In preparation for our all-day workshop with expert and author Dr. Scott Shannon on “Integrative Child Psychiatry” November 10th at the Walker Art Center, I thought I would highlight a few hot topics and trends in “Integrative Psychiatry”-some of which will be part of what is covered in that workshop.
1. The Gut-Brain Connection
Our GI tract is home to some 100 Trillion bacteria (and other microbes), termed the “microbiome”, that help us to digest food and keep our gut barrier healthy. These bacteria are capable of communicating with the CNS via the creation of neurotransmitters (for example GABA) and other chemicals that can effect our emotional states. These microbes also play an important role in mediating immune system processes and inflammation, which can also affect nervous system function. Stress can throw off the balance of the gut microbiome. This can lead to increased local and systemic inflammation which can intensify symptoms of anxiety, depression and inattention. In some studies, providing patients with probiotics (live, health promoting bacterial strains, in a pill form), protects them against the development of anxiety and depression symptoms
2. Micronutrient Deficiencies
Modern life has led to changes in our diet whereby we ingest more highly processed food, often with sugar added, which can be calorie dense but nutrient poor. Deficiencies in common nutrients such as magnesium, Vitamin D3, B vitamins, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Zinc, antioxidants and iron, can contribute to cognitive and emotional symptoms.
3. Technology Assisted Relaxation
Scientific studies support the efficacy of Mind/Body Skills such as yoga, meditation, mental imagery (self-hypnosis) and biofeedback to balance the nervous system, elicit the relaxation response and reduce stress. They have a role in the treatment of depression, anxiety, ADHD and PTSD. One exciting new development, is that we can deliver some of this training online with excellent results for patients (and added convenience). In addition, the regular practice of mind/body skills– which is essential for success, can now be enhanced using mobile apps for smart phones and tablet computers. This makes practice much more fun and allows for tracking progress as well. Check out “Buddhify”, “Take A Chill” and “Inner Balance” on the App Store. Look at www.choosemuse.com and www.thepip.com for new stand-alone stress management gadgets as well.
Ecotherapy can be defined as “a wide range of treatment programs which aim to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through doing outdoor activities in nature”. Spending time in nature leads to improvements in mental health and emotional regulation both for specific groups of children (for example children with ADHD) and for children as a whole.