Managing Mood Disorders with Functional Medicine
Written By: Dr Michael Corsilles, ND, PA-C
Naturopathic Physician, Physician Assistant, Functional Medicine Physician
Treating mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disease, will often require a comprehensive, holistic yet personalized approach that functional medicine excels in. Conventional treatments like medications such as antidepressants are common and can be effective, however, what happens when these medications are ineffective or cause unwanted side effects?
The Functional Medicine Approach
There are many root causes to mood disorders, such as genetics, our environment, and how our body responds to stress. Our body also has multiple, complex interconnected systems, and Functional medicine’s approach evaluates these other systems, which include gastrointestinal health, hormonal imbalance, levels of stress hormones, and even the foods they eat.
Initial Comprehensive Assessment
We typically start with a thorough history-taking, looking at your childhood, lifestyle habits, your diet, stress levels, and even genetic predisposition. We typically look beyond standard tests to assess things such as identifying nutritional deficiencies, neurotransmitter and hormonal imbalances, food intolerances, gut disorders, and adrenal (stress gland) issues.
Crafting a Personalized Treatment Plan
Every patient is unique, so we work on an individualized treatment based on history and test results. Depending on the patient and on the root causes of the mood disorder, a plan may include a referral to our functional medicine nutritionists, nutritional or herbal supplements, exercise plans, and possibly prescription medication.
Nutritional Influence on Mental Health
Functional Medicine offers a comprehensive view on how a nutrient-rich diet, packed with essential nutrients, plays a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing your brain health. This approach focuses on the importance of incorporating specific foods that are not only nourishing but also pivotal in supporting cognitive functions and emotional well-being. By focusing on food that’s abundant in vital nutrients, functional medicine underscores the importance of nutrition in the effective management and treatment of mood disorders. Moreover, it advocates for the avoidance of inflammatory and detrimental foods, recognizing that what we consume has a profound impact on our mental health. This holistic perspective emphasizes the intricate connection between nutrition and mental well-being, promoting a balanced and mindful approach to eating for optimal mental health.
Lifestyle Modifications and Physical Activity
Engaging regularly in physical activity is not just beneficial for physical health; it has been scientifically proven to significantly boost mood and alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety. This positive impact is further amplified by incorporating holistic lifestyle adjustments. Key among these is the improvement of sleep hygiene, which plays a vital role in mental health. Quality sleep rejuvenates the mind and body, leading to better emotional balance and cognitive function. Additionally, adopting stress reduction techniques, such as the practice of meditation or yoga, offers a powerful tool in managing stress levels and enhancing overall well-being. These practices not only calm the mind but also strengthen the body-mind connection, fostering a sense of peace and mental clarity. Together, these lifestyle modifications and physical activities form a synergistic approach to improving mental health, offering a natural and effective way to cultivate a happier, more balanced life.
Nutritional supplements or herbal remedies might be suggested. There are several evidence-based natural treatments that can help mood disorders including omega 3 essential fatty acids, and herbs like Ashwaganda, Ginseng or Lavender.
Hormonal imbalances involving key hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone are increasingly recognized as significant contributors to mood disorders. The intricate balance of these hormones plays a crucial role in regulating mood and emotional well-being. These natural herbs work subtly yet effectively to regulate hormonal levels, offering a holistic option for mood stabilization. Additionally, for some individuals, bioidentical hormone prescriptions may be recommended. These tailored treatments are designed to closely mimic the body’s natural hormones, providing a more personalized and precise approach to correcting hormonal imbalances. By addressing these hormonal disparities, whether through natural herbs or bioidentical hormones, there’s potential for significant improvement in mood disorders, paving the way for enhanced emotional health.
Synergizing Conventional and Functional Approaches
Functional medicine stands out because it is a personalized, thorough approach to medicine and there are multiple ways to address mood disorders. The great thing is that Functional medicine does not aim to replace conventional mental health treatments, but to complement them. For example, someone might use antidepressants while concurrently adopting dietary and lifestyle changes advised by their functional medicine practitioner. If traditional methods haven’t been effective or if a holistic approach to health appeals to you, functional medicine could provide a new avenue for wellness.
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