Expert Profile - Christina Bjorndal
Christina Bjorndal, ND
Dr. Christina Bjorndal’s Bio:
Dr. Christina Bjorndal, B.Comm, ND, graduated from UBC in 1990 with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree with honors. She was Valedictorian of her graduating class. She completed her Doctorate in naturopathic medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2005. She is one of the only licensed NDs in Canada who is considered an authority in the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, and eating disorders.
A gifted speaker and best-selling author, she has shared her personal story and philosophy of wellness with audiences across North America and has appeared on many health summits and radio shows such as The Jenny McCarthy Show, and the docuseries “Interconnected”. She is recognized as one of the top NDs to follow by two independent organizations.
Dr. Chris has helped many patients navigate through labels and stigma towards physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Having overcome many challenges in the sphere of mental health, Dr. Chris is especially exceptional about sharing her motivational speeches about how to overcome barriers in life and to encourage others to achieve their full potential. She loves her work and balances it with a full, active lifestyle with her husband and son.
Her book “Beyond the Label: 10 Steps to Improve your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine” is considered a comprehensive guide to naturopathic mental health. She has also written “The Essential Diet; Eating for Mental Health” which gives patients a roadmap and nutritional eating plan to follow to support their mental health. Lastly, she has created a 10-week course in mental health.
What life events or challenges that you’ve experienced (could be minor, could be major) – whether you’ve experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to work with patients with mental health challenges?
While I was doing my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia in the late 1980’s, I experienced a debilitating depression and anxiety. I also had an eating disorder and was not coping with the stress I was under at that time.
Like most people, I had not heard about Naturopathic medicine so I was treated with medications that were not effective. After taking the medication that was initially prescribed to alleviate depression, I swung into a psychotic manic episode and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1.
In 1994, after surviving a suicide attempt (which left me in a coma, on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant), I finally began the healing process after reading a book called “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson. Up until this point I was living with the shame and stigma of having a mental illness and I had not accepted myself.
The sole reason I became a Naturopathic Doctor was because when I was struggling with my illness there weren’t many natural experts in the field.
After attending a Mental Health Regained Public Forum in 1999, I became a patient of Dr. Abram Hoffer’s (a nutritionally oriented psychiatrist) and experienced my first depression and anxiety free year in 13 years.
I also made some major life changes, such as resigning from my corporate job, where I reported to the CEO and traveled frequently and I began the process of inquiry into what I really wanted to be doing with my life.
After sitting with the question “If money didn’t matter, what would I be doing?” the answer revealed itself to me in a tiny whisper “Become a Naturopathic Doctor and help people heal from anxiety, depression, bulimia, bipolar disorder (types 1 or 2), addiction, ADD/ADHD, etc using natural therapies and orthomolecular medicine – as you have been helped“.
Through my books, 10 week course and one on one visits, I teach you how you can regain your mental health using a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual approach to health.
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
These events impacted me greatly and have been the impetus for my career change to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor. Initially when I was diagnosed, I was told that I would need to take medication for the rest of my life and I wasn’t offered any other suggestions, solutions or possibilities. I was left feeling demoralized and stuck in stigma and shame. When I would ask the question: “Why is this happening to me?” The answer I received was that it was genetic and therefore, nothing I could do to fix it. That answer didn’t sit well with me as I am adopted and, as such, was unable to verify the truth of the gene theory. This causes me to look for other answers to optimize my mental well-being. I think that the current medical model for matching an individual’s ills with a pill is a one size fits all solution that doesn’t address the individual characteristics and qualities of a patient. We need to shift to an individualized approach that takes into consideration factors such as trauma, prior medication use, hormones, gut health & dysbiosis, toxic load, food intolerances, mineral imbalances, etc.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on working with patients dealing with mental health issues, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
After my suicide attempts, I realized I needed to figure out another way to navigate my mental health. After working with a naturopathic doctor and a nutritionally oriented psychiatrist, I felt free from depression or anxiety and I had not experienced a manic episode in a decade; however, it took much investigation and searching to find practitioners to help me at that time. I was inspired to go back to school to become a naturopathic doctor in 2000 because there weren’t that many people offering help in the field and I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
I explain to patients that there are four aspects to each of us: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual and I believe that we need to address all of these areas when helping patients. The traditional medical system focuses primarily on the physical level so the areas I investigate on this level include the following macrosystems: 1. neurotransmitter balance 2. Hormone balance 3. Organs of detoxification and immunity. Our goal is always to determine what the root cause or causes might be and restore the body back to balance. When I work with patients, I discuss
how the following areas need to be addressed to maintain mental wellness:
4. Stress management
7. Your behaviors and reactions in the world
8. Exposure to environmental toxins
10. Love and compassion for yourself and others
Essentially I leave no stone unturned in my investigation of what needs to be addressed to help an individual regain their mental health.
I will encourage you to move beyond the label (or labels) you have been given, and ask you to travel back to the center of your being and the heart of your humanity. I want you to remember that you are more than the labels you have been assigned. Labels can serve a purpose initially, helping you to understand that there is an explanation for what you are experiencing; however, in the end, you are more than the label and can move beyond it. My hope is that you move through the stigma and shame of mental illness and find peace in mental wellness.
The ultimate lessons that I want to impart on my patients include:
• Learning how to love accept yourself
• Listening to your inner voice
• Quieting the unhelpful voices of others
• Follow your path
• Live as your heart desires according to rules you define for yourself
Maybe you experience anxiety, are depressed, or struggle with your weight or an eating disorder. Maybe you have bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or another mental health label. Or maybe you are just sick and tired of being tired and sick. Rest assured—you will find help in using a naturopathic approach to support your mental health.
At one point, I was stressed out, depressed, anxious, obsessed with my weight, and managing it through bulimia and over-exercising. Then, after being prescribed medication to help with depression and anxiety, I had a psychotic episode and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1. I thought I would never be happy. I got so low that I attempted suicide on more than one occasion. Let me tell you, there have been some very dark days.
Through all of this, I have come to learn that there are 10 key areas that need to be addressed to achieve mental wellness. I will guide you on the path to wellness, by helping you navigate the steps needed to regain your mental health. My hope is that ultimately you will live a balanced life and embrace all that it can offer.