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Optimizing Brain Health Naturopathic Medicine for a Healthy Nervous System

The symptoms of low mood, impaired memory, difficultly concentrating and brain fog are extremely common and on the rise. Conventional medical treatment is focused on pharmaceutical interventions including antidepressant and stimulant medications, which can cause significant side effects. There are underlying causes of these brain imbalances that can be assessed and treated by naturopathic medicine. These include vitamin B12 and iron deficiency, low thyroid function, adrenal fatigue and low serotonin.

Vitamin B12 and Iron Deficiency
Vitamin B12 and iron are both required to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the brain through our blood vessels. Deficiencies due to low dietary intake or insufficient intestinal absorption of either (or both) are common and under-recognized. Low levels can cause the brain to lack oxygen and not function optimally. B12 and iron can be tested in the blood to check for deficiency. Many people do not adequately absorb B12 through their digestive tract and require B12 injections to raise their levels.

Low Thyroid Function
The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate our body’s metabolism. As optimal brain function requires a high amount of energy, it is dependent on having adequate thyroid hormone present. Low thyroid function is another under-recognized condition that can contribute to mood and cognitive symptoms. Naturopathic physicians can assess the full clinical picture of low thyroid function including signs and symptoms as well as comprehensive thyroid blood testing to determine thyroid production and conversion.

Adrenal Fatigue
The adrenal glands produce the hormones cortisol and DHEA that regulate our stress response. Imbalances in these can contribute to mood and cognitive issues, as well as fatigue and low stress tolerance. Adrenal function can be accurately and conveniently assessed by naturopathic physicians using saliva testing for the adrenal hormones cortisol and DHEA. Determining the exact adrenal rhythm is important as adrenal excess and deficiency can mimic each other clinically and require different treatments. Adrenal fatigue is usually associated with blood sugar imbalances, which have their own significant impact on brain function.

Low Serotonin
Serotonin is the nervous system’s primary neurotransmitter, or brain messenger chemical. Serotonin plays a major role in mood regulation as well as in memory and concentration. There are many factors that can result in serotonin depletion, which is extremely common. Serotonin levels can be increased by supplementing with it’s amino acid precursor 5-hydroxytryptophan (5HTP).

This May, Dr Veeravagu will speak more about this topic at Choices Markets. He will review these underlying causes of low mood and cognitive impairment, explain how to recognize and test for them and outline natural ways to restore optimal brain health. To reserve your spot, visit choicesmarkets.com/events.

Dr. Arjuna Veeravagu is a naturopathic physician, registered acupuncturist and founder of Sage Clinic in Yaletown. More information about Sage Clinic can be found at www.sageclinic.com. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Veeravagu please email info@sageclinic.com or call (604) 697-0397.