vegetables and fruits along with clean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Give yourself two weeks. Try it. See how you feel.
If you’re eating a standard American diet including a lot of processed foods, sugars, caffeine, alcohol, inflammatory oils and more, you may not even realize how strongly these poor-quality foods are affecting your mental state. Don’t think about overhauling your diet for the rest of your life. Make a few small changes. Start reasonably and simply.
As you make changes and experience the positive mental shift that comes with them, let that serve as momentum to continue improving your diet in order to serve your mental well-being.
I encourage you to shift your perspective from “needing to exercise” to “finding a way to move my body that I love.” Whether pickleball or pilates, it will all benefit. Even a brisk walk for 30 minutes most days of the week will do the trick. You can do that while you take a phone call!
Exercise is catalytic for hormonal activity that is beneficial to the mind. Physical activity and exercise have been shown to improve depressive symptoms and overall mood in people of all ages. Find a way to move your body more often!
Omega 3, 5-HTP, L-Theanine, and magnesium are four supplements in particular I’ve found to be very beneficial for those struggling with anxiety and depression. Even if blood tests haven’t shown your levels as “low,” you may consider speaking with your practitioner about supplementing with the above and optimizing those levels.
Some of my personal favorites for myself and for my patients are Xymogen’s Opti Mag Neuro (a magnesium shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and calm the mind), Relax Max (a blend to promote stress resiliency), Mood Food (a blend of nutrients critical to support the nervous system) and Omega MonoPure 1300.
This is huge. Often, you may not even realize how your go-go-go lifestyle or poor sleeping habits or negative mindset can affect your mood. I encourage my clients to really begin to develop mindfulness in the way they move about their day – how they eat, sleep, think, move and hold their tension.
Stress reduction, improved sleep hygiene, increased movement, breath work, counseling, thought retraining and more can go a very long way in keeping feelings of angst and depression at bay.
If you’re looking to make positive lifestyle modifications and better manage your stress, again, I couldn’t more highly suggest the Primal Trust (use code TAYLORDUKES) course! It has been transformational for so many of my clients in learning what stress reduction practically looks like in everyday life– how to develop mindfulness, thought retraining, breath work, vagus nerve exercises and more!
If you’re struggling with anxiety and/or depression, I’m so sorry. You’re not alone. And you’re also not without a plan. Meet with your doctor and/or other health professionals. Craft a plan. Consider implementing each of the seven points above. Be consistent for a week and then two weeks. Then a month. It may be gradual and incremental, but I’m confident that with consistent adherence to the plan, you’ll begin to experience a lighter and more hopeful mind space.
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