Podcast: HTW with Zoe and Erica
Episode Title: Dr. Ellen Vora with A New Approach to Mental Health
Episode Number: 43
Link to full podcast at the end of my review!
Let me start by saying that for anyone who struggles with anxiety or depression this episode is a MUST!! Dr. Vora is a certified psychiatrist. During her residency she realized that the conventional approach to medicine left most problems unsolved and creates new problems through over prescribing of drugs. This podcast was so fascinating hearing her holistic approach to mental health. I couldn’t stop taking notes and was so excited to share them with you!
Stress, anxiety, worry, sadness are all natural aspects of life. From a biological standpoint, these mechanisms were meant to warn us of impending danger or help us prepare for potential danger. To some extent, it is normal! When anxiety, worry or sadness become so prevalent that they begin to impact your daily function and quality of life that is when they become a problem.
The Problem with Conventional Medicine
Doctors diagnose patients with anxiety or depression like that is the end of the road when in reality both of these can actually be “symptoms” of a bigger problem. Along with this, the diagnostic process used in most conventional medicine and specifically within psychiatric medicine is designed to identify the “illness” and prescribe something to treat it.
Treating the symptoms with a pill tends to lead to overly medicated patients who still have not resolved the root-cause. The medications used for anxiety and depression have their own side effects which can lead to even more medications and health issues.
Medication dependance (AKA addiction) to these strong meds is quite common and for any who are wanting to stop medication she discusses her slow and steady withdrawal process for her patients. Although Dr. Vora believes there is a time and a place for medication, she uses a plethora of natural methods in her mental health practice including acupuncture, nutrition, Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, yoga, etc.
Post-Partum Depression in Women
I loved Dr. Vora’s passionate response to this topic. She explains the extensive toll child birth can have on women both physically and emotionally:
- Hormone imbalance
- Nutritional depletion
- Lifestyle adjustment
- Identity crisis
The role transition to becoming a mother is so much more extensive (vs. the transition of a man becoming a father). This child is emotionally and physically dependent on the woman for life itself and many feel overwhelmed by the full weight of this. So many of the most difficult aspects of motherhood are often not discussed because of the pressure to “have it all together”. She talks about how common and OKAY it is to feel ambivalence: one moment you are so completely in love with this new child and the next you are in a panic wondering what the heck you just got yourself into.
In the past, the village would support a woman who just gave birth in so many ways: cooking meals for her and the family, spending time with the mother and newborn, sharing information about mothering, etc. Today, many women are isolated after childbirth and then receive visits from people who are more interested in playing with the baby than actually supporting the mother in whatever way she needs. Their “support” often turns out to be more for their own benefit/enjoyment vs the mother’s.
The Two-Way Communication Between the Body & the Brain
Often times when we are feeling nervous our brain communicates that to our body by making us anxious, nauseous, have to pee, etc. The thoughts of the brain lead to physical results. Many not realize, however, that the channel of communication is open both ways!
When you are feeling anxious, slowing the breath communicates to the brain that you are safe and calm leading to a calmer state. When you are sad, forcing laughter actually stimulates the release of endorphins leading to a happier state.
Taking advantage of this two-way channel of communication can serve as a vital tool for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression!
Dr. Vora also notes that in almost ALL cases of anxiety and depression there is some physical element involved.
Two Common Physical Factors
Anxiety can frequently be related to blood sugar levels. When blood sugar drops your body processes this as a mini emergency and can create a cascade of effects including the release of adrenaline and cortisol.
Our modern diet keeps us on a blood sugar roller coaster and when it dips it can cause symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Dr. Vora asks her clients to try eating a spoonful of something high fat or high protein (almond butter, avocado, etc) every few hours throughout the day. She said she has seen patients who had multiple anxiety attacks per day use this technique and completely get rid of anxiety attacks simply by managing their blood sugar.
As much as many of us will hate to hear it, caffeine can be a huge contributor to anxiety. This is even more true for those who are prone to anxiety and/or are sensitive to caffeine.
Some people are fast caffeine metabolizers so it has little to no effect on the body (e.g. the person who can drink a shot of espresso before bed and still sleep like a dead person). Others are slow caffeine metabolizers meaning that caffeine has a heightened effect on the body and can lead to jitters, sweating, feelings of anxiety, etc.
Dr. Vora personally cut out caffeine after a slow withdrawal process and has found that it has improved her sleep, she sweats less, reduced anxiety and anxiousness throughout the day and more.
For those considering testing the effects of cutting out caffeine Dr. Vora strongly recommends a slow withdrawal process. She usually takes her patients through a month long withdrawal process to slowing take them off caffeine in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms and shock the body.
Getting Off Anxiety/Depression Medications
Most conventional doctors do not take the withdrawal process serious enough which can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. Dr. Vora takes an extremely careful approach to helping a patient who wants to get off of medications.
Month 1 is simply readying the body for the withdrawal process:
- Whole30/anti-inflammatory diet to replenish lost nutrients and ensure the body is fully stocked and not in an inflamed state
- Eliminate alcohol and caffeine usually to remove anything that could be potentially harmful or worsen symptoms
After the month of preparation, she has patients taper off of their medication by roughly 10% per month (at the fastest) allowing the body ample time to adjust and plateau if necessary.
Big emphasis on detoxing the body through lymphatic drainage, infrared sauna, etc.
One More Quick Tip
It isn’t news that everyone is depleted in magnesium to some extent. Dr. Vora recommends magnesium supplementation for anyone suffering from anxiety, stress of depression. Replenishing magnesium levels can lead to:
- Reduced migraines/headaches
- Improved menstrual cramps
- Reduced symptoms of anxiety
- Muscle cramps
- Improves sleep
- Increased fertility
- Chronic constipation
What to buy:
Click here to listen to the full episode!