In today’s overworked and sleepless society, it’s easy to fall prey to stress which, in turn, can lead to a diagnosis of anxiety or depression (or both). Over the past two decades, the use of medication to treat anxiety and depression has skyrocketed. 1 in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four. It is obvious that we are not getting to the true cause of why we are so depressed.
In the conventional understanding of depression, it is believed to be caused by an imbalance of chemicals, called neurotransmitters, in the brain. As such, the treatment involves medications that increase the availability of those chemicals. Treatment for anxiety is more concerned with either increasing or reducing the production of certain substances that can lead to a reduction in anxiety. There are certainly cases in which these medications can be useful and even lifesaving. They play an important role for many individuals.
However, in the functional medicine model, we work to get to the root of the problem and address it at that level, rather than just suppress symptoms. There are three main areas we examine: gut health, stress tolerance or response, and nutrient deficiencies.
New research has linked the gut to the brain through what is termed the gut-brain axis. The gut and brain communicate, and the health of one affects the other. So when our gut becomes inflamed – due to diet, low stomach acid, overgrowth of bad bacteria, parasites, or fungal infections – it causes our brain to be inflamed.
Poor gut health also leads to fewer neurotransmitters being produced by the gut. Approximately 90% of the serotonin – the feel good chemical – in our brain comes from the gut. This is why we focus on gut health with our patients – because that’s where all disease starts.
Next, we look at how the body is responding to stress. We are living in a stress-filled world, and how we tolerate stress plays a major role in anxiety and depression. The body’s chronic stress response lowers our tolerance by stealing the needed substances to make neurotransmitters for the brain. Other stresses on the body include inflammation, lack of sleep, and uncontrolled blood sugar levels.
Finally, we look at nutrient deficiencies that contribute to anxiety and depression. Lack of certain B vitamins, zinc, the DHA portion of fish oil, magnesium, and certain amino acids all play a role in healthy brains. If you do not have enough of these nutrients, you literally don’t have the tools to be healthy.
So while medication can play an essential role in treating anxiety and depression, it’s important to get to the root cause of the problem. That is the key for long term health and happiness. Contact our Twin Cities family chiropractors for a lifestyle assessment today.
At Opp Family Chiropractic, we’ll work with you to identify the underlying causes of your anxiety and depression, and develop a chiropractic care treatment plan that will help you achieve better health. Call our St. Francis chiropractic office today to get started.
-Dr. Brian Opp, D.C.