Functional Medicine and Mental Health

Dr Meeta Tanna

BM, DRCOG, DFFP, MRCGP, AFMCP

October 14, 2021

Functional Medicine optimally addresses the needs of the patient with depression and anxiety. Conventional medicine relies on symptom classification towards a diagnosis rather than the Functional approach which does not. A diagnostic classification approach in conventional medicine makes no sense at all because we know that different networks in the brain, nervous system and the entire body all share and are affected by different disorders.  Not one size fits all, depression and anxiety are multifactorial. This also means there is no magic bullet drug approach. Therefore, you must look deeper, and here in Functional Medicine, that’s what we do best, root cause medicine.

 

Causes of depression and anxiety have expanded and are much more complex than they were 50-70 years ago. Your anxiety disorder or depression is not the same as your mother’s or grandmother’s. There is greater disruption of social fabric; many more young children are being raised in single parent families. There is increased chronic disease. There is poor nutrition, nutrient depletion of our soils, higher rates of diabetes for example in young people not seen 50 years ago. There is more electromagnetic pollution which may affect some to a significant degree. There are more hormonal abnormalities due to diet and chemicals in the environment. There is increased inflammation due to the air we breathe, mould, our diets, infections, our environment etc.

 

Chronic disease that shares the symptoms of depression and anxiety include Alzheimer’s, coronary heart disease, asthma, HIV, cancer, diabetes, allergy, autoimmune diseases, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, hormonal disorders, traumatic brain injury, to name but a few. There may not be a one-to-one correlation, but there is significant overlap. For example, as an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease, research shows that depression is a greater risk factor than smoking. Research also shows that individuals with mood disorders are 30%-50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later on in life.

 

How effective is Functional Medicine for depression and anxiety? Because Functional Medicine takes a multi-pronged approach treating the whole person, we go beyond just treating the mood disorder. We tend to help ease the chronic diseases along the way.

 

As a Functional Medicine practitioner, I choose to be a medical detective; find the causes, treat the causes. This will involve gathering information about your life from even before were born. Your depression and anxiety journey did not start when your symptoms started, it will have started way before then. I need to carefully listen to your story looking for clues about your genetics, and factors that will have predisposed you to an illness pattern. I want to know about triggers that will have provoked your symptoms. I also want to know about biochemical, psychological factors that continue to contribute to your symptoms.

Perhaps you have a family history of depression and anxiety, or your mother was exposed to toxins before your birth, perhaps there are subtle changes in your genetics that make you more susceptible. We know that early life stresses change the way our genes function. Perhaps you suffered a head injury many years before, even a mild head injury can be a cause for concern. Perhaps you suffered an infection which required antibiotic treatment, both of which can be a trigger. Perhaps you have suffered trauma in your life physical, mental, emotional. Perhaps you have been exposed to environmental toxins, substance abuse, pesticides, heavy metals. Even our standard British diet will help contribute towards anxiety and depression. You’d be surprised.

In Functional Medicine we are changing the way we do medicine, and the medicine we do.