Krystina Milloy, Naturopathic Doctor at Helix Healthcare Group uncovers the natural and integrative tools that you can use to get back in balance and improve overall wellness. Watch the video or read the script below.
To start off, can you tell me a little bit about why do you do what you do?
Two beliefs inspire my practice:
1. The belief that the mind and body are intimately and inextricably connected, and
2. The belief that true health and wellness come from treating the root cause of issues rather than the palliating symptoms.
And so with Helix, I was so lucky to find a company whose values so closely align with mine. I mean, the mind-body connection is one of the founding tenants on which Helix was built, and when it comes to addressing the root cause, Helix is truly revolutionary.
In the midst of a system that largely attempts to medicate away mental health symptoms with prescriptions, while chastising people for self-medicating with non-prescription substances – Helix is challenging the status quo. Where others are treating the smoke, we’re treating the fire.
You mentioned the mind-body connection, which is a term that seems to get thrown around a lot – can you tell me what you mean by that?
Definitely, it’s a great question, and it is one of those buzz words that can start to lose its meaning, and yet it’s an incredibly important concept – I mean it goes back to Greek philosophy and dualism. Back then there was this understanding that the there was some qualitative distinction between the mind and the body, that they were somehow different.
They saw the body as being made of the physical, while the mind was more elusive, made of electric signals and energy. And so the two kind of became divorced from eachother, and since ancient philosophy informed the principles of modern medicine, that divide has only been perpetuated. It’s why the standard treatment for anxiety is a pill that blunts neurological signaling and suppresses the stress response. It’s effective, at least for the short term, but it’s missing the bigger picture.
The more we learn about neuroscience, the more we understand that the mind and the body can’t be separated this way and they can’t be treated in isolation. Our mind may be electrical, but its infrastructure is physical. Thoughts and emotions are made of physical messengers. Our brain sits in this soup of fluid which exchanges signals with the rest of our body on a minute by minute basis.
Similarly, emotional traumas and negative thought patterns cause physical, hormonal and neurological changes.
When we talk about the mind-body connection, we’re talking about being holistic – holistic as in WHOLE, treating the whole person rather than just being people mechanics and dealing with parts. Which, in essence, is what naturopathic medicine is all about.
And so what role does naturopathic medicine play in treating mental health concerns?
Well, if you think about the mind-body connection, both of those things, the mind and the body, exist in both the physical realm and the mental realm. There is the brain and there’s conscious experience, there’s physiology and there’s somatic perception.
And since we know the two are intimately connected, whether a disruption started in the mental realm or the physical realm, it inevitably leads to imbalances downstream. Anxiety leads to surges in hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which lead to the production of inflammatory molecules, which cross the blood-brain-barrier and cause neural inflammation, which can lead to depression. That’s just one example to illustrate how intertwined the two systems are, and how mental health concerns can both cause and be caused by physical imbalances.
Naturopathic medicine works in the physical realm to repair and rebalance the neurological, chemical and hormonal aspects of mental health concerns, in order to stabilize the system and facilitate the psychotherapy work that’s being done in the mental realm.
That’s one of the things I love about the integrative nature of Helix, and I think it stems out of the respect for the mind-body connection.
Which, I imagine, is where you come in.
Exactly. I work alongside the clients’ psychotherapist to treat the physical piece of that puzzle, while they work on the mental piece. And by taking an integrative approach and treating the whole person, we’re able to achieve better results than either would on its own.
So, when you’re working with a client, what does that process look like?
I like to think of naturopathic medicine as combining the science of western medicine with the wisdom of eastern medicine. It’s evidence based, but it’s root-cause focused.
When I’m describing Naturopathic Medicine to clients, I tell them all the practical details – I went to medical school, I was trained in all the sciences, pathology, diagnostics, lab work, etc. – but more importantly, I think of myself as a health detective. I look for patterns in their symptom picture that point to an underlying cause of their concern. So rather than simply giving every patient with depression an SSRI, I want to know what KIND of depression it is. What else is going on?
Is it depression with brain fog, which is often associated with systemic inflammation?
Is it depression with a lack of motivation or a lack of joy, which tells us the difference between whether it’s a dopamine issue or a serotonin issue?
Is it depression with fatigue, which could be due to a thyroid or circulatory issue, leading to poor oxygenation of the brain and decreased neural firing?
Is it depression with insomnia, which is commonly caused by cortisol issues? Cortisol dysregulation can result from prolonged stress or even a poor diet, and can actually cause degeneration in a part of the brain associated with chronic depression.
It’s a sign that there’s something going wrong internally that needs to be addressed. It’s my job to determine, on a physical level, what that is and how to fix it.
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