Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight. People with anorexia place a high value on controlling their weight and shape, using extreme efforts that tend to significantly interfere with activities in their lives. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia usually severely restrict the amount of food they eat. They may control calorie intake by vomiting after eating or by misusing laxatives, diet aids, diuretics or enemas. They may also try to lose weight by exercising excessively. Physical effects of anorexia include:
- Severe mood swings; depression
- Lack of energy and weakness
- Slowed thinking; poor memory
- Dry, yellowish skin and brittle nails
- Constipation and bloating
- Tooth decay and gum damage
- Dizziness, fainting, and headaches
- Growth of fine hair all over the body and face
Furthermore, anorexia can affect the health and function of many organ system potentially causing problems such as severe nutrient deficiencies,, anemia, low blood pressure, palpitations, heart failure, kidney stones, kidney failure, amenorrhea and infertility, poor immune function, and electrolyte and blood sugar imbalance. Research suggests that a genetic predisposition to anorexia may run in families. If a girl has a sibling with anorexia, she is 10 to 20 times more likely than the general population to develop anorexia herself. Brain chemistry also plays a significant role. People with anorexia tend to have high levels of cortisol, the brain hormone most related to stress, and decreased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are associated with feelings of well-being. In addition, protein, vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as thiamine and zinc linked to anorexia affect appetite, mood balance, and ability to handle stress.
Helping to improve appetite, reduce stress and regulate brain chemicals by restoring nutrient and protein status with a healthy, whole-foods diet and nutritional supplementation is an important part of treating anorexia. Anorexia is not a one step process, but with the help of acupuncture and naturopathic medicine along with a qualified therapist and/or spiritual counselor, patients will be allowed a safe space to process their emotions, identify the emotional root of their eating disorder, and improve their self-esteem and self-worth. In addition, acupuncture, dietary and lifestyle counseling, herbal and nutrient supplementation, meditation and stress reduction techniques are beneficial in treating symptoms of anorexia because it can help calm the nervous system, regulate digestive problems and prevent detrimental health problems associated with anorexia.
Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is characterized by signs of inattention, impulsiveness, distractibility, and poor concentration. ADHD has been reported to be from three to five percent of school-age children with a higher incidence in boys than girls. The most common medical treatment for ADHD is the drug methylphenidate or Ritalin. Over two million American school-aged boys are taking Ritalin. A non-drug approach to treating ADHD that has shown to improve concentration and focus is to eliminate food additives, food allergies, and sugar, support brain function with proper vitamins and minerals, and to address exposure to heavy metals that may interfere with brain development.
Autism is a developmental disorder of the brain that involves social, behavioral, and cognitive impairment. Signs and symptoms include communication problems, such as a lack of eye contact or response when called; fixation on specific subjects or toys; difficulty with changes to routine or surroundings; and repetitive body movements, such as head banging or hand flapping.
Children with autism have shown great improvement when placed on a hypoallergenic diet, treated for heavy metal toxicity that may impair brain development, and given the appropriate vitamins and minerals to support proper brain function.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder is an image disorder characterized by constant fixation of an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance. People with body dysmorphic disorder often times will feel disgust or dislike towards any part of their body, although they often find fault with their hair, skin, nose, chest, legs, or stomach. In reality, a perceived defect may be only a slight imperfection or nonexistent. However, someone with BDD sees the flaw to be significant and prominent, often causing severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning. The causes of BDD are unclear, but certain biological and environmental factors may contribute to its development, including genetic predisposition, neurobiological factors such as malfunctioning of serotonin in the brain, personality traits, and life experiences. Clinical lab testing might also be done to assess levels of cortisol, serotonin, GABA and dopamine that could identify hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances.
Treating BDD begins by helping patients discover the root cause of their fixation followed by lifestyle and dietary counseling, nutritional and herbal supplementation, craniosacral therapy, emotional and spiritual counseling, meditation and stress reduction exercises and acupuncture treatments to help balance hormones and brain chemicals, calm the nervous system and alleviate anxiety associated with the altered body image.
With over 17 million Americans suffering from clinical depression and 28 million on antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, depression is an extremely prevalent problem in the US. Signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Insomnia or excessive sleep habits
- Poor appetite accompanied by weight loss or increased appetite accompanied by weight gain
- Loss of energy
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or decrease in sexual drive
- Physical hyperactivity or inactivity
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or inappropriate guilt
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of depression, please consult with a qualified naturopathic doctor to identify possible contributing factors to your depression such as, nutrient deficiencies, nicotine, alcohol, and other illicit drug use, stress, premenstrual syndrome, low adrenal function, sleep disturbances, side effects of certain prescription drugs, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, food allergies, heavy metals, low serotonin levels, and numerous preexisting conditions – cancer, chronic pain, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis.
Naturopathic treatment for depression includes vitamin and mineral supplementation, diet and lifestyle counseling and botanical medicine to provide the essential nutrients necessary for healthy nervous system function, optimal and balanced neurotransmitter production, and mood enhancement. Acupuncture is also recommended to improve depression by affecting the synthesis of neurotransmitters that balance mood.