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5 Ways to Combat Stress & Promote Sound Mental Health

In June 2019 we shared a wonderful, educational evening with Dr. Scott Buesing of The Refinery Integrated Wellness Services in Palm Desert, California. Dr. Scott joined us at our Artisan Kitchens and Wellness Centre to share his perspective on naturopathic medicine and care in relation to stress and mental health.

Naturopathic medicine blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. As a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Scott is guided by the six core principles that make up the foundation for naturopathic medicine: 1) The Healing Power of Nature, 2) Identify and Treat the Causes, 3) First Do No Harm, 4) Doctor as Teacher, 5) Treat the Whole Person and 6) Prevention.

Naturopathic medicine can help individuals prevent and manage stress in a day and age when stress is more prevalent than ever. Stress is a normal response to situational pressures or demands. Some people may cope with stress better than others but any level of stress comes with a range of physical and mental health issues. Symptoms can range from headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger or irritability. People under long-term or chronic stress are more prone to the flu or common cold. The bottom line is, stress doesn’t do us any favors.

If you’re committed to living a stress-free life, you can start today. Here are the top five recommendations Dr. Scott has for combatting stress and promoting sound mental health.

1. Determine Vitamin/mineral Deficiencies

Vitamins, minerals and other deficiencies are common among people who are depressed and anxious. Magnesium is lost during times of stress, often making magnesium crucial for helping with stress. Blood testing can be helpful to identify more severe deficiencies, but sometimes a trial of certain nutrients can be necessary.

  • Minerals: iron, magnesium and zinc
  • Vitamins: B-vitamins, vitamin-D
  • Omega-3 (also anti-inflammatory)
  • CoQ10: an antioxidant naturally produced by the body
  • Carnitine: recent evidence even supports carnitine as a potential diagnostic marker for depression in the blood

2. Reduce Inflammation

Every type of mental health condition from depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia has been shown to have elevated levels of inflammation. Excess inflammation is also known to worsen the outcomes in people struggling with mental health conditions. Targeting inflammation can help people bring balance and reduce symptoms, along with helping treat and prevent a multitude of other chronic health conditions.

Many anti-inflammatory supplements have evidence for benefitting mental health, including curcumin, green tea and St. John’s Wort.

3. Good Nutrition

Did you know 90% of serotonin is made in the gut? Serotonin is a very important neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, digestion, sleep and more. Following a healthy diet that fosters gastrointestinal health is very important when it comes to reducing stress. A poor diet can profoundly influence mental health. Potential triggers are sugar, processed foods, gluten and dairy.

An anti-inflammatory diet is something Dr. Scott often recommends to his patients. While the diet is often individualized, it typically includes whole foods, lots of vegetables and is low in sugar and simple carbohydrates (avoiding white bread, white flour, fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup and other added sugars).

To learn more about the importance of gastrointestinal health, we recommend watching Warren Peters’ engaging TedTalk on “Microbiome: Gut Bugs and You.”

4. Ensure Your hormones are Balanced

Thyroid dysfunction is a standard rule-out for anyone struggling with fatigue-based depression. In addition, it is not unusual for thyroid problems to get missed due to reliance on screening tests. The thyroid gland sets the pace at which your body functions. If it’s too slow, everything is sluggish and slowed down.

The sex hormones can play a role in affecting a person’s mood as well. In men there are significant correlations between low testosterone and depression. In women, premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder can also negatively affect mood and often have roots in reduced progesterone levels.

Blood sugar balance/insulin is also crucial for optimal hormone levels and often is the first hormone to get dysregulated. Poor blood sugar control lowers testosterone in men and raises testosterone, while lowering progesterone in women. Any time a person is having hormonal issues, keeping blood sugar balanced needs to be a part of treatment.

5. Adaptogens for helping maintain balance

Adaptogens are herbs that help to restore balance in the body and improve stress tolerance. They are known to “adapt” their function depending on the specific needs of the body. The following herbs are commonly recommended to combat stress in naturopathic medicine.

Ashwagandha: This plant has a storied history in Ayurvedic medicine and is known to help with depression and anxiety. It reduces cortisol and has significant anti-inflammatory effects, with new animal studies suggesting benefits may exist for arthritis as well.

Rhodiola: A renowned Taoist brain tonic, Rhodiola is a root extract that has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine. Containing more than 140 active ingredients, human studies may suggest Rhodiola use in chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as for depression and anxiety.

Ginseng: Highly valued as a spiritual and medicinal herb, Ginseng is considered one of the most valuable herbs on earth. It has been proven to effectively regulate the immune response and hormonal changes in the body that stress causes. Animal studies suggest antidepressant effects.

Maca: A plant native to Peru, Maca is a natural energizer and hormone balancer that has been shown to reduce blood pressure and depression in this study.

When working with patients, Dr. Buesing’s passion is to help others discover and understand why they are experiencing their current health challenges. Then, working together, it is possible to help improve and restore a person’s wellbeing. You can contact Dr. Scott here.

At Zebra Organics, we carry a number of the adaptogens mentioned by Dr. Scott:

Ashwagandha: Sun Potion sources their Ashwagandha from small organic farms in Northern India. This is an Organic Cold-Water Extract of the Ashwagandha Root, which is generally believed to be the most potent part of the plant. You can get it here.

Rhodiola: Sun Potion offers the extract in powdered form. Instead of a morning coffee, stir a quarter of a teaspoon of Rhodiola into a large glass of water to start your day. Get it here.

Zebra Organics Premium Grade Maca Root powder is sustainably harvested by artisan farmers in Peru. The nutty powder can be scooped into your morning smoothie or coffee, and incorporated into baking recipes. If you prefer the capsule form, New Chapter offers fermented maca tablets.

Tocos and He Shou Wu are other adaptogens that can also help to effectively combat stress. You can read about them in our blog post Five Adaptogens to Help Relieve Stress.

If you would like to know more about any of our products, or need assistance placing an order please email us or call us at 760-459-5177.

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