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Trauma changes more than the mind

Leslie Korn, PhD, MPH, LMHC, reveals how mental health conditions contribute to memory loss, dementia and diabetes

Leslie Korn, Ph.D., MPH, LMHC

As mental health clinicians, we don’t always pay attention to physical conditions such as diabetes type 2 as a factor in our clients’ lives. But the revolution in mental health care now includes interventions that aid the body as well as the mind.

For example, did you know trauma and depression can kill neurons and shrink the brain? And evidence suggests specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients along with certain physical exercises can stop this shrinkage.

Trauma and chronic stress change the ecosystem of the body, mind, and spirit. People often respond to both with feelings of depression, helplessness, anxiety, irritability, and self-blame...

This can then cause clients to self-medicate with sugar, carbohydrates, drugs, and alcohol—all of which disrupt metabolism. Also, many psychotropic medications disrupt metabolic function.

When the body can’t regulate metabolism - which includes things like glucose, insulin, and cortisol – it can cause prediabetes and diabetes...

And it works in both directions: depression contributes to diabetes and diabetes worsens depression.

It’s rare to connect trauma and diabetes type 2 in one conversation, but the two are interrelated… And it’s vital that this connection informs trauma treatment plans.

Common depictions of diabetes type 2 often focus solely on adhering to diet and genetics - without mention of trauma and stress, a key piece of the puzzle.

We also know that there is a link between the trauma of discrimination and poor physical health among minorities populations. This may be why, in part, minority individuals have higher rates of metabolic syndrome, diabetes type 2, depression, and poor sleep.

Combined with the effects of trauma, we see chronic physical and emotional challenges that feel overwhelming to our clients and their families. Understanding these links and having culturally sensitive assessments enhances outcomes and builds rapport.

When we combine mental health knowledge with the latest research in nutrition and integrative approaches to mind and body health, we are better equipped to help them.

In our mental health practices we have an important role to play, and there is a growing professional niche for us in the practice of nutrition and integrative medicine for prevention and treatment of diabetes, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
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Meet the Expert:
Leslie Korn, PH.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, RPP, NTP, NCBTMB, is a renowned integrative medicine clinician and educator specializing in the use of nutritional, herbal and culinary medicine for the treatment of trauma and emotional and chronic physical illness. She is known for her dynamism and humor as a speaker. She has provided over 50,000 hours of treatment in private practice for diverse populations. Her clinical practice focuses on providing clients effective alternatives to psychotropics. She completed her graduate education in the department of psychiatry and public health at Harvard Medical School and her life training in the jungle of Mexico where she lived and worked alongside local healers for over 25 years. She directed a naturopathic medicine and training clinic facilitating health, culinary and fitness retreats. She is licensed and certified in nutritional therapy, mental health counseling, and bodywork (Polarity and Cranial Sacral and medical massage therapies) and is an approved clinical supervisor. She introduced somatic therapies for complex trauma patients in out-patient psychiatry at Harvard Medical school in 1985 and served as a consultant in ethnomedicine to the Trauma Clinic, Boston. She is the former clinical director and faculty of New England School of Acupuncture and faculty at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine.

She is the author of the seminal book on the body and complex trauma: Rhythms of Recovery: Trauma, Nature and the Body (Routledge, 2012), Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health (W.W. Norton, 2016), Eat Right Feel Right: Over 80 Recipes and Tips to Improve Mood, Sleep, Attention & Focus (PESI, 2017), Multicultural Counseling Workbook: Exercises, Worksheets & Games to Build Rapport with Diverse Clients (PESI, 2015) and The Good Mood Kitchen (W.W. Norton, 2017). She was a founder of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, a Fulbright scholar in Herbal Medicine and an NIH-funded scientist, in mind/body medicine. She is an approved clinical supervisor and is the research director at the Center for World Indigenous Studies where she designs culinary and herbal medicine programs with tribal communities engaged in developing integrative medicine programs.

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Topic: Diet and Nutrition | Trauma

Tags: Advice | Body | Healthy food | Nutrition | Nutritional Treatment | Success | Therapy Tools | Trauma | Trauma Treatment

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