A staggering one out of every ten Americans take an antidepressant. That means even here in sunny Boulder, CO, we have a lot of folks getting a chemical assist.
A Naturopathic Approach Compared To Western Medicine
All medication comes with unintended side effects. For some, unpleasant side effects are significantly disruptive – they may feel like completely different people on medication. Undoubtedly, medication has its place and is a useful tool, yet it only treats one aspect of a person.
A naturopathic approach seeks to discover the root biological factors of disturbed mental health, and treats the person holistically, in an attempt to normalize brain biochemistry and function, rather than override it.
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, consider working with a naturopathic doctor.
Functional, Integrative Medicine in Boulder, CO
In my naturopathic practice, I have a functional, integrative approach. I collaborate with psychotherapists, psychiatrists, as well as primary care providers.
While a psychotherapist’s main focus is often talk therapy (among other specialized modalities, e.g. EMDR), a psychiatrist specializes in psychiatric medications and all of their nuances. Both types of practitioners today are likely familiar with how
- Lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, etc)
- Family history
- Biological factors
contribute to mental health.
However, not many psychotherapists or psychiatrists are familiar with the long list of biological factors/stressors that could actually be causing (or at least contributing) to one’s depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
Naturopathic Insights into Depression and Anxiety with Meghan Van Vleet, ND
Your doctor is likely not looking at these factors, and often when they do, they do not look with a lens of functional medicine understanding.
A naturopathic approach takes into consideration a diverse set of factors, including:
- A person’s story and symptoms
- Family history
- Physical exam findings
- Targeted laboratory testing.
Through this comprehensive picture, a naturopathic doctor may gain insight on what might be contributing, or causative, factors in a person’s experience of depression or anxiety.
Naturopathy Considers Biological Factors with Mental Health
Biological factors may include:
- Poor diet/nutrition
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Chronic stress
- Hormonal imbalances
- Food sensitivities
- Dysbiosis and/or leaky gut
- Lack of exercise
- Less than optimal sleep habits
- Environmental toxin exposure
- Copper overload
- B6 deficiency
- Zinc deficiency
- Methyl/folate imbalances
- Amino acid imbalances
- Undetected chronic infections.
If any of the above are affecting you, discovering and resolving these issues can go a long way toward helping you feel like yourself again.
Naturopathic treatment plans always address the whole person/whole body, and include nutrition (both food and supplements), herbal medicine, hydrotherapy, as well as prioritizing, goal setting, and help strategizing a pathway to whole body wellness.
Treat the Whole Person
It is a core naturopathic principle to “Treat the Whole Person”. What exactly does this mean? To start, it means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The doctor approaches each patient as an integrated whole being rather than a set of symptoms to be treated individually.
For example, if someone has chronic inflammation and trouble sleeping, a conventionally trained doctor might offer an anti-inflammatory and a sleeping pill. In treating the whole, I might address pain, but also
- reduce input to inflammatory pathways with diet & lifestyle recommendations
- support anti-inflammatory pathways with nutrition and herbs
- Explore all of the reasons that might cause a person to have trouble sleeping (racing mind, what they ate for dinner, unsupportive bedtime routines, chronic stress, etc).
We can address these things knowing that if we uncover the cause of sleep disturbance, it will go a long way towards lowering inflammation.
Treating the Whole Person for Mental Health
A naturopathic approach to mental health would be similar. Lifestyle habits and routines affect mental health and well-being, as illustrated by many of the causative/contributing factors listed above.
What are your habits, routines, and patterns? Do they serve you and your goals?
Are you a creature of habit or do you “go with the flow?” Both are fine, but also have their limitations.
If your routines are interrupted by forces outside of your control, how do you react? If you can’t exercise are you cranky? How do you compensate?
Does “going with the flow” mean that you’re eating on the fly? What are you eating when you are in a hurry? Equally important, how are you eating? Are you too busy to take time out of your day to relax while you eat?
Working towards Mental Health with Meghan Van Vleet, ND in Boulder, CO
When I work with my patients, I educate them. We prioritize and problem solve by organizing their days to be proactive, rather than reactive.
To start, I have my patients identify their “Bare Minimums”: the bare minimum you need every day/week/month/year to support your own well-being.
Next, I support them in creatively achieving their bare minimums for well-being. For example, a bare-minimum of exercise on any given day might be a 10-minute brisk walk, knowing that some movement is better than none at all.
Bare minimums are highly individual and change from one stage of life to another, depending on each person’s circumstances. Often little adjustments can have great effects, and little successes pave the way for greater opportunities. Over time, little changes add up.
Opportunity, Not Quick Fixes in Mental Health
To summarize, mental health can be challenging, yet with any challenge exists an equally great opportunity! While a naturopathic approach is not always a quick fix, it may be surprising to discover that the pharmaceutical approach to mental health is not always quick either. It often takes time, patience, trial, and error, as well as a skilled psychiatrist to find the right medication and dosage for an individual.
Naturopathic Treatment of Mental Health Leads to Whole Body Health
Addressing the whole person is a treatment for longevity. Conversely, the long-term use of many pharmaceuticals has increasing detrimental effects such as dependence (in the case of sleeping pills); dementia or foggy brain (in the case of some anxiety medications). From a holistic perspective, mental health can be the herald for whole body health.
If you are struggling with mental health and are interested in this whole body approach, call me today and we can develop treatment options that are right for you.