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Behavioral Health



Mental disorders have been always diagnosed as either chemical imbalances in the brain or neuron degeneration that has either genetic or idiopathic causes. How certain are we about this?!!

For example, clinical depression is defined as “major depression or major depressive disorder (MDD), which is often confused with having a sad or low mood. Although feeling sad is one symptom of clinical depression, there must be several other signs and symptoms—in addition to sadness—for someone to be formally diagnosed with clinical depression.”

Are we responsible for the top driver of depression, dementia, and other mental disorders? Clinical depression is considered a potentially chronic and severe disorder with medical comorbidities and high mortality which has been noticeably increasing since 2021.. Clinical depression is a critical form of mental illness that influences more than just a person’s mood. It affects the way a person:

  • Thinks

  • Performance (physically and mentally)

  • Feels

  • Manages their life

When it comes to conventional medicine today, depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders are mostly treated with SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) to balance out serotonin levels. It is widely known by now that those drugs have certain unpleasant side effects, and they stop working when they are used long-term. There are also different type of drugs that has the same functionality which balances neurotransmitter in the brain. However, what has not been addressed is the root cause of the chemical imbalance in the brain.

Depression is a real thing, and it is very serious. We need to know and understand that it is not only about chemical imbalance in the brain, but also about neuroinflammation, lack of neuroplasticity, and poor gut health.

What is neuroinflammation?

Neuroinflammation is linked to contributing to a variety of neurologic and somatic illnesses including Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), and depression. It is a response to a variety of cues, including infection, traumatic brain injury, toxic metabolites, or autoimmunity.

Those are major things that we truly can control, prevent, and should be addressed as preventive measures for major mental disorders. It is in our hands to improve our immune system, brain neuroplasticity, and gut health.

Today’s preventive medical system is not addressing mental disorders as it should!! Addressing preventive care is crucial to control the spread of mental disorders especially at an early age. Senior moments at the age of 40 or 50 are not normal. Compulsive behaviors at the age of 15 or 20 are not normal.

What is stopping us from being more proactive in addressing mental disorders such as dementia, or depression before it happens?

As a health coach, I don’t believe that we need to wait for it to happen because reversing such a disordered when it becomes symptomatic is not as easy as reversing HDZ or diabetes.

Our brain is a very resilient organ, yet it is fragile at the same time. What I mean by fragile is when it reaches a level of advanced damage, it is very hard to build it again if possible.

We need to understand that what we do to our body, we do to our brain.

It is very significant to address brain health at an early stage of life as it has a huge impact on our life quality as we age.

There is a misconception that what happens in the body has no connection to what happens to our brain. However, most of us know the gut-brain connection. Our gut is connected to our brain, not vis versa. Our gut counts for 80% of our immune system which is directly connected to our brain. So what happens in the gut influences the immune state, and that in turn influences our brain health. As much as we flourish our digestive system with nutritious food, our brain thrives and our life quality improves.


The Connection between Neuroinflammation and mental health.

Our brain state reflects what goes into our bodies. Mood disorders reflect brain dysfunction due to compromised gut health. Brain dysfunction or neuroinflammation is also a reflection of our daily behavior, do we practice morning hygiene? Do we move for better health? Do we grab nourishing food when we are hungry or have impulsive choices?

What are the modifiable risks factors for brain health?

1. Stress Stress is an important part of our body physiology, what is not normal is excessive stress for a long period of time. We live in a society that is full of stressors, but we also should be grateful that we have the power to destress. Nature walks and breathing exercises are available to us and all it takes from us is to show up for ourselves every day even if we only have 5 minutes a day.

2. Substances Alcohol consumption has been linked to the meant disorder in many clinical studies. It will have an impact on our brain health. Excessive alcohol consumption is very common, and people are at the risk of drinking more than they should because it is part of social connection. People gather to drink and before they know it, they end up having 3-4 cups of drinks instead of one or less. There is a limitation on how much you can have but if you don’t drink already, you are better off keeping it that way. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption if you are trying to preserve brain function.

3. Sugar

Whether it is in our bloodstream or in our diet it is an absolute inflammatory marker. We are ae talking about added sugar. It is the biggest neurotoxin that has been embedded in our food today. We can avoid added sugar in our diet most of the time, so it is in our hands to consume it or not. It is very important to know where sugar is in our diet, and where it is hidden or embedded. Knowing that will help you make better decisions when you are shopping for food or eating out. In the end, added sugar is a metabolic and neurotoxin that there is no minimum safe range for consuming just like alcohol.

4. Smoke It is a big deal being a smoker or around smokers. Just like sugar, it is objectively bad but sometimes it is beyond our control when it is environmental. Pollution, natural disasters, and fire exposure can be beyond our control. Exposure to air pollution is correlated with future violent behavior. Children’s cognitive function is correlated to the surrounding toxic environment in their school district based on clinical studies. we are not only talking about outside air, inside air also can be polluted. When we have home renovations, painting, and flooring jobs done in our home so much toxic particles are in the air, therefore not living in your home at that period of time and having the job done properly where the air system is not compromised and then follow with advanced filtration system is very crucial.

5. Smart Technology

Smartphones, laptops, watches!!! We are surrounded by everything that is degenerating our brain cells. Use it or lose it!!! Being dependent on technology is decreasing our brain neuroplasticity. Recently, I came across some cases who are having dementia yet have no family history of it. Technology alone is not the only cause of dementia neuroplasticity, yet it has a huge role in it. Experiencing senior moments at an early age is a red flag that should be addressed as it is nothing but a definite answer for developing degenerative brain disorder at an early age.


Little Daily Brain Health Self-checks:

How is my memory doing today?

How is my creativity doing?

Am I able to focus on certain tasks?

Based on your answer, check in on what you have consumed the day before, your environmental exposure to toxins and how dependent were you on the smart technology around you lately!!

What can you do to improve your brain health?

Stress, Sleep, exercise, detox, and diet.

Focus on a Mediterranean diet without alcohol consumption.

Avoid ultra-processed food.

Macro and micronutrients, Vitamin Bs, and magnesium

Phytonutrients: There are 8000+ in plant food (antistress nutrient)

Tea, coffee herbal = polyphenols

Choose food rich in polyphenols

Omega 3s. (Wild-caught salmon, Hemp heart seeds, chia seeds)

Prebiotics and Probiotics: it is a bidirectional connection between the gut and the brain. (Fiber and fermented food)


The Law of Responsibility

Take responsibility for the decision you are making daily when it comes to your health. Depression and some other mental disorders are not about serotonin blame; it is about our actions toward ourselves.

After reading this, is there anything worth working on to support your brain health? Pick a goal and take bite-size action steps for better mental health. You are worth it!!




Reem Halwani. RDH. NBC-HWC

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