Mental Health: Depression & AnxietyLisa Kilgour, Nutritionist
April 26, 2018
In Canada, we like to focus on our physical health…and rightly so. Without our health, what do we have? I’m sure anyone with a chronic problem would agree — you can’t put a price on your well-being.
But we also need to include our mental health into the mix. Mental health issues are still getting a tough deal. It takes some vulnerability to talk about them and can sometimes they can seem less important than a physical health problem. But they’re not.
It’s only in western medicine where our heads have been cut off. Traditional forms of medicine like Ayurveda (from India) and Traditional Chinese Medicine have always brought the mind/body connection into their treatments.
Our Brain IS Inside of Our Body
I’m not sure why we see them as separate issues. Plus, symptoms can be connected! In particular, our digestion tends to mirror our mental wellness. Anxiety can come with an overactive digestive system (cramping, pain, diarrhea), and depression can come with slow digestion and constipation. They’re mirrored because your neurotransmitter balance drives them both.
But when has your doctor asked about your anxiety/depression when you talk about your IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), even though many studies have found a strong correlation between these two conditions?
I believe that our mental health is key to our overall health and well-being, and we need to come out of the closet and start to discuss this publicly.
How common are mental health issues? 20% of Canadians will deal with a diagnosed mental illness in their lives. And most of us will deal with some form of mental distress this year; be that depression, anxiety, insomnia, or stress.
How many people do you know that deal with one of those 4? I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t dealt with one of these issues in the last 5 years.
It’s Time to Start Discussing These Issues More Openly
We’re comfortable discussing a recent cold or flu, thyroid issue, or other illnesses, so why not our mental health?
I’ll go first – I am wired for depression. When I’m under stress or if I’m dealing with a large emotional issue I will get depressed. And it can be really bad sometimes. I’ve had a few deep, longer-term depressions…lasting months to years. But I’m pretty good at hiding it, so many people in my life don’t know this side of me (well, they do now!).
And please, recognize the possibility of these concerns in yourself, family members, and co-workers. There might be something going on under the surface, especially if you’ve noticed anything different in their behaviour. They might not be angry or upset with you…it’s much more likely they’re dealing with something internal.
Be kind, listen, and offer support. We all need this right now.
Symptoms of depression and anxiety are more than just feeling blue or an anxiety attack. They can be quieter and sometimes you may not realize that you’re dealing with a mental health issue.
Symptoms like: not being able to relax, tense muscles, exhaustion, excessive worry, and feeling hopeless.
Our diet and lifestyle can really help sometimes. These are complex problems that need a multi-faceted solution, but our diet and lifestyle can help make our symptoms a bit more manageable.
A Few of My Favourite Approaches to De-Stress & Reduce Anxiety
I love this herb and I use it quite regularly. It can help to stop the “brain spin” – those constant thoughts and worries that you can’t stop thinking about.
St. John’s Wort
May help boost levels of serotonin, can be effective for depression. Be careful with this herb, it doesn’t play nicely with some medications so always check with a pharmacist before combining them.
A forgotten yet potent treatment for anxiety and depression. 30 mins of exercise every day can be like a magic pill for our mental health. It may even stave off dementia!
Nutrient Dense Foods
You may be craving sweet or processed comfort foods, but don’t forget to add some nutrient-dense foods, like fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds to your day as well. Your body uses lots of nutrients when you’re under stress or duress so it needs some extra help.
Notice what works for you and share it with your friends, we all need some extra ideas when we’re overwhelmed with life. Let’s get this conversation out into the open!