Updated February 9, 2018
Anxiety and depression are increasingly common complaints. The National Institute for Mental Health estimates the rate of anxiety disorders as 19.1% of the US population, and estimates for major depression are around 6.7%. It is very likely that you or someone you know has or will struggle with these issues.
I highly recommend anyone struggling with these issues to seek the care of a trained mental health practitioner to discuss psychological and pharmacological options for the treatment of moderate to severe symptoms.
This article will focus on how physical and mental health are interconnected, how to optimize physical health to support mental health, and talk about a few of the supplements we can use as first-line therapy with mild to moderate anxiety and depression.
Poor mental health = poor physical health & Poor physical health = poor psychological health
Health is rarely simplistic, but I have yet to encounter instances where the above statement is false. With chronic pain or disability depression and anxiety abound; I know this from personal experience, and as a doctor, I see this on a day to day basis. When one is struggling with anxiety or depression, steps to promote physical health often become much more difficult. This neglect of health can take the form of eating poorly, not exercising, poor sleep habits, isolation, and more. Separating mental from physical health does not work well, we need both in balance for optimum wellness.
Some of our favorite treatments:
Start with Laboratory Testing:
First and foremost, make sure to identify and address nutritional deficiencies, thyroid function, and blood sugar regulation. Depression can result from fatigue associated with low or high blood sugar or thyroid hormones, anemia, low vitamin D levels, or malnutrition. Some medications cause nutrient deficiencies, check here to see if yours do.
This is a huge part of treatment for mood disorders, and you will find it all over in the scientific studies. Minimally, we need to be up and moving for 20 minutes a day to promote circulation of blood through the body and up to the brain.
Address and treat insomnia. Do you snore? Look into a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea.
Review current medications, is depression or anxiety a side effect of your current medications? Be sure to talk to your doctor about this to be sure your current regimen is working and not contributing to your symptoms.
Incorporate stress management strategies into your life. We all have stress, but some of us react differently to it than others. Stress management is a considerable self-improvement project and takes years of consistent work before it becomes effortless.
Eliminate foods that are causing more harm than good. Sugar, alcohol, and processed foods are always inflammatory. We can also investigate and come up with additional suggestions that are specific to you.
St John’s wort has gotten a lot of attention here, but one must be careful with its ability to interfere with other drugs, and it may not be the right herb for you. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any herbs; a doctor trained in both pharmaceuticals and herbal medicine is your best bet. Some of my favorites include blackcurrant bud, Rhodiola, Oats, ashwagandha, and ginseng.
Remember, if you feel your mood is getting stuck in states of anxiety or depression, there are many things both physical, emotional, and spiritual that can cause this. We should be able to feel the highs and lows of life, but we shouldn’t get stuck there. If you do, reach out for help; talk to your doctor, a friend, or family member. Reaching out for help is not weakness; it is resilience. And if you are feeling like hurting yourself or know someone else who is, call the suicide prevention hotline to speak with trained staff to help you find the support you need.