I had a big pitch for work in 48 hours and all I could think is “I’m going to fail, I’m going to screw this up, I can’t do this, they’ll see right through me, why can’t I get my anxiety under control”. As my mind spiraled, my face got hot, my feet started to sweat, I started hyperventilating and I couldn’t focus or do anything efficiently. Does any of this sound even slightly familiar?
As someone who has struggled with anxiety most of my life, I know this story all too well. It took me years to realize that my anxiety didn’t appear out of the blue, it came along with my struggle to balance my thyroid, cortisol, estrogen and progesterone hormones as well as my IBS, Leaky Gut and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Now that might sound like a lot, but the good news is that so many of these systems are interconnected, and improving one will naturally help the others!
In this two-part blog series, I’ll explore some reasons why you might be experiencing anxiety & what you can do to alleviate it. This topic is very dear to my heart and I hope this information will help you in re-claiming your full and radiant health.
It’s important to preface this by saying, anxiety and depression are REAL issues – you are not crazy and you are not alone if you are experiencing these. I’d also like to say that this is not intended as medical advice & any changes should be discussed with your licensed mental health professional. Finally, just because there are holistic options to investigate the root cause behind anxiety, doesn’t mean that you should ignore the advice to get medication if you need it. I’ve done both and there is no shame either way, it is truly what works for you.
So let’s get started, shall we?
The Top 6 Causes of Anxiety (Part I of II)
1. Nutritional Deficiencies:
Nutrient Deficiencies can occur because we aren’t getting adequate nutrients from our diet. They can also occur because we are experiencing malabsorption due to high stress, low stomach acid, inflammation caused by toxin exposure, bacterial or yeast infections, gluten or other food sensitivities.
Such deficiencies must be assessed individually as they are so unique to each person and situation. However, the most common ones I’ve seen in my practice are low iron, especially in women with heavy menses. Another symptom of low iron is extreme fatigue. The other deficiencies I commonly see are low B Vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids. All of these nutrients are such important building blocks for our well-being. For example, amino acids are the precursors to neurotransmitters which are directly related to our mental health!
Although the study of neuropsychiatry is somewhat new, the mounting research shows the intricate and undeniable connection between mood and nutrition. If this resonates with you, you can try eating a diet rich in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and minerals like chromium, iron, selenium, zinc, and healthy carbohydrates. Supplementing may also be necessary depending on your level of deficiency yet it’s important to consult someone like myself or your healthcare provider to first determine what may be deficient in first.
2. Gut Health
Many people think if they just work out, take probiotics and have a green smoothie, they’ll be on their way to ‘healing’ their gut. However, if we are disconnected from our bodies, living in high stress or have other imbalances, there is something deeper that needs to be addressed.
There is such a distinct gut-mind connection and the impact of stress is deeply interwoven into the health of our gut and the health of our mind. As one improves, so does the other and vice versa. One way to help restore a balanced gut environment while supporting your mood is to practice activating the parasympathetic nervous system that controls our function of ‘rest and digest’. When we move out of ‘fight or flight’ and are calm, we simply digest better, which in turn supports a balanced moond! This can include slowing down, deep breathing, practicing mindfulness throughout your day, and having dedicated time around meals.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the GI system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes. When your CNS is distressed, it may also send feedback to the GI system. It can become a feedback loop, hence why it’s essential we not only practice self-care to regulate our nervous system but also practice mindfulness around our food habits. The American Psychological Association reports that 95% of serotonin is created by gut bacteria and we know that low levels of this hormone in the brain have been linked to depression. Although researchers are still uncovering the mechanisms that connect our brain to our gut, current science indicates that supporting our digestive system may support our mental health.
Here are a few ways to support your gut-mind connection:
- Investigate the root cause of why your gut is acting up. A comprehensive stool test, SIBO breath test, food sensitivity panel or intestinal permeability panel may point you in the right direction so you can take a targeted approach to your gut healing.
- Fermented foods may support the growth of beneficial bacteria although be careful with these guys if you have known SIBO or yeast overgrowth (these foods can actually aggravate these issues).
- Ditch the sugar – it promotes the growth of bad bacteria which could lead to an unhealthy balance in the microbiome.
3. Thyroid Imbalances
A thyroid imbalance can also contribute to increased anxiety and depression, both hyper and hypothyroidism, including thyroid autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Your thyroid is the metabolism control center and it regulates every single cell in your body, including your brain. Various things can contribute to thyroid imbalances including IBS, leaky gut, emotional stress, birth control, etc. It’s important to begin investigating the root cause so you can really help your body heal.
If you are experiencing constipation, dry skin, brittle nails, weight gain, brain fog, cold hands and feet, hair loss, fatigue along with anxiety and/or depression it’s important to run a full thyroid panel from your physician, including thyroid antibodies.
Mostly, if you are a woman who feels like your anxiety symptoms are taking over your life or even creeping in more than you desire and you haven’t found a safe place to land, please know there are so many people, resources and root causes for your symptoms. So many of us even have high-functioning anxiety that we start to think it’s completely normal, but I want you to know you can feel better, you can feel at peace. You are not alone, crazy or dysfunctional – you are perfect.
Are you ready to feel better?
Let’s do it together. If this resonated with you, feel free to book a health strategy call with me here, so we can get to the root cause of your anxiety and stay tuned for part II of this blog series!