Although traditional medicine often treats our psychological and physical health as two separate components of wellness, they are intrinsically connected as each can significantly impact the other.
Eastern and integrative medicine have acknowledged this connection for hundreds of years and the intrinsic link between the mind and body is one of the founding principles of practices such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and others. In fact, Chinese medicine, which has been used to treat ailments for over 2,000 years, is based on the belief that optimal health is governed by balancing a person’s qi (vital life force) with the complementary forces of yin (passive) and yang (active) in relation to their environment.
As Chinese medicine becomes more popular in western culture and integrative wellness clinics such as Holtorf Medical Group take a more holistic to the well-being of patients, we have begun to understand the ways systems and organs in the body influence our mental health:
The gut, specifically the gut microbiome, significantly impacts virtually every system in the body, including the brain and endocrine system. The gut microbiome is a pocket of microbes in the large intestine called the cecum. There are up to 1,000 species of bacteria in the human gut microbiome, all of which play a different role in the body. Certain species of these bacteria help produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone). In fact, 95% of serotonin is made in the gut. Therefore, the gut microbiome does not just aid in the process of producing necessary chemicals in the brain, it also helps improve your mood and mental wellness. Furthermore, the gut is physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves, meaning the gut microbiome has the ability to affect the brain by helping control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves. Studies have even shown that people with various psychological disorders have different species of bacteria in their guts, compared to the control group. Learn more about the importance of the gut microbiome here
Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism in every organ of the body, including the brain. Thyroid hormones are important for brain growth and tissue retention. When thyroid hormone is low, it can affect your memory span and ability to concentrate. One of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism is brain fog or difficulty thinking clearly. Inflammation and weakening of the blood-brain barrier because of limited thyroid hormone availability is typically the cause. Experts believe that many depressed people have undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction as the underlying cause or major contributor to their depression that is not detected by standard thyroid tests. The dysfunction present with these conditions includes reduced T4 to T3 conversion and reduced uptake of T4 into the cell, which blocks the thyroid effect and is an indicator of reduced transport of T4 into the cell and across the blood-brain barrier. In fact, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Thyroid Research states that those with a thyroid condition are more likely to develop depression or suffer depressive states than those with normal thyroid levels. With over 4000 patients, The StarD Report* is the largest trial comparing antidepressant effectiveness for depression. It found that 66% of patients fail to respond to antidepressants or have side effects severe enough to discontinue use. Of those who do respond, over half will relapse within one year. The trial found that T3 was effective even when other medications — such as citalopram (Celexa), bupropion (Wellbutrin), sertraline (Zolft), venlafaxine (Effexor), or cognitive therapy – were not. It was shown to be 50% more effective, even with the less than optimal dose of 50 mcg, under direct comparison with significantly fewer side effects than commonly used therapeutic approaches with standard antidepressants.
The adrenal glands are well known for being linked to one specific aspect of mental health: your stress response. Adrenal health commonly compromises our psychological well-being with approximately 80% of Americans suffering from some form of adrenal dysfunction.
Our adrenal glands produce hormones that help balance blood sugar levels, manage our energy levels, and help us handle stress. If a person is under constant physical or emotional stress, their adrenals may become weak and unable to produce adequate amounts of critical hormones, especially a hormone called cortisol. This creates an illness commonly known as adrenal burnout. Cortisol increases to wake us up in the mornings, then gradually declines throughout the day so that we’re tired when it’s time to sleep. When we are stressed, our adrenals produce extra cortisol, which activates the body’s stress responses. When stress, which can be physical, mental, or emotional, continues over a long period of time, the adrenals become unable to keep up with the increased demand, and cortisol levels can drop. Low cortisol levels can cause symptoms such as severe fatigue, moodiness, decreased ability to handle stress, brain fog, difficulty getting out of bed in the mornings, anxiety, and depression. Learn more about adrenal burnout here
The Immune System
The connection between immune health and mental health is not often discussed but is incredibly important when it comes to our overall wellness. When the immune system is under chronic strain, as is the case with autoimmune disorders, Lyme disease, or chronic infections, the body is constantly dealing with systematic inflammation. This immune response also occurs in the brain, which damages nerve cells and disrupts the balance of chemicals in the brain. Additionally, studies show inflammation of the hippocampus (which is critical for learning and memory) caused by an infection or chronic stress can negatively impact the brain systems associated with motivation and mental agility.
Other symptoms of brain inflammation include: headaches, migraines, memory loss, brain fog, nausea, mood disturbances, and more.
The Mind-Body Connection
Because of the intricate connections between bodily systems, Holtorf Medical Group does not just treat individual components, but rather the whole body. Our medical detectives get to the root cause of your symptoms, instead of just masking them.
To begin your journey to optimal health and longevity, contact us today.