A New Approach to Mood Disorders — Change your Body, Change your Brain

© 2014 Dr. Sharon Norling

Your brain is broken. You know it. You feel it. You live it. If you have a physical disease, it may be obvious. You may not be able to hide it. On the other hand, mental illness, “psychiatric disease” and memory loss are often suffered silently. With the onslaught of so much stress and so many chemical and other environmental challenges, it is no wonder that our body systems are challenged and our brain function is not what it should be.

Today one in three people suffer from a broken brain. Some 12 million children have a “mental illness.” Is this a normal part of the human condition? No, it is not. There is something wrong with this picture and we need to expect better.

At a recent national medical conference, Dr. Hedaya, professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, reviewed the evolution of the model of mood disorders.

  • Middle Ages: Demons within – exorcism is the treatment of choice
  • 1917: Freud explains that those demons are really our mothers
  • 1988: Eli Lily releases our mothers from 80 years of victimization, explaining that depression is really a Prozac deficiency.

Dr. Hedaya’s humor draws attention to the current model of therapy for mood disorders. The problem is that the model does not work. Treating mood disorders is based on sequential augmentation strategies. First, psychotherapy; if not responding, add medication. If that is not effective, increase the dose. If there is not an adequate response, change the medication or add another medication. If the response is incomplete, consider adding Lithium or thyroid (T3) — and so it goes. Many times bipolar disorder is diagnosed after a patient has been started on a drug or two or three. Is the disorder drug-induced?

Are Antidepressants the Answer?

How many people respond to antidepressant drugs? Most people who take antidepressants either don’t respond or have only a partial response. In fact, success is considered to be a 50 percent improvement in half of the symptoms. And this minimal result is achieved in less than half of the patients taking these medications.

That is a very low success rate! It’s made worse by the fact that 86 percent of those who do find some relief in their symptoms have one or more side effects, including sexual dysfunction, fatigue, insomnia, loss of mental abilities, nausea and weight gain. Despite the side effects and studies showing antidepressants may not effective for some people, the use of antidepressants has tripled in the past 10 years.

Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), a common class of drugs that support levels of serotonin by altering the way the brain functions, help 30 to 50 percent of the time, but also carry some risks:

  • Increased suicide risk (acutely) in children and adolescents
  • Weight gain
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Emotional detachment
  • Twice the annual rate of bone loss (vs. tricyclic antidepressants)
  • Discontinuation difficulties
  • Induction of mania, agitation, aggression, paranoia.

As a neurotransmitter imbalance may create or exacerbate mood disorders, testing the neurotransmitters before treatment provides information for the physician and the patient to customize treatment. “Treating the average” is overrated. We wouldn’t give someone insulin unless we knew their current blood sugar levels. We wouldn’t give thyroid medication unless we knew what the existing thyroid levels were. Why would we treat mood disorders without seeing the bio-chemistry in advance?

Imbalances can be corrected with amino acids and other nutrients. Omega 3s, a quality multivitamin, Vitamin D and the B vitamins (the anti-stress vitamins) may also be recommended. Magnesium, zinc, calcium, copper, iron and potassium are minerals that support brain function, while pharmaceutical drugs simply mask the problems.

Why are these chemicals out of balance in the first place?

Our bodies function using the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Our brains are broken because of poor diet, environmental allergens and toxins, infections and stress. These factors not only change our bio-chemistry but change the function of our genes as well.

According to Mark Hyman, MD, we need to heal the body to heal the brain. In his book, The UltraMind Solution, he recommends seven keys for staying in balance.

Key #1 Optimize Nutrition

You have heard, “we are what we eat.” The right balance and quality of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and all the colorful pigments in plant foods (phytonutrients) support our well-being and function. As most of us are nutritionally imbalanced in one way or another, testing your specific nutrient levels allows you to customize your eating habits and indicate the necessary supplements.

The most powerful tool you have to change you brain and your health is your fork. You can turn your genes on and off by what you eat. Intravenous infusion nutrient therapies may be just what you need to ensure your body is getting the vitamins, minerals and supplements into your bloodstream and directly into your cells to start the healing process.

Key # 2 Balance Your Hormones

Our hormones, including insulin, thyroid, sex hormones, stress hormones, neurotransmitters and many more, are a symphony of molecules. They have to work in harmony for you to be healthy.

Key # 3 Cool off Inflammation

Inflammation is the underlying cause of most chronic diseases. Too much or too little inflammation creates disease. Inflammation of the brain is a central theme for almost all psychiatric and neurologic conditions. Gluten, food allergens, infections, toxins, sugar and mold create inflammation. Cool your inflammation, and heal your brain.

Key # 4 Fix Your Digestion

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is called our second brain. The GI tract has as many neurons (brain cells) in it as the brain! It has more neurons than the spinal column. Neurotransmitters, including 95 percent of serotonin, are produced in the GI tract. Clearly, digesting, absorbing and assimilating all the food and nutrients we eat is critical for our brains and overall health. Your GI tract must be healthy for your whole body to be healthy.

Key # 5 Enhance Detoxification

Have you ever experienced brain fog? When our bodies are not eliminating all the wastes and toxins we take in from food, air, water, medications and the environment, illness often results.

Key # 6 Boost Energy Metabolism

Life is energy. We feel energetic when our cells are producing sufficient energy. We die when no energy is produced. Keeping the metabolic engine running and protecting it from harm is essential to our health. Loss of energy is found in almost all brain disorders.

Key # 7 Calm Your Mind

Keep your sense of humor and laugh a lot! A life of meaning and purpose, a life in balance with connection, community, love, support and a sense of empowerment are essential for health. The overwhelming stresses, such as social isolation, over work and disempowerment, create enormous strain on our nervous systems, leading to burnout and breakdown.

Look at your body for the underlying cause of your broken brain or mood disorder. Seek a knowledgeable practitioner who can find the pieces of the puzzle and put them back together with your help. A lifestyle educator working with your physician can support and guide you with menu plans, exercise and stress management.

You deserve to have energy, strength, restful sleep, motivation, joy, laughter, happiness, clear thinking, peace, healthy digestion, balanced hormones and a pain-free body. Choose to be in optimal health; your life depends on it.

Written By: Dr. Sharon Norling, MBA