From corporate and social media initiatives promoting mental health to high-profiled mental health cases, the awareness of mental health is growing. The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that in any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. Mental disorders are conditions where changes in thinking, mood, and behaviour are associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. This may include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia amongst many others.
The World Health Organization considers mental health and well-being as an integral part of one’s overall health. Naturopathic Doctors recognize the equal importance of mental health to physical health and Naturopathic medical treatments strive to help people achieve balance on both levels.
Here are 5 fundamental things to consider in improving your own mental health.
1)Diet– Mental health relies on the diverse array of nutrients we get from our food. Eating poor quality, nutrient-sparse foods deprive our bodies and our brains from the essential vitamins and minerals needed to function well. A diet high in sugar has also been associated with poorer mental health.1,2 A proper individualized nutrition plan developed by your Naturopathic Doctor can make a big impact on supporting your mental health.
2)Exercise– Exercise has been shown to be one of the most consistently beneficial treatments for mental health, in particular depression.3 Adding exercise to one’s routine has been shown to produce even greater benefits to mental health than conventional treatments alone (ie. antidepressants).4 Whether you take an exercise class or go for a hike in the mountains, the key to sticking to regular exercise is to do something you enjoy.
3)Sleep– We all feel better after a good night’s sleep but it is surprising how little attention we pay to ensuring we consistently get good quality sleep. Poor sleep negatively affects our energy, moods, hormones, neurotransmitters and is a direct factor in the development of many chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, obesity and heart disease.5,6,7 A Naturopathic Doctor can help uncover the underlying causes of poor sleep and work with you to improve your quality of sleep for mental health.
4)Stress– Stress causes many psychological and physical reactions that are meant to protect us from harm. However, prolonged stress depletes our energy, affects our digestive function and impairs our mental health. Managing our day-to-day stresses well can go a long way at improving mental function and halting long-term consequences to prolonged stress. Stress management, along with other approaches to improving mental health can be found in the book Beyond the Label, written by a fellow Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Chris Bjorndal. Her book is available at the Vive Health clinic.
5)Gut Microbiome– The brain is directly connected to the gut microbiome via numerous neurological and hormonal pathways, known as the brain-gut axis. An increasing number of studies are being done to discover how the makeup of a person’s gut microbiome can impact mental health. Evidence shows that different gut microbes are involved in controlling mood-related behaviours.8,9,10 Several human clinical trials have been done showing the effects of probiotics on mood disorders, thus making probiotics a great Naturopathic treatment option for mental health.11
Mental health conditions are expressed uniquely in each individual and can be addressed in many different ways. Naturopathic Medicine can identify the underlying multi-factorial causes and provide safe and effective approaches to treatment.
~ Dr. Patti
1.Aucoin M, Bhardwaj S. Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Hypoglycemia Symptoms Improved with Diet Modification. Case Rep Psychiatry. 2016;2016:7165425.
2.Garber A, Csizmadi I, Friedenreich CM, et al. Association between glycemic load and cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults: Results from the Brain in Motion study. Clin Nutr. 2017 Jul 17. pii: S0261-5614(17)30250-9. [Epub ahead of print]
3.Morgan JA, Olagunju AT, Corrigan F, et al. Does ceasing exercise induce depressive symptoms? A systematic review of experimental trials including immunological and neurogenic markers. J Affect Disord. 2018 Feb 24;234:180-192. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.02.058.
4.Kvam S, Kleppe CL, Nordhus IH, & Hovland A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of affective disorders,202, 67-86.
5.Adam P, SpiraYA, Mark NW, et al. Excessive daytime sleepiness and napping in cognitively normal adults: associations with subsequent amyloid deposition measured by PiB PET. Sleep, Volume 41, Issue 10, 1 October 2018, zsy152. doi: 10.1093/sleep.zsy152
6.Gangwisch J et al: Inadequate sleep as a risk factor for obesity: analyses of the NHANES 1, Sleep28(10):1289-1296, 2005.
7.Meier-Ewert HK et al: Effect of sleep loss on C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk, J Am Coll Cardiol43(4):678-83, 2004.
8.Evrensel A, Ceylan ME. Gut-brain axis: the role of gut microbiota in the psychiatric disorders. Curr Approach Psychiatry. 2015;7(4):461-472.
9.Fond G, Boukouaci W, Chevalier G, et al. The “psychomicrobiotic”: Targeting microbiota in major psychiatric disorders: a systematic review. Pathol Biol (Paris). 2015;63(1):35-42.
10.Evrensel A, Ceylan ME. The Gut-Brain Axis: The missing link in depression. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci.2015;13(3):239-244.
11.Akkasheh G, Kashani-Poor Z, Tajabadi-Ebrahimi M, et al. Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition. 2016;32(3):315-320.