THE MIND & GUT CLINIC.
SARAH JANE MCKENZIE. BHSC(NAT.) NATUROPATH | HERBALIST | NUTRITIONIST

MENTAL HEALTH

 
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LAB TESTS I USE TO UNCOVER WHY YOU’RE ANXIOUS OR DEPRESSED…

Have you ever been told that your anxiety is something that you just have to live with or that the only way to manage your depression is to take medication for the rest of your life?

What if by improving nutrient deficiencies or correcting physiologic imbalances you could change this diagnosis? Getting the right blood tests could help bring to light these imbalances and let us know where to treat.

There is a common misconception that blood tests cannot test for mental health conditions, and to some degree this is true, though I’m going to share with you some of the pathology tests I use to understand where someones mental health issues may be arising from. When these are used in combination with other tests they are valuable for a whole host of other conditions as well as your mental health. Here they are…

PLASMA ZINC
There are literally hundreds of enzyme systems in the body that require zinc, and  deficiency of this essential mineral is associated with anxiety, depression, poor memory, irritability as well as violent behaviour. Zinc also supports the immune system, is needed for optimal thyroid function, hormone function, neurotransmitter production, skin and digestive health. So in short, we NEED zinc!

Some obvious signs of zinc deficiency are white spots on fingernails, frequent infections, poor wound healing, prematurely grey hair and abnormal periods. Low zinc levels are really common and is important to be addressed as soon as we can.

Optimal value of zinc: 18 - 20  

SERUM COPPER
It plays an important role in growth, immune function, energy metabolism and neurotransmitter production. Often nutrient overloads can cause mischief and and excess of copper is one of them.

High copper is seen most often in cases of depression, hyperactivity, anxiety, postpartum depression, reactions to the OCP, learning difficulties, and autism. Elevated oestrogen or oestrogen dominance is also correlated with high copper, so if you have fibroids, endometriosis or another oestrogen dominant condition your mental health may also suffer. When we look at copper in blood tests we must also check zinc levels. A zinc:copper ratio is needed in order to see the imbalance of each nutrient. 

Optimal value: 18 - 20. in a ratio of about 1:1 (zinc:copper)

WHOLE BLOOD HISTAMINE
Histamine is released from mast cells as part of allergic reactions in the body, with functions such as stimulating gastric acid to acting as a neurotransmitter. Whole blood histamine is useful to measure methylation status. When you have elevated blood histamine it indicates undermethylation and low histamine is evidence of overmethylation. Methylation is involved in mental health issues and important in recognising how best to treat, whether this is with nutrients or medications, or a combination of both. 

Normal values: 0.45 - 5umol/L

VITAMIN D - 25(OH)D
Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D, even though as Australians we are out in the sun all the time. This vitamin is important for cognition, bone health, immune function plus heaps more! and if we are talking about mental health then a deficiency of Vitamin D is correlated with depression.  

To improve your levels of vitamin D without taking supplements make sure you get outside between 10am and 2pm (obviously do not get burnt), eat organ meats that are naturally high in this nutrient, oily fish (fat helps absorb fat) and as vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin it will help Vitamin A, E & K be absorbed, which all important nutrients. If you find your levels are super low, then supplementation is easy. Cod Liver Oil is one way of getting it, as it is a natural source of not only vitamin D but vitamin A and EFA’s (I love cod liver oil! Rosita’s is a good brand, Nordic Naturals or Carlson Labs also), otherwise just a straight Vitamin D capsule, with dosing according to how deficient you are.  

Optimal levels range from 100 - 150 ng/mL 

THYROID FUNCTION TESTS
These tests show how your thyroid is working. There are a number of symptoms of poor thyroid function, and if you suffer from weight problems, constipation, depression or anxiety your thyroid may need a tweak, with further investigation required.

The following are the thyroid tests that are required to get a full picture of thyroid function. Often doctors will only test for TSH and possibly T4 which does not give a complete picture of what is going on with your thyroid and conditions can commonly be missed. TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone); FT3 (Free T3); FT4 (Free T4); RT3 (Reverse T3); TPO Ab (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies); TgAb (Thyroglobulin Antibodies). Testing for antibodies can tell us if there are autoimmune conditions of the thyroid, and with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis being one of the most common forms of an under active thyroid in women, to rule this out is a must. 

Optimal or ideal values:
TSH 0.5 - 2 mIU/L 
FT3 5 - 5.5 pmol/L
FT4 15 - 18 pmol/L
RT3 less than a 10:1 ratio RT3:FT3
TPO Ab less than 4 IU/mL (or negative depends on the lab) 
TgAb less than 4 IU/mL (or negative depends on the lab)

So, what now?
Some doctors are hesitant to order these tests, but a naturopath or integrative GP will be more familiar with the reasons for these tests and then order for you. Information from these tests will help direct and support your healing, so if you want to get these tests done or want more information please contact me.

 

Pyrroles. What are they? and what do they have to do with my mental health?

Pyroluria also known as ‘mauve factor’ is a metabolic disorder characterised by high levels of pyrroles (a component of haemoglobin overproduced by the liver) subsequently excreted in the urine. These pyrroles bind zinc and B6 which end up being eliminated in the urine, leading to increased levels of pyrroles in the body. Zinc and Vitamin B6 have important functions in the body, and in regards to mental health, they are critical in the production in a number of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA. These neurotransmitters keep us calm, help us sleep, reduce anxiety, aid concentration and focus, regulate mood and stress response. 

So what causes pyroluria? 
What we understand to date is that genetics and significant emotional stress and/or oxidative stress contribute to elevated pyrroles. Research also shows that dysbiosis and a leaky gut may increase pyrroles in the body, therefore improving digestive function and the integrity of gut lining may be an important part of healing. There are a number of symptoms that may indicate pyroluria. If you suffer from heaps of the symptoms in the list below, are concerned about your mental health and are wondering if pyroluria is involved, it is as simple as getting a urine test through a naturopath or integrative doctor. Contact me if you need more information or want to get this tested.

Optimal values in urine test for pyrroles: 
normal 0 - 10mcg/dL
borderline 10 - 15mcg/dL
high/positive >15mcg/dL

Symptoms of high pyrroles

  • Mood - anxiety, stress intolerance, depression, explosive temper, poor focus, ADHD/ASD, learning disabilities, Bipolar disorder, alcoholism

  • Reproductive - menstrual irregularity, PMS, delayed onset of puberty

  • Skin - stretch marks, inability to tan, acne, dermatitis

  • Immune - allergies, frequent infections

  • Senses - migraines, sensitivity to light, sound or smell

  • Metabolic - hypoglycaemia, obesity, cravings

  • Digestive issues - morning nausea, IBS

  • Poor dream recall

  • White spots on fingernails

  • Joint complaints

Management 
This includes supplementing with zinc and B6, improving gut integrity, antioxidant support and reducing inflammation. Limiting the amount of stress on the body by practising yoga, meditation and tai chi. Reduce the consumption of pro inflammatory foods that damage the lining of the gut such as gluten and damaged fats (fried foods). Increase vegetables and high zinc foods such as oysters, meats and poultry, nuts and seeds.