MOre about brain health
Anxiety / Depression
Mental health is intrinsically linked to physical health & our overall sense of wellbeing, and is very much worth the time and effort to begin healing. Treating the whole person and the whole body involves addressing the mental health concerns we all carry around with us.
Mental health, encompasses a wide range of suffering, from DSM diagnoses of Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Schizophrenia, and many more, to the burden of daily stress, disordered eating, hits to self-esteem and anything that stands in the way of self-love and self-acceptance.
Our mental health informs the way we see the world, and even more impactful, it influences the way we see ourselves. Owning our individual concerns around mental health is a step against the stigma and perceived shame that tells us we should live with our pain in silence. I endeavour to be a resource for those who want to take control over their mental health and working towards a happy, healthy future with individualized treatment for their unique needs.
What Can Naturopathic Medicine Do For Me?
Identify the root causes behind your depression/anxiety, etc: From food sensitivities or thyroid dysfunction to traumatic events or genetic links, a naturopathic intake can seek to elucidate your combination of root causes.
Develop a treatment plan that speaks to these root causes, possibly including supplementation, botanical therapies, lifestyle counselling, dietary changes, and further testing if required.
Become a safe space for you to talk about your mental health and the way it impacts your life.
Support you in addressing your mental health concerns and encourage you to take that time and space for yourself in a world that doesn't always find that acceptable.
Discuss ways to give you more control & empowerment over your mental health and provide education around the treatment options you may be offered.
I Haven’t Been Diagnosed With Anxiety or Depression, But I Feel Like Things Could Be Better. Is That Worth Making an Appointment?
Yes it absolutely is. We might have an idea in our head of what anxiety looks like (panic attacks) or depression (not getting out of bed), but the reality is that many people suffer without showing the same symptoms.
“High functioning” anxiety may look like this: You have a great job, great friends, great parents and overall a good life. You were an A to A+ student and put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform well at whatever you do. You walk around with a deep internalized pressure that tells you you aren’t good enough and this pushes you to achieve. Your focuses on achievement and performance has always been stressful, but recently you have been losing sleep sometimes, feeling overwhelmed during the day and finding it hard to relax. Your emotions seem very up and down lately; one minute you feel like bursting into tears and another minute you’re angry at your friend or partner.
“High functioning” depression (most similar to the clinical diagnosis dysthymia) could look something like this. The last few years have been stressful and you are increasingly finding yourself engaging in numbing behaviours, such as eating sugary treats when stressed or zoning out in front of Netflix for hours at a time. You have taken a step back from seeing friends and family despite feeling lonely on your own. You feel tired often and are having a hard time concentrating on the tasks you begin.
For those that suffer from “higher functioning” forms of anxiety and depression, it can be possible for them to hide their state from those around them and continue heading to work every morning, live within their romantic relationship and post happy, cheery photos on Instagram.
That said, “high functioning” does not mean happy and healthy. Naturopathic medicine can support you; our goal being a life where you mentally feel clear, peaceful and balanced. Even if you are going through a transition period of stress that pushes you into an anxious or depressed state, naturopathic medicine is the foundation to support your body and mind through this stress.
Can Naturopathic Medicine Do Anything For Me If I am On Prescribed Medication?
Yes. A big resounding yes. Naturopathic medicine is not exclusive to traditional medical care. In fact, the two work very well together. If you are on medication, whether it is working very well or not so well, naturopathic medicine can give you a foundation for a healthy mental state, teach you about your health and how to live to support your mental well being, enhance the efficacy of some medication, support nutrient deficiencies associated with certain medications, and much more. Naturopathic medicine can work on the root cause underlying your condition while you are on medication.
Please note: If you are having thoughts of suicide or believe you are at risk of attempting suicide, please let your doctor know. You are not alone.
Toronto Distress Line: 416-408-4357
Dementia, Cognitive Decline & Neurodegenerative Brain Conditions
Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, some forms of dementia and other neurodegenerative disease are largely considered to be incurable and progressively debilitating once diagnosis has been made. Neurodenegeration refers to the loss of structure and function, and often death, of neurons within specific areas of the brain. The neurodegenerative process can be very scary, isolating and lonely for patients, and depression and anxiety are common comorbidities.
Research has begun to link changes with immune function and possible underlying autoimmune processes and chronic inflammation with structural changes within the brain. How a person experiences emotion, variations in gut function, cellular nutrition and genetics differences have all been linked to the neurodegeneration. The brain and immune systems are the most complicated of this within the body, and as a medical profession we learn more about them everyday.
With neurodegeneration we do not promise specific results. That said, we will use the best resources of natural medicine, along with co-management with your GP and specialists, to encourage your body and brain to heal. We can promise to put the wholistic paradigm of naturopathic medicine and all it can offer along with the best science from functional medicine and psychoneuroimmunology, behind you and your health.
Please contact Dr. Nicole Roberts, ND with any questions or set up a 15 minute free consult to talk further about naturopathic medicine and neurodegenerative diagnoses.
Trouble Sleeping or Staying Asleep
Sleep issues are very pervasive, affecting up to 35% of people. Issues with sleep can originate from many possible root causes. There are over 90 distinct sleep disorders, and many lifestyle, dietary or metabolic causes are contributors to poor sleep.
A lack of sleep can decrease quality of life, make it difficult to be fully present at work or with family, and leave you unable to invest in your own health. More seriously, poor sleep can increase your risk of obesity, hypertension and other health conditions.
Potential causes of sleep troubles:
Cortisol dysregulation (likely from long bouts of sustained stress or poor nutrition)
Sex hormone imbalances; Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone
Underlying anxiety or depression
Other chronic illnesses
If you wake up feeling unrefreshed, toss and turn at night or lie awake getting frustrated about your inability to fall asleep, getting help with your sleep will be a big step to improving your health overall.
Side effects of poor sleep:
High blood pressure
Depressed immune system
Inability to adequately rebuild tissue or produce essential hormones
Increased risk of diabetes, stroke, heart attack and obesity
Risk of depression or anxiety
Poor focus, poor memory
Risk of tendency towards addiction: food, alcohol, drugs
Diagnosing underlying issues that cause sleep dysfunction is important for short term health and preventing chronic health conditions in the long run.
Pharmaceuticals used to treat sleep concerns have side effects and may have addictive potential if used for a long time. Natural health products made for sleep that are chosen off the shelf may not be correcting underlying causes of sleep dysfunction are may not be suitable solutions for those suffering with sleep issues. Having a thorough intake, physical exams and lab tests conducted to evaluate your sleep dysfunction is the most comprehensive way to understand what is going on and treat from the inside out.
Body Image, Food Addiction & Binge Eating Disorder
Body image is one of the deepest running insecurities we carry around with us. Body image stress manifests differently in each person as we all have our own coping mechanisms and are affected uniquely by the pressure we both create and feel from others to be a certain way. Fixation on food, whether dieting, bingeing or restricting, is not a simple matter of willpower (and to believe that is a damaging misconception). Addressing body image is a very unique process and involves understanding the root of a person's insecurity, triggers, emotional coping tools, physical manifestations and use of food and physical activity.
Binge Eating Urges
Binge eating can feel like a never-ending, self-propagating cycle of desire, guilt and shame, a burden that many suffers bear alone. Binge eaters may have come to believe there is something fundamentally wrong with their relationship with food, or that their binge urges represent emotional trauma that will take years to heal. Dr. Nicole Roberts, who herself binge ate for many years before finding freedom from binge urges, approaches binge eating with a holistic and educational medical framework that will allow you to understand your binge urges, rewire your brain to not binge, treat the anxiety that accompanies binge urges and heal your metabolism from years of restrictive and binge eating.
EATING DISORDERS VS. DISORDERED EATING
In our diet and fitness perfection-oriented society, disordered eating is quite common, affecting up to 50% of people. Rigid eating rules, anxiety about food, avoiding food groups and basing self esteem on body weight and shape are common symptoms that many struggle with on a daily basis, which creates stress and perpetuates a harmful cycle that may last for years, if not a lifetime. These cycles may be passed on from generation to generation and are compounded by a societal focus of judging self-worth from one's appearance; something that has become easier with celebrity idolization, social media, myths about weight & health and unresolved societal insecurities / fat-phobia from past decades.
Clinically diagnosed eating disorders differ from disordered eating in their intensity. Four categories of clinical eating disorders exist; Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Diagnosed eating disorder show up less commonly than disordered eating and are co-managed along with specialized psychologists and ED recovery centers if needed.
HOW CAN NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE HELP ME?
Rewiring the brain; learn about binge or food addiction urges and how to let them go for good.
Treating underlying presentations of anxiety, chronic stress and other stressors.
Healing the body systems that are both affected by and contribute to food addiction / cravings and food anxiety: gut health, hormonal health & blood sugar, sleep quality, stress regulation and correcting nutrient deficiencies (which are common due to lower quality soil and food sources, food restriction and pharmaceutical use).
Influencing the biochemical pathways of metabolism, mood and energy to bring balance to the body; reshaping metabolism so that is functions well after a history of dieting and restriction.
Developing goals and creating a lifestyle together that fosters less anxiety around food and body-positive perspectives while maintaining a healthy weight you enjoy being at.
Educating and problem solving about food (how to eat what and when) to support you physically and mentally through this journey. Discussing the role of physical activity and finding how it fits into your life in a way that serves your body, mind and spirit.
Stress & Burnout & Grief
Stress is one of the most toxic things we will encounter in our daily lives. It creeps in, insidiously and quietly, and wreaks havoc on our body, mind and spirit.
Stress can originate from more obvious places; worries over money, job security, the economy, looming deadlines at work. Stress can also come from more covert sources; childhood trauma (which can include feeling conditionally loved, being neglected, learning the feeling of unworthiness and shame), piling daily anxieties, perfectionistic tendencies, needing to have control over situations, judgements from others, judging others, bullying, a hectic lifestyle, untreated anxiety and many other insults to our body’s sense of safety.
Grief can be another source of stress that we don’t necessarily recognize as stress. Losing a loved one, going through a romantic break up or divorce, learning about infidelity, being betrayed; anything that shakes you to your emotional core, is stressful. There have been instances of grief triggering a heart attack, and while rare, this serves as a reminder that grief is able to affect the physical functioning of the body.
The stress cascade begins in the amygdala, the area of the brain that processes our emotional input (and interestingly enough is also involved in memory, libido and survival instincts). The amygdala then communicates with the hypothalamus, who sets off the sympathetic nervous system, or our “flight or flight response” with the release of epinephrine. Once the epinephrine cascade slows, the hypothalamus activates the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis, otherwise known as the HPA axis. This system allows for cortisol release which effectively keeps the body on high alert, a sustained version of the fight or flight response.
Chronic stress, leaves us in a perpetual state of high alert; picture your smoke detector blaring constantly at half the volume, day in and day out. A stressed HPA-axis is the root of “Adrenal Fatigue” and dysfunctional cortisol levels which can cause fatigue, disrupted sleep, low immunity, hair loss and other symptoms.
Modern life in North America is inherently stressful, and we are left with less emotional and physical resiliency to deal with particularly stressful events. We lose track of what stress even feels like on our system; our tolerance level for chronic stress raises until we crash with a serious medical condition. Due to our inability to say no to stress ourselves, our body will eventually say no for us. This idea is explored in depth in Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, When The Body Says No.
WHAT CAN NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE DO FOR ME?
Listen to your story and understand / identify your stress sources.
Test your endocrine organ function (hormone levels and metabolites) and understand where your body is at in the stress response so that we can treat accordingly.
Replenish nutrients that are depleted to restore the mitochondria and metabolism.
Teach you strategies to avoid stressors, reduce stressful thoughts and better cope with stress that does come up.
Create a place for you to focus on healing through self care as you go through periods of grief.
Create a plan to prevent chronic disease that arises from long term stress.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Recovery after a traumatic brain injury, whether it be a concussion, severe whiplash or brain surgery, is important for long term cognitive and mood health. Improvements happen the fastest within 6 months to a year after injury, but the brain continues for recover for years after the incident.
Traumatic brain injuries can disturb brain function in multiple ways; through stretching or tearing of axons, bleeding and swelling within the brain tissue and disruption of the delicate brain chemistry.
TWO AREAS THAT PEOPLE MAY STRUGGLE WITH LONG TERM AFTER A TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY ARE:
Cognitive Function: Speech, Problem Solving, Memory, Executive Function, etc
Mood: Anger, Frustration, Irritability, Depression, Anxiety, Residual feelings about the cause of the brain injury, etc
Natural medicine protocols are an important adjunctive therapy to rehabilitation for those recovering from brain injuries.
Targeted nutritional supplementation and specific dietary needs are foundational to brain tissue recovery. Simple but transformational lifestyle changes can decrease inflammation, reset hormone signalling and stimulate the body's natural ability to heal. Mindfulness work and allowing for the healthy expression of emotions, opens blockages we carry within ourselves that impede healing. The body of research that backs these evidence-based natural therapies shows the importance of targeted natural care following brain injuries.
Acupuncture, nutrition and vitamin / botanical therapies may be used to treat lingering pain, nerve damage and help muscle recovery following traumatic brain injuries.
Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and Other Developmental Symptoms in Children
Dr. Robert’s primary focus is on the assessment, treatment and healing of children on the spectrum or struggling with mood, emotional regulation and focus.
From your Initial Visit onwards, we are going to build a place for your family to receive the support you need as you make changes to the your child’s lifestyle.
Our first visit consists of a thorough intake of your child’s health, your family lifestyle and your family’s medical history. At this time we also like to collect labs or work ups done from other health professionals that your child has seen / is seeing.
Within the first visit we will conduct a Well Child Check and a thorough physical exam with your child to establish baseline findings so we can monitor treatment efficacy as we move forward.
Next we will establish which foundations of health your child is struggling with that are most likely contributing to aggravation of their symptoms; this will involve a discussion of what these are and education around how they can influence mental and physical health. From here we will create an 8 - 16 week protocol for you and your family to follow that involves a few kid-friendly natural supplements (though not always), dietary changes and lifestyle modifications to track while recording changes to symptoms that occur over this time period. In some cases, lab testing may be appropriate for your child and that will also be discussed in the Initial Visit. Lab testing will only be recommended if we think it will markedly change your child’s treatment plan.
Our follow ups will be scheduled to check in on progress and make adjustments where necessary to improve outcomes with your child’s unique biochemistry and to make changes as easy as possible within your family dynamic. We will always take your family’s budget into consideration when it comes to treatment plans and follow ups.
Referrals made to other health care providers as necessary will be made as well. We also like to write letters to current providers to establish communication within the health care team that is supporting your child; this happens at your discretion.
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