There are many causes of mental health disorders. For example, anxiety is pretty common right? Most of us have experienced it at one time or another. But if you suffer from anxiety enough to see your doctor about it, he/she will probably prescribe you an anti-anxiety medication. You trust your doctor, assume that he/she is giving you all your possible options and so you don’t question it.
But, in the scientific literature, causes for anxiety abound. It could be any one or combination of these and this is not an exhaustive list:
- Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar. It causes a release of epinephrine and nor-epinephrine which can mimic symptoms of anxiety, irritability, sweating and hunger. The easy non-drug solution would be to eat small meals all day long.
- “Excess” caffeine – and excess is person specific. I, Tracy, am overloaded with 2 shots of espresso. Nonetheless, “excess” caffeine can cause signs and symptoms indistinguishable from anxiety (nervous, insomnia, irritability, etc). The easy non-drug solution would be to try a month without any caffeine.
- Hyperthyroidism – a thyroid gland on speed! These folks are strung out, lose weight, can’t sleep, etc. Sound like a recent anxiety spell? This fix isn’t as easy but I can guarantee that treating with an anti-anxiety drug will not treat the root cause – an overactive thyroid. But, a drug would band aid the problem.
- B3 deficiency – before we enriched grains, we had pellagra. With the new low carb/grain free/paleo diets…….many individuals may not be getting adequate intake of B vitamins. The easy non-drug solution? A balanced diet, and perhaps a multi-vitamin like my Healthy Life Women’s Blend which has a better-than-most dose of water soluble B vitamins. Your body will use what it needs and excrete the rest. B’s aren’t spendy so IMO it’s better to overestimate needs than underestimate and suffer. B’s are essential to the production of energy (ATP) within each and every cell of your body.
- Magnesium deficiency – can cause anxiety and decreased stress tolerance
- B12, folic acid (specifically L-5-MTHF form), B6, and fish oil also have research to back them up that deficiencies can mimic, exacerbate, or cause anxiety
- Neurotransmitter issues – you’ve heard the saying “if momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”? Well, if your gut ain’t happy, you ain’t happy. We produce neurotransmitters IN our GI (gastro-intestinal) tract. For example, a very small amount of melatonin is produced in the pineal gland…….the vast majority is produced in the GI tract. The non-drug fix? Clean up the gut. Meaning if you have H. Pylori, yeast overgrowth, dysbiosis (imbalance of good and bad bacteria), a parasite or any other pathogen, you must eradicate it in order to get back on track with digestion and assimilation of nutrients. If not, it’s like having a splinter and it festers, causes inflammation, and keeps your immune system in overdrive. All of that inflammation leads to a “leaky gut” and now you have even more issues to deal with.
- Last but not least, if your anxiety is a result of life events, a drug will not fix your troubled teen, your broken marriage, or finances.
In any event, the root cause must be identified and treated. This is just a partial list of what might be going on in a simple case of anxiety. What is paramount in the functional medicine approach I offer to my patients is finding the root cause. I’m not better than the doctor prescribing a drug if I treat anxiety with the wrong intervention.
Because of this, I have a plethora of tests I use to determine root causes and my new patient intake is lengthy to say the least so that I have the information needed to connect the dots.
Tests I may use:
The GI Effects Test looks at GI Health.
The Organix Test can be useful as it also assess small bowel health and looks at energy production, neurotransmitters, methylation ability and more.
The Adrenal Stress Profile is a spit test and measures cortisol production throughout the day. It lets us know if cortisol and DHEA production are waning as a result of chronic stress which has multiple downstream effects.
The MTHFR genetic test tells me if the patient needs the “right” kind of folate (L-5-MTHF)
The Micronutrient Test examines sufficiency or deficiency of 34 vitamins, minerals, co-factors, and anti-oxidants.
It would be unusual for me not to send a patient back to his/her doctor for a complete thyroid panel, since most only do a TSH as a screening tool.
I hope I have illustrated the simple point that every person and his/her health condition(s) needs a unique treatment plan. 4 patients with anxiety could easily have 4 root causes. If you aren’t satisfied with your current health care team, consider adding a new member. Me. Tracy Konoske. Consider a 1/2 hour no-obligation Getting Started session to see if I might be right for you.