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Depression, Anxiety: How Functional Medicine Can Help

Do you no longer enjoy activities that once gave you great joy?

Do you feel exhausted all day long and then struggle to sleep at night?

Are constant worries giving you chronic tension headaches or making you sick to your stomach?

These feelings are common among those struggling with anxiety and depression. Maybe you’ve experienced one or more of these things on an occasional basis, or perhaps you feel them daily. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, you aren’t alone – depression and anxiety can hijack even the most grounded person’s life. 

In fact, depression and anxiety are two of the most common health concerns in the U.S. More than 40% of Americans suffer from symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. For some, conventional medication can help them find relief. While others go through years of medication and therapy without significant improvements. Sometimes depression and anxiety have physical causes, and simple lifestyle modifications can significantly lift your mood more than other treatment options.

Interested in getting to the root of your anxiety and depression? Start with a discovery call.

Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Depression and anxiety are two distinct mental health disorders, but they commonly occur together. Both anxiety and depression are under-recognized and under-treated in the U. S. today. We’re going to break each down to help you understand your own experience and what you might be dealing with.

Your Body’s Responses to Anxiety

Occasional anxiety is a normal part of everyday life. Feeling nervous about a big presentation or on edge when you teach your child to drive are normal human reactions. As adrenaline floods your body in these scenarios, you enter fight-or-flight mode. This temporary defense mechanism helps keep you safe. When the danger is gone, your system returns to normal. 

However, living in a constant state of adrenaline has negative impacts on your well-being, and it can take a toll on your body. Side effects of anxiety at work in your body include:

  • Excessive Worry
  • Chronic Headaches
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Racing Heartbeat
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Digestive Issues
  • Weight Gain or Loss
  • Fatigue
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Muscle Aches
  • Chronic Pain
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to Relax

The symptoms above come in many different forms and affect everyone differently. Anxiety can affect your cardiovascular, immune, digestive, excretory, or respiratory systems. If you have experienced these symptoms for six months or more, you suffer from an anxiety disorder. 

Your Body’s Response to Depression

Everyone feels gloomy now and then. But depression – constantly feeling sad, disinterested, and hopeless – impacts your whole life. It affects your personality, your job, your relationships, and your overall health. Here’s how depression affects your body:

  • Persistent Fatigue
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Difficulty with Concentration
  • Chronic Pain
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic Headaches
  • Inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Weight Loss or Gain
  • Loss of Interest
  • Sexual Dysfunction

Depression is defined as experiencing these symptoms for two weeks or more. Getting out of bed might seem impossible if you are struggling with depression. But it’s a very real illness, and you can get help.  

Treating Anxiety and Depression

If you’ve tried tackling your anxiety and depression, there’s a good chance your primary doctor prescribed you medication. Conventional medicine doctors aim to eliminate the symptoms of anxiety or depression with things such as antidepressants, anxiolytics, or talk therapy. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this approach. And there is certainly nothing wrong with taking prescribed antidepressants or going to therapy if that is the approach you want to take.

But this conventional approach doesn’t work for everyone. Functional medicine offers an alternative treatment that addresses the root cause of your mental health disorder.

The Functional Medicine Approach to Anxiety and Depression

While prescription medications can be a lifesaving approach, the functional medicine model works to get to the root of the problem and addresses it at that level, rather than just suppressing symptoms. 

There is no single discernible cause for either anxiety or depression. Genetics, chronic disease, and food sensitivities can be factors. But functional medicine practitioners examine three main areas to find the root cause: gut health, bodily stressors, and nutrient deficiencies.

Poor Gut Health

Recent studies show the importance of the gut-brain connection. Your gut produces neurotransmitters that are delivered to your brain. Hormone function, which influences your mood, can also be affected by your gut function. 

Your gut produces approximately 90% of the serotonin – the feel-good chemical – that is delivered to your brain. If your brain isn’t getting enough serotonin, it is likely linked to your anxiety or depression. 

Bodily Stressors

Chronic stress has many harmful effects, including leading to mood disorders like anxiety and depression. When you experience stress, your adrenal cortex releases cortisol. Research has linked cortisol to both anxiety and depression, so too much stress could be the root cause of your mood disorder.

Other stressors on your body that can cause symptoms of anxiety and depression include lack of sleep, inflammation, and uncontrolled blood sugar levels.  

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are vital for your mental health. Nutrient deficiencies and imbalances can lead to symptoms like anxiety and depression. If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, your functional medicine doctor might test if you’re deficient in any of the following:

  • B Vitamins
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Vitamin D
  • Selenium
  • Magnesium
  • Omega-3s
  • Zinc

How Functional Medicine Treats Anxiety and Depression

After your functional medicine practitioner examines your diet and lifestyle and runs any appropriate lab tests, your doctor will work with you to implement strategies to restore balance and treat your anxiety and depression. While these plans are tailored to each individual, your doctor could recommend any combination of the following.

Heal Your Gut

It is essential to maintain good gut health to maintain optimal mental health. A functional medicine doctor will check for food sensitivities, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, parasites, and fungal overgrowth. If gut health is at the root of your mood disorder, your doctor might recommend the 4 Rs to heal your gut:

  1. Remove what’s negatively impacting your gut, such as food sensitivities, stress, parasites, or environmental toxins.
  2. Replace anything that’s missing from your gut, such as digestive enzymes or nutrient deficiencies.
  3. Reinoculate your gut with good bacteria to promote the growth of healthy organisms.
  4. Repair the lining of your gut with diet and supplements. 

Manage Your Stress

Removing mental stressors from your life and relieving your stress through reframing your thoughts, exercise, and time outdoors can help balance your mood. Try to get enough sleep each night and spend at least 20 minutes outdoors each day. 

Optimize Your Diet

The food you eat plays an important role in maintaining your mental health. Eating a balanced diet of healthy meats and low mercury seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can boost your overall mood and support your mental health.

Remember, your mental health plays a significant role in your physical health. Addressing your anxiety and depression can be the gateway to overcoming other health concerns in your life.  

Functional medicine takes a natural approach to rebuilding healthy brain chemistry and addressing anxiety and depression. If you’re finding it difficult to perform daily activities, isolating yourself from loved ones, or struggling to sleep at night, it may be worth visiting a functional medicine doctor to get to the bottom of your anxiety and depression. 

If you are suffering from either anxiety or depression or both, you don’t have to live with it. Schedule a call with your team today

Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. 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, and Abingdon, VA.