Life presents us with an abundance of joys, yet many people are unable to enjoy life’s pleasures due to feelings of stress, anxiety and/or depression. In 2007, 3.3 Australians were suffering from anxiety or affective mood disorders – that’s at least one in five Australians. Every year a further 20,000 Australians are diagnosed with a mental illness, with similar figures found in New Zealand. Unfortunately, current main stream medications and treatments fall well short of dealing with the problem effectively, with some studies suggesting they are no better than placebo. Holistic, efficacious treatment strategies designed to help restore optimal neurochemistry can help support mental health, helping you live a happier healthier life.
Understanding neurobiology is the key
The complexity of mental health disorders can be overwhelming, with over 400 distinct conditions listed. From a functional point of view, however, most mental conditions come down to a problem of disturbed neurobiology: neurons not working properly and messages not travelling around the central nervous system effectively. Naturopathy explores why disturbances in neurobiology occur and what physiological factors perpetuate and worsen the problem. Impaired neurobiology requires detailed attention to our body’s biochemistry and all its functions. Assisting the body’s production of neurotransmitters may go a long way to alleviating any imbalance. Serotonin is a major player in emotional health – what many people do not realise is that between 70 and 85% of the body’s serotonin is located in the gut. Therefore, digestive health is paramount to mental health.
The role of energy in happiness
The brain is an amazingly complex organ: a tiny piece of brain the size of a grain of sand may contain around 100,000 neurons with over one billion connections! The brain weighs just 2% of the body mass, yet it uses over 20% of the energy the body generates. Neurons which lack energy are unable to perform vital functions such as signal conduction and neurotransmitter synthesis. Therefore, if neurons run out of energy, mental dysfunction ensues. Chronic stress directly contributes to cellular dysfunction to the point where neurons may actually die off, with actual brain shrinkage demonstrated in more severe cases of mental health disorders. Stress also increases neurological inflammation and oxidative stress, both factors that can also cause disturbances in neurobiology.
The stress response system
Understanding the body’s responses to stress is crucial to the effective treatment of anxiety, depression and even schizophrenia. Stress response systems include more than our hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. It also involves our limbic brain and cortisol resistance and its role in adrenal exhaustion, uncontrolled inflammation and mental health symptomology.
Doctors William Philpott and Dwight Kalita outlined the links between foods and other substances and mental health. They provide examples of how sugar can trigger schizophrenia. Environmental toxins and chemically contaminated foods place incredible strains on our body, not in the least on the brain.
If you have never experienced a panic attack you may not quite unerstand how devastating such a response can be – not only for the person suffering the panic attack but also for family and friends. Panic attacks can have a major influence on quality of life and become extremely debilitating.
So what are the contributors to a panic attack? Elevated lactic acid has been implicated with a genetic sensitivity to elevated lactic acid exacerbating the problem. Dehydration is another cause as this concentrates the body’s lactic acid levels. Inappropriate diet such as alcohol, excess consumption of refined carbohydrates (processed foods, sugars) and heavy exercise are also contributors.
Should you suffer from an attack, drinking 500 to 750 mls of water with an alkaliser (speak to your naturopath) can relieve an attack within 30 minutes. Taken daily, it may prevent onset of panic attacks.
Life’s too short not to be happy. Take positive action today, phone 07 5530 1863 and take the first step to a happier, healthier you.