Naturopathy and Mental Health

By Sarah Axford, Psychologist

Mental health issues affect 1 in 5 Australians at any given time, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing. The first port of call for people experiencing mental health issues is usually a psychologist, or other mental health care professional. Psychologists are available at a subsidised rate to all Australians with a Medicare card, under the Better Access initiative.

Did you know, though, that dysregulation in the digestive tract can also affect mental health?  Researchers continue to uncover evidence that the balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria harboured in our gut affects many aspects of our health outside of digestion. Poor gut health can cause a variety of health problems such as inflammation, skin conditions and most surprisingly, anxiety and depression.

Naturopaths are specialists in detecting imbalances in our body systems that may be causing subtle (and not-so-subtle) health problems. Naturopaths use traditional methods of gathering evidence in practice, such as thorough history-taking and assessing signs and symptoms, alongside cutting-edge functional testing to give clear answers. These assessments often uncover dis-ease long before it becomes a diagnosable pathology.

Naturopathic treatment can be a powerful accompaniment to psychology in the prevention and treatment of mental health difficulties. Mental health dis-ease implies an imbalance in the system. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can be the manifestation of the body’s natural harmony being disrupted. Internal tension and low mood can be a direct consequence of lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise. A naturopath is skilled at working collaboratively with you to find ways to incorporate healthier choices into your life.

In their treatment of mental health challenges, Naturopaths may use herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, dietary and lifestyle advice, massage therapy or other therapies. Addressing the physical body through Naturopathic treatment can offer real change for clients with mental health issues, and when combining this treatment with Psychology sessions, clients may begin to notice significant change in a short period of time.