Mental health and the critical role it plays in overall wellness is becoming more of a concern every day. The past 18 months in particular have cast an important spotlight on mental health, as many have faced challenges like depression and anxiety throughout the pandemic.
Mental Health Statistics
According to Pew Research, about one fifth (21 percent) of U.S. adults have experienced high levels of psychological distress related to the pandemic, with three-in-ten saying it has changed their lives in “a major way.”¹ Social isolation and lack of routine has hit young people particularly hard. A report published by the CDC showed that since the pandemic began, mental health-related visits to hospital emergency rooms rose 24 percent for children ages 5-11, and 31 percent for children ages 12-17 compared with data from 2019.²
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming the lives of nearly 50,000 people per year.³
These statistics are heartbreaking and sobering. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we approach mental health seriously and with great care.
Inflammation and Mental Health
We need to begin approaching mental health like a physical illness and recognizing the significant connection between psychological health and physical health. Mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, excessive fear, and moodiness are directly connected to the body’s other systems.
Systemic inflammation can have a profound impact on mental wellbeing, which is why it is so crucial to address the body as an interconnected unit, like a Swiss watch, rather than single out one particular symptom or another. Markers of increased inflammation, particularly brain inflammation, are common among those who experience mental health conditions.⁴
Contrary to how many individuals feel, mental health concerns are not just “all in your head.” There are many contributing physical factors that can be addressed to help bring mental wellness back into balance. Let’s take a look at a few.
Low Gut Bacteria
Hippocrates is known for originating the concept that “all disease begins in the gut.” This is not an overstatement! Mental health concerns are almost always connected in some capacity to gut health. The connection between the brain and gut is extremely strong.
We all have flora and bacteria in our intestines that aid in digestion and absorption. This flora and bacteria can get out of balance from foods we eat or medicines we take. Because of the intricate connection with the central nervous system, when there is a problem in the gut, the whole body is affected including the brain.⁵
Leaky gut syndrome, or intestinal permeability, has been closely linked to depression. One study found that approximately 35 percent of depressed participants tested positive for leaky gut syndrome based on blood tests.⁶
What we ingest (or don’t ingest) can impact our brains significantly. First and foremost, we must make sure the gut is properly absorbing nutrients by addressing issues like leaky gut, bad bacterial overgrowth, low good bacteria, and dysbiosis. From there, eating a healing and nutrient-dense diet is critical for supporting gut health.
Calming inflammation in the gut will impact all other systems in the body. Many people don’t realize just how much they experience brain fog, difficulty concentrating, or brain hyperactivity until they remove certain foods from their diet and see those issues resolve.
This is why we prioritize gut testing at The Wellness Way. Testing gut health as well as food allergies gives us important information as to why other systems may be having problems.
Heavy Metal Toxicities
Metals are neurotoxins, which means they cause damage to the brain when present in the body, a condition known as heavy metal toxicity.⁷ Some people handle metal exposure with little to no side effects, but others have more difficulty detoxifying these metals from their system, experiencing chronic health issues as a result.
When these substances enter the body, they are taken and stored inside of fat cells to protect the body from the toxin. Fat cells are present everywhere in the body, including in the brain. While the blood-brain barrier is designed to protect the body from these metals leaching into the brain, there are instances when the barrier can break down, allowing toxic metals to enter and wreak havoc. One manifestation of heavy metal toxicity is depression.
Exposure to heavy metals comes in many forms, everything from deodorant to make-up, dental fillings, vaccines, contaminated food, and more. Take a look at this article to learn a few ways you can avoid everyday encounters with toxic metals.
Everyday Physical Traumas
Physical trauma comes in a variety of forms and is not always caused by a major accident. Believe it or not, you can cause your body trauma with small daily actions like poor posture, crossing your legs, sleeping in an unsupportive bed, carrying a purse or baby, sitting on your wallet, or working at your computer. Traumas can also occur from more recognizable events like car accidents, taking a fall, or getting a sports injury. Big or small, traumas are a source of inflammation that puts added stress on the body.
Subluxations are defined as slight misalignments of the spinal vertebrae. Spinal subluxation impacts the function of spinal nerve roots, which can cause issues in the organs served by those roots. Because of the brain’s integral connection to the nervous system, misalignments can affect your mood and emotions. Getting regular chiropractic adjustments will help support the nervous system, cognitive function, and overall mental health.
Hormones are your body’s messenger system. They are chemical messengers that carry signals to other parts of the body, telling tissues and organs how to function or adapt for life and homeostasis. Endocrine disruptors affect that messenger system by mimicking hormones or interfering with the messages.
Exposure to disruptors is more common than you would think. Sources of exposure include cleaning products, pesticides in produce, plastics, personal care products, drinking water, and more. Endocrine system disruption impacts many organs in the body, including the brain. Neurobehavioral disorders such as dyslexia, autism, and ADHD have all been linked to endocrine disruptors.⁸
Hormones that are out of balance have a direct impact on mood, happiness, and a person’s outlook on life. How do you know if you are experiencing hormone disruption? Get your hormone levels tested! You don’t know what you don’t know. When you are equipped with the knowledge of what is truly going on in your body, you can begin taking effective steps toward restoring your health based on what your tests reveal.
Mental Health Can Be Restored!
Though it can often feel very lonely and isolating to experience mental health struggles, there is hope! At The Wellness Way, we are here for you and you are not alone.
We understand that the body is a highly intelligent and interconnected unit. One piece of the puzzle impacts all of the others. If you are experiencing mental health challenges, we can partner with you to discover what is really going on and help guide your body back to a place of balance. We encourage you to find a Wellness Way clinic near you to begin your journey.
You are worth it.