Mental health issues are on the rise in our country with no signs of slowing down. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows an increase from 6.8% of Americans being prescribed antidepressants in 1999 to 13% in 2012. Although the antidepressant prescriptions have gone up, suicide rates have also gone up during this time according to the CDC. It is truly a public health crisis and we desparatly need a paradigm shift. All of the systems in our body are interconnected and we can no longer look at the brain in isolation.
Although medications have a time and place, it is so important for us to look at root causes of depression and anxiety BEFORE perscriptions and handed out willy nilly!
The first and most important thing to start your healing journey is to empower yourself. Below I will list specific labs to get tested and optimal values so you can rule out any root causes that may be affecting your mental health. If the root cause is never resolved, you will never find true healing.
1. Thyroid Health
Thyroid issues can wreck havoc on your mental health. If you are having issues with gaining weight, loosing weight, depression, brain fog, anxiety, or insomnia, this is definitely one you want to get checked:
• TSH – optimal value is less than 2.5
• Free T3 – optimal value higher than 3.0
• Free T4 – optimal value higher than 1.1
• Thyroid Antibodies – less than 4 IU/ml
If you are already on thyroid medicine and still feeling crappy, Talk to your doctor about switching to a T3 + T4 therapy such as naturethroid, WP thyroid, or armour thyroid. Most folks feel better on the combination therapies since they include the active hormone T3 (unlike Synthroid or levothyroxine). For more info on combo therapies, check out Dr. Child’s video on finding the right medication for YOU!
Cytokines in the blood, or inflammatory messengers, such as CRP, IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-alpha show a strong correlation to depressive episodes.
“When activation of the peripheral immune system continues unabated, such as during systemic infections, cancer or autoimmune diseases, the ensuing immune signaling to the brain can lead to an exacerbation of sickness and the development of symptoms of depression in vulnerable individuals,” Dantzer et al. Learn more about this Study!
One of the best markers for inflammation is CRP (C-Reactive Protein) which can be seen in a simple blood test.
• CRP – optimal value is less than 2
3. Sex Hormones
The mood impacts of sex hormones are usually first felt during puberty, but continue during all phases of life. For men and women, testosterone starts to go down in our early 30s which can affect everything from energy, sleep, and mood. Then comes perimenopause and menopause when estrogen decline also comes into the picture putting you more at risk for mental health issues.
If you are suffering from depression, make sure to get testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone checked to make sure you are at optimal levels. I recommend going to a functional medicine practitioner that provides Biote bioidentical hormones. You can find providers in your area here.
Vitamin D, B12, Omega 3s, folate, and iron, have all been shown to be crucial in neurotransmitter production. This case study shows a women with catatonia (the worst form of depression). She was inpatient for many years without relief until someone decided to check her B12 levels, which were crazy low. She received B-12 treatment and had a complete resolution of her symptoms! Woah!
Vitamin D – optimal values 50 – 80ng/ml
Vitamin B12 – Optimal values is above 600pg/ml
CBC blood test to rule out iron deficient anemia.
5. Blood Sugar
Being on a blood sugar roller coaster can causes anything from brain fog to anxiety attacks! The best test for blood sugar is your A1C, which will measures your blood control over three months.
A1C optimal values – 4.8 – 5.2%
6. Gut Health
Nerve cells in your gut, gut hormones, and the microbiome can all influence your mental health. Your enteric nervous system is a network of 100,000 nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal track and has a direct connection to your brain! We also now know that most of our serotonin is made by beneficial bacteria in our guts. If your gut isn’t functioning optimally, neither will your brain.
I recommend working with an RD or MD trained in functional medicine to run testing on your gut health – GI Map and MRT testing I use in my practice with amazing results.
Empower yourself! Nowadays you don’t need an MD to order labs. Many companies now provide direct ordering such as Ulta labs, Quest Direct, Wellnessfx. They will send you a requisition form to bring to your neighborhood Quest and you usually get results back in a few days! Ulta labs is my go to since they are the most affordable.
If you have any questions or ready to get started getting to the root cause of your mental health issues, please contact me! I’m always here for you guys.