Mental Health: A Naturopathic Approach

By Dr. Emily Dickerson, ND

Is your depression, anxiety, or insomnia following you through the summer months? Did you think these symptoms would leave with the Boise inversion, but they are still hanging around throughout the most sunny time of year? If so, your mental health may be affected by more than just the weather. If your healthcare provider has recommended medication but you prefer a natural approach, or you have tried medication in the past and it has not worked for you, you are in the right place. It may be time to see exactly what your brain chemistry is doing by performing a neurotransmitter test. Let me help you by developing an individualized treatment protocol to address your mental health needs. I implement a natural approach to balancing brain chemistry and treating mental health, and I have been loving the results that I have been getting.

Foundational Health:

Many of my patients have heard me say, “We must not push the biochemistry until a healthy foundation is set”. What I mean by this is that we must make sure that a foundation for a healthy body has been established prior to us adding any additional treatment. By establishing a healthy foundation, we address many of the root causes for illness and any additional treatment that is recommended works better. Foundational health includes nutrition, sleep, exercise, hydration, and stress management, to name a few. Diet and lifestyle factors can greatly affect our mental health. A nutrient deficiency, for example such as low Vitamin D or low iron, may be highly contributory to symptoms of depression or anxiety. A diet low in protein can impair our ability to create sufficient neurotransmitters (read brain chemistry) and can contribute to unhealthy swings in blood sugar, causing a multitude of symptoms. Insufficient sleep alone can cause depression. Root causes of your mental health symptoms, such as those above, should be ruled out early on in order to get you appropriate treatment.

Neurotransmitter Testing:

Neurotransmitter testing is often recommended during the first office visit with patients that are seen for mental health concerns. The neurotransmitter panel uses urine to measure brain chemistry, such as serotonin and dopamine, and can be performed in the privacy of your own home. Results of the neurotransmitter test guide the individualized treatment plans that I recommend for my patients. View a sample report here.  I value this test because not only is it accurate, but it also helps my patients to understand why they feel the way they do. This knowledge is empowering to patients and helps them to sustain the motivation they need to start feeling better.

Targeted Amino Acid Therapy:

Neurotransmitters are derived from amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. The naturopathic approach to treating imbalances in the brain chemistry involves using targeted amino acids, such as L-Theanine, 5-HTP, and GABA, to increase low neurotransmitters and mitigate elevated neurotransmitters. Bringing neurotransmitters into balance is the end goal, and patient improvements have been substantial.

How Long Does it Take?

A common question that I hear is “When will I start feeling better?”. This depends on the individual and the status of that person’s brain chemistry imbalance. Some people start to feel the effect of targeted amino acid therapy in a few days, while others take weeks to start feeling the benefit, similar to mental health medications. My goal is to help people to feel well, and to have them on the least amount of supplements with the highest benefit.

Dr. Dickerson is accepting new patients and has a passion for helping with mental health concerns. To talk with Dr. Dickerson to see if this approach would benefit you, or to schedule an appointment, please call Boise Natural Health at (208)338-0405.