By Dr. Erin Wiley
Your mood, focus and concentration are essential to your success. Does that statement ring true for you? Our team works in downtown Toronto with a vibrant, highly skilled and highly motivated clientele. Our clients really know what it means to compete. They have done their due diligence and have put in their time. They take care of their attitude and value their “self work”. They have made sacrifices for higher education and greater employment opportunities. They have prioritized their needs with intentional mindfulness and they choose how they spend their time and energy with precision. Most noticeable is that they value and invest in their health because they know that their biggest asset is their ability to perform. So what happens when life impacts the one tool you count on every day? If you lost your ability to think critically, to make clear focused decisions, to analyze and draw from your experience, to delegate or perform to your boss’ or clients’ expectations? Stress is what happens, a whole lot of stress!
We are all human; we are not invincible and at some point we are likely to experience suffering and trauma. Losing a skill that you depend on can impact your sense of self, your identity and your security. When facing vulnerability, compassion, understanding, and the proactive advice of a Naturopathic Doctor can make all the difference. Naturopathic doctors are trained to see your health in its totality. To determine what lifestyle factors are having the biggest negative impact on your performance and which factors are contributing to optimal functioning. We assess your health from both a biomedical model, as well as the many connections between mind and body.
If your primary concern is your mood, focus and concentration, the following contributing factors are essential to a Naturopathic evaluation:
- Your Hormone Balance
Your hormones play a major role in your mental health and well-being. Just ask any menopausal woman who has experienced insomnia from hot flashes, or andropausal man who has lost his libido along with his drive and determination. If you feel depressed with every menstrual period, or are irritable and find yourself over-reacting to the slightest provocation, or if you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism but no one seems to address your mental fatigue, poor memory, and lack of motivation, then you need to check in with your hormones. The three most common areas of assessment include your androgens (sex hormones), your thyroid, and your adrenal health.
- Your Neurotransmitters (Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Epinephrine, GABA, Acetylcholine)
Affectionately referred to as your “neuro-talkers”, these tiny molecules are the communication currency of your brain. They are made from amino acids found in protein. Like any tissue in the body, they require nurturing and support. If we are not getting proper nutrition or optimal sleep, and burning through o because of stress or over work, imbalances will develop and our mood will suffer. Neurotransmitter balance can be assessed by a simple questionnaire on the quality of your mental performance and balanced using simple tools such as sleep hygiene, physical exercise, and nutrition.
- The Epigenetic Power of Your Microbiome
Your brain and your digestive health are connected. Depending on your weight, right now your body is home to between 2 and 6 pounds of bacteria. This bacteria is found in every organ and tissue in the body and while it may be invisible to the eye, its effects are very powerful. The bacteria in your body are talking to your genes. Literally telling them how to behave. When it comes to cognitive function, simply summarized, good bacteria benefit your mood, and bad bacteria cause symptoms of brain fog, contribute to attention deficit disorder, and promote anxiety and depression. The good news is that we can promote good bacteria; it is your diet and environmental exposures that determine the bacteria in your body. Food then becomes the ultimate communicator to your genes, and you consume a few pounds of new information each day. Assessing your microbiome is simple; if you are having regular, well formed, well digested, easy to pass stool each day, your microbiome is in tip top shape. If you are experiencing gas, bloating, soft stools or constipation, your microbiome is out of balance and your brain will not be performing at its best, in which case a digestive health makeover could be the brain medicine you need.
- Information Overload
There are a limited number of connections our neurons can make each day. We can increase this capacity though exercise, nutrition and optimal sleep, but ultimately there is an upper limit to the human brain’s capacity for processing information. Insert our modern day technology and you’ve got a recipe for mental instability. The volume of information to which we are exposed on a daily basis, either passively though the media, marketing, and the Internet, or actively with the pressure to keep up at work and stay connected after hours, will take its toll. Just as the marathon athlete cannot run forever and eventually muscles give out to exhaustion, so too will our neurons fatigue and fail to form connections without adequate rest, recovery and nutrition. This chronic overuse can take a toll on our memory, our ability to assimilate and retrieve information, and our ability to pay attention. Learning to value rest, recovery, and relaxation and setting up healthy boundaries by mindfully choosing where we spend our mental energy can make all the difference.
- Your Emotional Health
We are emotional beings and, like it or not, our emotions motivate our actions. Understanding your behaviors and making positive lifestyle changes ultimately come down to understanding emotions, core beliefs and values. Our experiences, all the way back to childhood, shape us. Understanding what motivates us and connecting with emotion can help resolve conflict, calm an internal struggle and ultimately decrease our stress.
Opportunities to create health and healing are everywhere. Your Naturopathic doctor can help you enhance, protect, or recover your mood, focus and concentration. With your greatest asset functioning at its best, you can get on to living the life you imagine.
Dr. Erin Wiley is a naturopathic doctor with a strong focus on preventative and integrative medicine. She is the Owner and Clinic Director of the Integrative Health Institute, an integrative medical clinic located in downtown Toronto. Erin has a strong clinical emphasis on stress related illness, anxiety, depression and hormone balance. As a naturopathic doctor, Erin is passionate about working with people to help them better understand their health and achieve their health goals.