Last Updated on December 12, 2023

Whole Person Psychiatry #2

In today’s fast-paced world, many people continue to face challenges with their mental health despite taking multiple psychiatric medications. I hear these statements at work every day. “I feel exhausted, irritable, anxious, depressed, or can’t concentrate.”

While the primary approach to mainstream psychiatry treatment is symptom management, positive outcomes can be short-lived, with uncomfortable side effects. Moreover, some research indicates that almost 60% of individuals with major depression did not respond well to psychotropic therapies.

Could it be there are overlooked factors that may be sabotaging mental wellness? It’s time to try something different—a functional approach — that addresses the root causes of mental health concerns and may help individuals achieve long-lasting mental wellness.


What is Functional Medicine?

The term functional medicine was established by Dr. Jeffery Bland, the founder of the Institute of Functional Medicine. It looks at the causes of disease instead of just treating symptoms. It considers genetics, environmental, and behavioral elements that can affect a person’s health. Additionally, functional medicine seeks to restore balanceand promote general well-being by viewing the body as a whole system.


Whole Person Care and Psychiatry

Functional medicine can be viewed as a revolutionary approach to mainstream psychiatry. It addresses the whole person, including nutritional imbalances, inflammation, environmental toxins, gut health, hormonal function, and lifestyle habits, which may restore balance and optimize brain function.

This approach can lead to sustainable improvements in mental health rather than temporary relief. For example, did you know that more than 80% of serotonin is made in our gut? Our gut produces a natural benzodiazepine that combats anxiety. Digestive issues are no surprise, as most clients I’ve seen in practice with psychiatric issues suffer from digestive problems.

In addition to gut health, toxins such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, found in plastics, may rob the body of zinc. This important mineral plays a vital role in our nervous system, gut health, and the development of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals).

Good nutrition is vital for stable and healthy moods. The International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNR) Position Statement acknowledges that “nutrition has a place in mainstream psychiatry,” which is reassuring.

Dr. Leslie Korn’s book Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health mentions that our body is like a car. Just like a car engine that needs the right fuel to run better, the body’s engine (the brain and the digestive system) requires the right fuel for peak performance. Just like a car that needs a good lube to reduce friction, our brain needs good lube, such as fish oil, to help nerve cells fire and communicate well with each other.

When we consume bad fats, like trans fats found in products such as commercial baked goods and stick margarine, our brains may become slow, tough, and rigid. Although eating a colorful, nutrient-rich, organic whole food diet is very important, our body’s ability to absorb what we eat is foundational to wellness. For example, if we cannot digest our food (fuel), our body and brain will not get the nutrients they need to feed the cells or for neurotransmitter development.


Root Cause Mental Health

Functional psychiatry offers a refreshing and effective approach to mental wellness. Unlike traditional psychiatry, which often relies on a “one-size-fits-all” model, functional psychiatry provides a personalized whole-health approach.

Through advanced lab tests and in-depth evaluations, clinicians will gain a deeper understanding and connect the dots of different factors–biological and environmental—that may be contributing to poor mental health. While functional medicine is a vital tool to improving emotional well- being, addressing childhood/adult traumas and current stressors must be taken into consideration as well.

Another book from Dr. Korn, Rhythms of Recovery Mind Trauma Nature and Body, suggests that traumatic experiences can profoundly affect the body. More specifically, traumatic events can disrupt every system of the body. A functional approach can help support the body by reducing inflammation, calming the nervous system, supporting good digestion, and, most of all, helping the body achieve a state of balance.

The concept of functional medicine in psychiatry, which includes whole-person care and lifestyle adjustments, is both fascinating and groundbreaking. I believe this method offers a glimmer of hope for assisting patients in achieving sustained mental wellness. As functional mental health professionals, we can help people develop healthy lifestyle patterns and empower them to take an active role in their mental health.


Food for Thought

So, I have some questions I want you to think about.

  1. Are you tired of trying multiple psychotropic medications and treatments to improve your emotional well-being but are not working or causing side effects?
  2. Are you seeking a proactive and holistic approach to mental health?
  3. Do you want to work with a practitioner who thinks like a mechanic, looks under the hood and figures out what is going on to fix the problem?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, functional psychiatry may be a good fit for you. Click HERE to schedule a consultation. Please Note:  Individual consultations are available to residents living in Oregon and Arizona currently.


Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate youabout wellness and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. Please do not stop psychiatric medications or any current medications abruptly as this may cause serious physical and emotional reactions. If your goal is to wean off psychiatric medications, please see your healthcare provider for further guidance.