In part one of this series, we took a look at some of the common reasons a teen may be struggling with mental health. Once again, the 3T’s play a vital role in health. Toxins, thoughts, and trauma all play major roles in both mental and physical health. Sometimes those toxins and traumas can be mental or emotional as well as physical. What we do know is that the body and mind are so interconnected, that the gut-brain connection is vital in seeking mental health as well as physical, and that choices made to affect one will affect the other.
Using Pharmacology in Mental Health Isn’t Without Effects
When someone presents with symptoms in a clinical setting, pharmacology starts by trying one drug, and if that doesn’t work, trying another. However, these drugs aren’t without consequence. In fact, many of the drugs used in teen mental health today tend to compound the symptoms.
For a glimpse, check out the list below of common drugs used and a small sampling of their side effects. For a comprehensive list of side effects, follow the links for each prescription drug:
Medication Age (in years) Diagnosis
Clomipramine (Anafranil) 10 and older Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, changes in appetite/weight, flushing, sweating, tiredness and blurred vision may occur. Anxiety symptoms may temporarily worsen when you first start taking clomipramine. Other serious side effects include: black stools, chest pain, fainting, slow/fast/irregular heartbeat, seizures, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, eye pain/swelling/redness, widened pupils, vision changes (such as seeing rainbows around lights at night).
Duloxetine (Cymbalta) 7 and older Generalized anxiety disorder
Dizziness or lightheadedness may occur, especially when you first start or increase your dose of this drug. To reduce the risk of dizziness, lightheadedness, or falling, get up slowly when rising from a sitting or lying position. Other serious effects for which you should seek immediate medical attention include: confusion, easy bruising/bleeding, decreased interest in sex, changes in sexual ability, muscle cramps/weakness, shaking (tremor), difficulty urinating, signs of liver problems (such as nausea that doesn’t go away, stomach/abdominal pain, vomiting, yellowing eyes/skin, dark urine).
Escitalopram (Lexapro) 12 and older Major depressive disorder
Nausea, dry mouth, trouble sleeping, constipation, tiredness, drowsiness, dizziness, and increased sweating may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor promptly. Get medical help right away if you develop some of the following symptoms: fast heartbeat, hallucinations, loss of coordination, severe dizziness, severe nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, twitching muscles, unexplained fever, unusual agitation/restlessness.
Fluoxetine (Prozac) 8 and older Major depressive disorder
Serious side effects include: unusual or severe mental/mood changes (such as agitation, unusual high energy/excitement, thoughts of suicide), easy bruising/bleeding, muscle weakness/spasm, shakiness (tremor), decreased interest in sex, changes in sexual ability, unusual weight loss. Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including: bloody/black/tarry stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, seizures, signs of kidney problems (such as change in the amount of urine), eye pain/swelling/redness, widened pupils, vision changes (such as seeing rainbows around lights at night, blurred vision).
Frequently, just wanting to feel better leads people to quit taking their medications without consulting their doctor for proper weaning guidance. This can cause even further unwanted consequences.
Looking at the 3T’s to Support the Body
First of all, just as everything we do at The Wellness Way, this starts with testing. This one thing alone sets The Wellness Way apart from general pharmacology. We use several cutting-edge tests to paint a clearer picture as to what is happening, especially within that gut-brain connection. Once we have a clearer idea as to what may be causing the mental health challenge, we can go about putting together an individualized protocol for each patient. Toxins, trauma, and thoughts. Your Wellness Way practitioner will look to these tests to see what may be affecting your overall health, what is causing dysfunction within your body, and how to support your body back into a healing, healthy state of homeostasis.
Many According to an article published by the American Psychological Association:
Stress-induced changes to the microbiome may in turn affect the brain and behavior. A few studies suggest that defensive molecules the gut produced during infection, called inflammatory cytokines, disrupt brain neurochemistry and make people more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Bercik believes that process may help explain why more than half of people with chronic GI disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are also plagued by anxiety and depression.
Recognizing that communication between the brain and the gut is bidirectional also points toward new ways of treating both the physical symptoms of intestinal disease and the psychological disorders that are so often present. Keeping anxiety and depression under control, Bercik suggests, may improve inflammation in the gut; and treating inflammation in the gut may improve mood by altering brain biochemistry.
First Stop: What’s Happening in the Gut?
Have you ever had one of those “gut feelings”? Maybe the butterflies in your stomach when you get up to give a speech? Maybe a sinking feeling when you witness something sad or distressing? Or the excited bubbly flutter just before a big adventure? Those nerve endings and neurotransmitters in your gut are signaling to your brain. A recent Hopkins publication supports the need to address the gut when considering mental health:
“The take-home message in everything we study is the arrow goes both ways,” says Glenn J. Treisman, MD, PhD, the Eugene Meyer III Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “The brain affects your gut. The gut affects your brain. The microbiome affects your gut, which affects your brain. The brain affects your gut, which affects your microbiome.”
Disruptions to the gut microbiome, say by infection or a change in diet, can trigger reactions in the body that may affect psychological, behavioral, and neurological health. For example, reactions such as the overproduction of inflammatory cytokines or slowed production of neuroactive metabolites have been implicated in depression.
By first looking to an allergy test, and possibly a stool test, we can better understand inflammation, bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens affecting the gut. By reducing inflammation and helping to balance the gut’s microbiome, we are well on our way to starting a general healing process. When you feel better, you feel better!
Neurotransmitters Supporting the Gut-Brain Connection
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the body, similar to hormones. Some of the most common you may be familiar with include epinephrine, norepinephrine, histamine, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and glutamate. There are several others, and how they function to excite, inhibit, or communicate other needs within the body is unique to each one. By testing neurotransmitters, the type of support the body needs can be determined to support proper function:
Genetics, environment, chemicals and nutritional deficiencies are a few factors that can impact neurotransmitter production. Once out of balance, the nervous system begins to compensate – which, in time, can lead to neurological or psychological symptoms.
Some of the more common psychological conditions today are known to be accompanied by neurotransmitter imbalances. However, it’s also possible for individuals to present with similar symptoms yet have unique foundational imbalances. Testing helps clarify these root issues.
The chemical messengers, hormones, play an intricate role in health as well. During teen years, these hormones are surging to new levels, causing the body to change and grow into adulthood. When hormones are disrupted, health is impacted both physically and mentally. Testing hormones opens the door to clearer understanding as to where other disturbances in function could be happening.
Mental health is also a mental game. Sometimes having a counselor is crucial to the healing process. Consider not just the toxins you may be taking in through food and other chemical sources, but also through social media, print, and video. Protecting your thoughts and mind is crucial to not just mental health, but physical as well.
We Do Health Differently
Focusing on the function of the body allows for health restoration. By testing to find the breakdowns of function and dysregulation brings clarity to the strategy needed. Looking to the gut gives a focused approach. Take a look at the list of side effects of those commonly used drugs again. How many of those are negative effects taking place in the gut? Knowing what you know now, consider doing health differently and focus on helping the body come back into homeostasis for long-term health restoration.