Are You Really a Mental Patient?

Are you really a mental patient?

photo via unsplash

This isn’t my question, as I’m not a psychiatrist.

This is the question posed by Dr. Kelly Brogan (who is a psychiatrist) in her book A Mind of Your Own.

Dr. Brogan is a Harvard-trained physician who works with women suffering from depression. She addresses her patients’ mental care with diet, stress management, exercise, and rest. And sometimes supplements.

Depression is an Inflammation Problem

The premise of her book is that “depression is not a disorder primarily rooted in the brain”. Rather,

A multitude of studies now shows an undeniable link between gut dysfunction and the brain, chiefly revealing the relationship between the volume of inflammatory markers in the blood and risk for depression (source).

Brogran cites study after study showing that when the body is exposed to inflammatory substances or drugs, the risk of depression increases. For instance, when patients with Hepatitis C are treated with the pro-inflammatory drug interferon, as many as 45% of these patients develop major depression (source).

If drugs that cause inflammation can also cause depression, it’s not a stretch to say that anything that causes inflammation can cause depression.

And our lifestyles are defined by inflammation-causing agents. Here is what Brogan has to say:

“Depression doesn’t always manifest with feelings of serious melancholy and sadness or the urge to sit on the couch all day brooding… All of my patients experience anxiety- an inner kinetic discomfort, restlessness, unease, and a lot of insomnia. In fact, most cases of depression involve women who are very much on the go and productive, but they are also anxious, scatterbrained, overly stressed out, irritable, forgetful, worrywarts, unable to concentrate, and feeling “wired and tired” at the same time.”

Low Thyroid Function Leads to Depression

Since 1982, researchers have been publishing papers showing the link between autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease) and depression.

When the thyroid is slow, everything in the body can be slow. This includes the brain and the emotions. If you’re suffering from Hashimoto’s or simply low thyroid function, you might be dealing with inflammation-induced depression.

To add a layer here that may resonate with my readers, excess estrogen can be very inflammatory. Excess estrogen can also lead to low thyroid function (more on this over the coming months as it is the subject of my Master’s thesis). Therefore, excess estrogen can promote inflammation-based depression.

The brain needs oxygen, and lots of it.  Listen to researcher Pay Peat:

The brain, just like any organ or tissue, is an energy-producing metabolic system, and its oxidative metabolism is extremely intense, and it is more dependent on oxygen for continuous normal functioning than any other organ (source).

When thyroid function is low and everything in the body is slow, the heart rate and pulse also slow down. Lowered respiration means less oxygenation to the body and more importantly, to the brain.

Don’t Ignore the Adrenals

The stress hormone cortisol helps regulate thyroid function. When the body is under chronic stress from lack of sleep, overexercise, food sensitivities, gut infections, or inflammation, more cortisol is released and the thyroid starts to slow down even more.

Stress will slow your thyroid down. A slow thyroid can lead to depression. Therefore, stress can make you depression.

There are very specific stressors that most women are affected by, though. Let’s break them down.

Stressor 1: Hormonal Birth Control

Fake estrogen and fake progesterone found in birth control pills bind available thyroid hormone in the body. You can see this on a thryoid-binding globulin test, though I’m pretty sure no one has ever run that test on you. No one had ever run it on me. Birth control pills also are inflammatory in the body as they deplete levels of zinc, magnesium, and B6. All of these vitamins have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. If you are depressed and also on hormonal birth control, you might want to consider a different form of preventing pregnancy.

Fix: Try the Fertility Awareness Method for birth control. 

Stressor 2: Gluten

Everyone knows that gluten might be bad for them, right? Pop culture is constantly referring to gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and corn. The proteins found in gluten resemble the proteins found in the thyroid itself. The immune system gets confused and may begin to attack the thyroid. With repeated gluten exposure, the body may start to produce antibodies against the thyroid itself, leading to the development of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. There is a strong link between Hashi’s and celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease that leads to destruction of the villi in the intestine that absorb nutrients from food and supplements. Those who have celiac disease are most sensitive to gluten. And since the 1980’s, research has documented a strong correlation between celiac disease and depression.

Fix: Eliminate wheat, barley, rye, and corn from your diet. All of my plans are gluten-free, so when you work with me, you’ll be automatically removing gluten. 

Stressor 3: Fluoride

Did you know that fluoride actually used to be used to suppress overactive thyroid function in patients with hyperthyroid symptoms? And now we drink fluoride every day! As a heavy halogen, fluoride displaces iodine in the body, and iodine is needed to convert inactive thyroid hormone into the active form of thyroid in the body. Fluoride also disrupts selenium, another important thyroid-protecting nutrient. Research shows that fluoride increases risk of thyroid problems by 30% (source). And even worse, it has been shown that fluoride may not even prevent cavities.

Fix: Get a water filter and minimize fluoride exposure in these ways.

What If You Need More Help?

I’ve got your back. While my private coaching availability is all booked up for the fall, I do offer mini-packages for those looking to target specific issues. If you’re worried about your thyroid or if you are experiencing treatment-resistant depression, it might be time to dig a little deeper. You can start with my Functional Thyroid Mini-Package.

You will get a full functional thyroid blood panel, completed at any LabCorp draw station near you. There are over 25 markers on this test, including markers for inflammation and insulin resistance. You’ll also get a 45 minute Zoom session with me ($307 value) where we will go over your labs and I’ll help you start to rebalance your thyroid issues.

As a bonus, anyone who grabs this package will also get my full Nourished Program (value $497) and 30 days of unlimited chat access to me. There is a lot of progress you can make in 30 days! (You can grab Nourished on its own, but don’t purchase it if you are getting the Functional Thyroid Package- you’ll get Nourished as a gift!)


Email me at jennifer@jenniferwoodwardnutrition.com with any questions- I’m happy to help!

To your thyroid health,



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