Your Overall Health Affects Your Mental Health
In some ways it seems like common sense that our overall health affects our mental health. But when you break it down, it can seem bizarre. How does my blood sugar or my heart health affect my mental health? How does my gut health influence anxiety? How does inflammation impact depression?
A large study published in 2018 added more evidence to the idea that mental health can’t be treated separately from overall health. In this study, published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers looked at 12 studies of over 1.5 million women to see if there was an association between chronic health conditions and peripartum mental health conditions in mothers. Peripartum refers to before or after childbirth. Researchers found that mothers who had chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, migraines and other neurological conditions were more likely to have mental health conditions like anxiety and depression before childbirth or postpartum.
We can’t say that these physical health conditions caused mental health conditions in these women. We just know that they were associated with each other. The researchers concluded that more mental health resources should be available to mothers with chronic physical health conditions.
To me, this study is another piece of evidence telling us to expand our approach to mental health. To fully manage anxiety, we can’t only search for the drug, herb, nutrient or “superfood” that will correct a brain chemical level (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine etc.). We really should be looking at restoring overall health in addition to supporting those brain chemicals to manage anxiety and depression.
This study only looks at perinatal mental health conditions and it doesn’t look at all the possible health conditions that could be associated with anxiety or depression. So, we really shouldn’t assume these findings apply to everyone. But, in my experience, when I work with someone who has depression or anxiety and I work on their overall health, we often get positive results. When we broaden our focus and treat the whole person, it opens up new opportunities for progress.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected]