Why do some people become depressed or anxious, or experience other mental and emotional symptoms while others under similar circumstances do not? The answer lies in the interaction of our genetic and biological strengths and weaknesses with the specific stresses and circumstances we encounter as we journey though life.
Adverse life experiences, particularly those that are traumatic or occur at an early age when our brains are still developing, can alter not only the way our brains function, but our hormonal balance and virtually every aspect of our physiology. This can predispose us to such neurological states as depression, anxiety, panic attacks and OCD, among others.
Nutrition can have a profound effect on mood and mental function. Deficiencies or excesses of specific nutrients can dramatically alter brain function. In addition, our overall diet and the individual foods we commonly eat can either support mental health or contribute to psychological symptoms. We have seen dramatic improvements in mood, mental focus and behavior simply by identifying and eliminating one or two problematic foods from a patient’s diet or correcting a few key nutritional deficiencies.
Our genetics influence every aspect of how our bodies function. They influence our predispositions with regard to mood, mental wellbeing and resilience to stress. While we tend to think that there is nothing we can do about our genes, emerging research is showing that we can have a profound influence on the way our genes express themselves. We can selectively influence genetic expression through nutrition, detoxification and activities that enhance mental wellbeing. By doing this we can strengthen our genetic resilience and down-regulate our genetic vulnerabilities.
Hormone balance is essential for the proper function of almost every cell in the body. Any woman who’s ever been pregnant or suffered from PMS knows how powerfully estrogen and progesterone can affect mood. A number of other hormones such as thyroid hormone, insulin, testosterone, and the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine also have a powerful effect on mood. The influence of these hormones is often missed in conventional medical assessment of mental health conditions.
A growing body of scientific research and our ongoing experience with patients have shown that a variety of factors affecting the health of the digestive system can have profound effects on mood and behavior. Conditions such as infections, inflammation, leaky gut or an imbalance in normal intestinal bacteria (dysbiosis) can influence brain chemistry and function dramatically. For some patients, correcting these imbalances is the deciding factor in restoring mental and emotional health.
Exposure to Toxins
Acute or long term exposure to common toxins can greatly contribute to, and even cause disturbances in mood and cognitive function. Exposure to mercury, for example, has been linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression and aggressiveness, while exposure to lead has been linked to depression and irritability. While many toxins are present in the environment and their effects on psychological health are well established, they are rarely considered in mood and behavioral disturbances.