Mental health is about more than just mood. At the core of functional medicine is understanding that every system in our body is connected — including our minds. Conventional medicine often separates treatment for physical health disorders and mental health disorders; however, functional medicine looks at how both the mind and body work together to affect your overall health and wellness.
Both depression and anxiety are complicated conditions, and there many different underlying causes that can make your mental health suffer. While a traditional approach to these conditions may focus on reducing symptoms, a functional medicine doctor will look at what the root cause of these problems are.
While this does not ignore psychological causes for mental illnesses, such as your brain chemistry, genetics, and life events, a functional medicine doctor will also look at how other factors, like a thyroid issue or poor gut health, play a role.
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The Mind-Body Connection: A Holistic Approach Toward Mental Health
Whether you’re dealing with depression or gut problems, if you look at only your mental or physical health for answers, you’ll only ever get half of the story. The mind-body connection is the concept that there is a strong link between the way a person thinks or acts and their physical symptoms. And the relationship goes two ways — when your body is unwell, your emotional wellbeing will also suffer.
The human body is best understood as a network of systems that work together to achieve the same goal of staying healthy and surviving. Take a look at the nervous system for example. Neural pathways allow your brain to communicate with your body and tell it how to move, feel, think, and breathe.
When you encounter a stressful situation, these neural pathways trigger the fight or flight response, causing the release of adrenaline. This response makes you feel stressed and anxious, but you’ll also notice many physical symptoms as well, like a pounding heart, nausea, dizziness, and difficulties breathing.
Chronic Diseases and Mental Health
Conventional medicine is effective at treating acute issues, like a sudden heart attack or a broken bone, but a symptomatic approach always falls short when treating chronic diseases. This is where functional medicine is so impactful. At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we believe your care should always be personal and we truly take the time to get to know you and what you’re going through.
When you have a chronic condition, it can take over every aspect of your life. Living with pain, fatigue, and brain fog on a daily basis can be exhausting, and it’s easy to feel depressed or stressed about your symptoms. Several chronic conditions can contribute to depression or anxiety.
An autoimmune disease is a condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy cells. These can include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, Hashimoto’s disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Crohn’s disease and more.
Your immune system and mental health are closely linked. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or chronic stress, your immune system suffers. Alternatively, issues with your immune system can lead to depression. There is evidence that as many as 50% of people with an autoimmune disorder also show depression-like symptoms.
Your body’s hormones play a major role in regulating many of your body’s processes. Different types of hormones facilitate things like hunger, growth, fertility, blood pressure, mood and more. However, there are several factors that can lead to a hormonal imbalance:
- Poor diet
- Being overweight
- Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- Thyroid issues (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism)
- Certain medications, like birth control or hormonal replacement
- Benign tumors
- Exposure to certain toxins and pollutants
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Chronic stress
- Puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
A hormonal imbalance can cause several physical symptoms, like fatigue, headaches, bloating, thinning hair, weight gain or weight loss, and skin changes. It can also contribute to mood swings and cause severe depression and anxiety.
Chronic Pain and Inflammation
There are several chronic health conditions that can cause inflammation, which is your body’s natural response to an injury or an infection. It can be linked to joint diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, allergies, cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Inflammation in the body can also reach the brain and contribute to depression. While depression is not considered an inflammatory disease, inflammation of the brain does seem to be intimately linked with depression and other psychiatric disorders.
If you’ve seen doctors in the past who have prescribed medicines in an attempt to get rid of the symptoms of your chronic condition and you’re still feeling generally unwell, it’s hard not to feel hopeless. When we develop your personalized treatment plan, we consider your wellbeing as a whole. For us, reclaiming your health doesn’t mean learning to live with the symptoms — it means having a healthy mind and body that allows you to thrive.
Want to learn more about functional medicine? Watch one of our webinars.
Food, Exercise, and Sleep’s Effect on Depression and Anxiety
Your lifestyle also has a huge impact on your mental health. What you eat, how active you are, how much sleep you get, and other health decisions you make on a daily basis affect both your physical and emotional health. If you are generally inactive, eat a lot of unhealthy foods, and miss out on getting enough sleep, you’re more prone to feeling depressed or anxious.
The organ most connected with your brain is your digestive tract. If you have an unhealthy gut, one that is inflamed or home to bad bacteria, your brain starts to suffer. You may notice you have more trouble sleeping, experience brain fog, and experience more mood swings or anxiety. Also, your stomach produces most of your body’s serotonin, a hormone that plays a primary role in controlling your mood and feelings of happiness.
Eating the right foods and incorporating other healthy lifestyle factors promote a healthy, balanced gut. For a diet that promotes a healthy body and mind, follow these tips:
- Avoid highly processed food, especially those full of added sugars.
- Eat antioxidants, which help battle inflammation, boost immunity, and balance free radicals.
- Increase the amount of magnesium, fiber, magnesium, and folate in your diet.
- Eat more plant-based foods and opt for lean meats, like chicken and fish, instead of red meat.
- Incorporate fermented foods and drinks, such as yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and tempeh.
- Choose whole grain carbs over white breads and rice.
Also aim for about at least thirty minutes of exercise a day, even if that just means going on a walk or doing something that gets you moving. And make sleep a priority — your body does best when you go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day.
Functional Medicine Can Restore Your Mental Health
Your mental and physical health are both equally important. If one area suffers, it’s likely the other one will as well. When you meet with us, we’ll take an integrative approach to your health. Your treatment plan will address your depression and anxiety while also healing any underlying conditions contributing to how you’re feeling.
Ready to begin healing your mind and body? Schedule your free discover call today.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout Tennessee and into Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, Abingdon, VA, Grundy, VA, Asheville, NC, Boone, NC.