Food Therapy: Healing Anxiety, Depression and Chronic Health Challenges

November 19, 2011 3:05 am

We need proper nutrition to elevate the energy of our bodies and heal deeply.

Some of us carry our responses to stress, pain and trauma in our bodies in the form of:

  • Chronic immunity mediated illnesses (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, alopecia, vitiligo, asthma, cancer).
  • Excessive weight that is resistant to diminishing despite reducing calories and increasing exercise.
  • Chronic aches and pains or tendencies to injure joints or muscles.
  • Hormonal and endocrine imbalances that exacerbate depression, bipolar disorders, eating disorders and other mood challenges.
Balancing Neurotransmitters

Over time, the vibration of stressful or painful experiences, can create a biochemical shift that can impact our levels of serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine, and dopamine, essential neurotransmitters that are critical not only to emotional health but to critical physical processes such as the contraction of heart muscle, muscle tone, and brain function (especially memory and perception of pain or pleasure).

Yet, when we nourish the body with foods that strengthen the balance of neurotransmitters, we find that we are able to process pain and challenges in a way that serves our growth and healing.

Foods that balance neurotransmitters include:

  • Acidopholus rich foods such as miso and unsweetened yogurt (since 90% of serotonin resides in the gut, acidopholus helps to support a healthy intestinal tract to create the environment to nourish serotonin–wheat and other gluten may inhibit serotonin which is why I often recommend low gluten diets for anyone with depression).
  • Swiss cheese, small amounts of dates and bananas (these are serotonin boosters; eat the fruits in moderate amounts as they are high in fructose which can elevate glucose levels).
  • Almonds, brown rice, green leafy vegetables, walnuts (GABA , dopamine and norepinephrine boosters).
  • Flax seed oil, walnuts (S-adenoyslmethionine- SAM-e: anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant).

In addition to these foods, you may wish to check with your practitioner to create a modular approach to adding supplements to your dietary regimen, such as SAM-e and 5 HTP.

It is very important to enlist the help of professionals who have experience using nutrition to heal the body, to guide you. Too many people try to self-medicate with supplements and wind up damaging their health more than helping.

Herbs as Food Therapy

What about herbs for depression?

As an herbalist, I emphasize the idea of balanced formulations versus using herbs in isolation.

People often indiscriminately use St. John’s Wort which can cause photosensitivity in fair skinned people and worsen ADD, and kava kava, which can produce serious gastrointestinal side effects and is hard on the liver, to address depression, insomnia and anxiety.

Again, it takes a skilled herbalist to correctly select herbs that will be most effective for not only addressing symptoms but also healing root causes that are creating depression, fatigue or anxiety.

Thus, I often create custom formulations for clients, although pre-made herbs can be effective when the correct formulations are chosen for the client (which often involves using a combination of several pre-made herbs).

The Chinese herbs are less likely to create side effects and are gentle on the liver and spleen (as in our system we often link depression to the liver and anxiety to the spleen, so our herbal formulations will include herbs that support not stress these organs).

I will also suggest to clients that they have blood work ordered by their medical doctors so that when I customize bulk herbal formulations or suggest certain amino acid supplements, it is highly customized to what is going on internally, versus a one size fits all solution that doesn’t take into account nuances that may be occurring at the biochemical level.

A common base of herbs that I may use for healing depression and chronic health issues, might include:

  • angelica sinensis (builds blood and relieves pain)
  • albizza (clinically shown to be as effective as some of the pharmaceutical solutions for depression, especially when combined with other herbs that balance the liver and spleen),
  • mimosa tree bark (calms anxiety)
  • schizandra berry (nourishes the blood and yin to provide a foundation for emotional resolution),
  • sour jujube seed (calms anxiety and nourishes the yin, builds blood)
  • astragalus (supports the spleen to reduce anxiety
  • white peony root (detoxifies the liver to help deal with stress),
  • bupleurum (detoxifies the liver)
  • radix scrophulariae ningpoensis (clears heat, emotional struggle).

From this base, I will then modify (by changing the base slightly and/or adding additional herbs) to target root causes that may be contributing to the health challenges.

Thus, clients are able to heal optimally in a consolidated and focused way.

Diets to Help Excessive Weight in a Healthy Way

When we nourish ourselves with proper nutrients from foods, we tend to be more able to let go of excessive weight that may be a form of holding emotional energies and physical patterns which have become stagnant.

This idea of letting go of emotional energy through weight loss is especially important for people who have anxiety with a root in trauma, experienced early in the life.

If you have had difficulty with losing weight despite reducing calories and exercising more, it could be that you might need help to select the correct foods to nourish your endocrine and neurochemistry, along with addressing the emotional factors, to empower your body to let go of the weight.

Sometimes people go on these extreme diets emphasizing no carbs, and replacing solid foods with synthetic nutrients from shakes and supplements.

This no-carb approach is not only hard on the kidneys because it induces ketosis (a state where the body starts to break down healthy tissue not just fat–and often the healthy tissue that suffers is kidney tissue) but also creates a rebound effect; ?the moment people start to eat normally, they gain back the weight.

Interestingly, since kidneys, in the Chinese medicine system can hold fears, by weakening the kidneys through no-carb diets, fears may strengthen which can exacerbate anxiety. Thus, a person might achieve the svelte figure they desire but find the emotional self very off balance with depression, fears, and mistrust increased.

A more balanced approach to weight loss is the modified slow carb diet that I have created for Aiki Healing clients, augmented with a customized regimen of detoxifying Chinese herbs and amino acids.

Clients not only lose weight with the Aiki Healing integrative approach to nutrition but balance underlying roots that have led them to put on the extra weight. Thus, they are empowered to keep the weight off.

Interested in our professional medical qi gong certification program? Contact us today at  512-468-6588

Kay Hutchinson, CAMQ, CAMT

Kay is the founder of Aiki Healing, a practice of medical qi gong dedicated to increasing the energy and well being of clients across the body, mind and spiritual levels. Email or call her today for a personalized consultation or bliss bodywork session. 512-468-6588