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A Nutrient Approach To Treating Anxiety and Mood Disorders

Dr. Tasreen Alibhai, N.D. Dr. Tasreen Alibhai, ND
Author

Anxiety and mood disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and OCD have traditionally been treated with neurotransmitter modulating prescription medications including antidepressants and antipsychotic medications. Approximately 10.4% of Canadians have a diagnosed mood disorder. (www.mdsc.ca).

Recently there has been new research in the field of mitochondrial health and mood disorders.

Mitochondria are found in every cell in our body. This is where our energy and body heat is made in the form of ATP. It’s the so-called “furnace” of our cells. Every metabolic process in our body and the functioning of all of our organs depends on energy produced in our mitochondria. This is where free radicals are also made. There is a delicate balance within our mitochondria of necessary energy production and free radical production. Disruptions in this balance can lead to problems with energy production, early cellular death (aging) and free radical damage to our cells.

Mitochondrial DNA is very susceptible to damage from toxins. Stress, taking prescription medications, poor diet, smoking and drinking alcohol can all cause damage to our mitochondria, leading to an overall decline in energy and the health of our cells over time.

The first published articles (2010 and 2012) gave some insight into the possible role of Mitochondrial function in psychiatry. Their conclusion was “Mitochondrial dysfunction may be associated with neuropsychiatric abnormalities such as dementia, major depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, anxiety disorders and personality changes” (1,2)

Anxiety and Mood Disorders


Since then, there have been a number of studies and literature reviews that do find a relationship between how well your mitochondria function and mood disorders. This is an area of research physicians, should pay attention to when treating mood disorders.

Some of the signs and symptoms that may indicate a mitochondrial problem include:

If you experience some of these symptoms and suffer from a mood disorder, consider your mitochondrial health. A simple Organic Acid Urine test can tell you a lot of information about how well your mitochondria is working.

To start improving your mitochondria function, reduce stress in your life. Reduce toxin exposure such as quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption. Increase micronutrients in your diet by eating organic, GMO free foods high in leafy green vegetables and bright colored fruits and vegetables. Reduce processed foods and sugar in your diet. Lastly exercise can dramatically improve your mitochondria function.

In addition to the above diet and lifestyle recommendations, there are supplements that work well to protect your precious mitochondrial DNA and increase the efficiency of your cells in producing energy. Some key mitochondrial nutrients include Magnesium (glycinate, malate or succinate), CoQ10, B vitamins, Acetly-L-Carnitine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Glutathione and NAC. Only take these supplements under the guidance of a Naturopathic or Medical Physician as these are high-potency nutrients that may have a big impact on a mood disorder such as anxiety (ie things could get worse if they are not administered properly). Modulating your mitochondria with supplements should always be under the supervision of a doctor, especially if you are taking medications.

Naturopathic Doctors take a whole body perspective when treating mood disorders. Mitochondrial function is the foundation of energy production that affects how every cell in the body works, including our brain neurotransmitters. Although a lot more research is needed, there is enough evidence to support at least the use of basic diet, nutrient and lifestyle suggestions to improve mitochondrial function when treating mood disorders.

1. Scaglia, Fernando. Developmental Disabilities Research Review. Vol 16(2), p 136-143. June 2010

2. Aglin et al. The Psychiatric Manifestations of Mitochondrial Disorder. J Clin Psychiatry, 2012, Apr.73(4) p 506-512.

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