A guest post from functional medicine doctor and SPS Thrive partner, Dr. Brett Baxter.
Many people struggle with anxiety and/or depression but few know there might be options other than medications. Today, I want to share five potential causes of mental disease that can be tested and corrected with appropriate functional medicine care.
- Gut health – Your gastrointestinal tract, or simply your GI tract, specifically your microbiome, is responsible for relaying information to your brain. It is vital to have the correct flora present to send the right messages. Factors like probiotic deficiencies, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), yeast overgrowth, parasitical infestation, malabsorption syndrome, and GI inflammation all have an impact on brain chemistry. These factors can be tested with a stool analysis or blood sampling and corrected based on the specific needs of the patient.
- Food sensitivities – Simply put, food sensitivities are specific foods that upregulate an inflammatory immune response within the GI tract. This response can stay local and affect the GI tract or it can go systemic and have an impact on the rest of the body, creating a wide variety of symptoms. In some individuals these inflammatory cytokines can cross the blood brain barrier, i.e. talk with the brain, and cause a change in brain chemistry. Food sensitivities can be tested with a single blood sample and simply removing them from the diet helps many patients.
- Nutrient deficiencies – The signaling molecules for the brain are called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are made from a combination of amino acids and specific vitamins and minerals. The amino acids are the building blocks and the vitamins and minerals act as co-factors, which means they are essential in the building process of the neurotransmitter. If you have a deficiency in essential amino acids and or a deficiency in co-factors, your brain chemistry will be affected. These deficiencies can be detected and corrected using lab work and dietary changes.
- Infectious pathogens and environmental triggers – Certain pathogens and environmental triggers can degrade the barrier system in the brain, which increases the likelihood that additional substances can cross through the blood brain barrier (BBB) that should not. The blood brain barrier is designed to be very selective as to what can cross from the blood into the brain. When substances cross the BBB that should not, it can have a massive impact on how the brain functions. Anxiety and depression are a few of the common symptoms we see from this phenomenon. These pathogens and environmental triggers can be detected with a blood test. Once detected, infiltrators can be eradicated, and the barrier can be restored.
- Hormonal imbalances – Like neurotransmitters, hormones tell the body what to do. When hormones become imbalanced, the wrong messages get to the brain. This can cause a wide range of symptoms. Hormones can be tested, and the balance can be restored. This can have tremendous impact on not only the brain, but the rest of the body as well.
We live in a “stressed and pressed” culture where millions of people wrestle with anxiety and/or depression. If you find yourself there, I encourage you to visit with a functional medicine doctor about any of these potential causes and begin down the path to a happier, healthier life.