January 24, 2017

What It Is Like to Live With Anxiety

How to Remain Calm in Life

By Dr. Saunders, M.D.

Sheri can hardly function in life because of a gripping fear of everything.  She lives in an apartment above the businesses in the center of town, but hasn’t left her apartment in over five years.  Everything is brought to her.  She shops online and on the Home Shopping Network.

A trip to her house is a trip indeed!  Boxes she has purchased remain unopened, stacked four feet high around the whole apartment.  There is a trail only six inches wide leading from the front door to the bed and from the bed to the bathroom and kitchen.  She tried to leave her apartment a year ago. But only made it to the front steps before she got a panic attack and had to run back inside.

When anxiety becomes a problemPanic is a type of severe anxiety from a sudden release of adrenal (stress) hormones.  Short or long-term stress produces large amounts of these hormones, causing severe anxiety. When this surge of stress hormones hit the body, people feel like they are going to die.

In a typical hospital emergency department, patients with severe anxiety often display symptoms of: chest pain, palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and a fear of imminent death.  They get blood tests, EKGs, X-rays, and even cardiac catheters to determine if they are having a heart attack.  The symptoms of anxiety often mimic a heart attack.  But more than 80% of the time there is no sign of heart trouble. Many people are told, “It’s just a panic attack.”

Living with Anxiety

While panic attacks are the extreme, and happen to some people, anxiety is very common. In fact everyone feels anxiety at some point, like fear or trepidation.

  • Needles often provoke anxiety, such as before a vaccination or blood draw.
  • Others feel anxiety before a test, interview, or court case.
  • Most get anxious at the thought of public speaking. They get a dry mouth, sweaty palms, cold hands and feet, and palpitations of the heart.
  • Even professional speakers, businessmen, or giving speeches or presentations experience anxiety.

The worst effect of an anxiety attack is on the brain. It causes disorganized thinking and poor memory, making it harder to present material.  One speaker noted after many years of public speaking that the “butterflies” in his stomach didn’t go away; they just flew in formation.[1]

Anxiety with a threat of loss is normal. Situations that cause anxiety are common to all people.

The purpose of anxiety is to warn us of danger. A message of fear sends a signal to the adrenal glands that there is an emergency. We then release hormones from the adrenal glands such as adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol (cortisone) to help us get out of danger.

These stress hormones:

  • Increase our blood sugar and heart rate for quick energy.
  • Suppress our immune system and other “unnecessary” functions to protect our body.
  • Create a multitude of effects on the brain, including a sense of fear, danger, imminent death or foreboding, as well as loss of memory.

Their overall effect is an increase in circulation and energy to certain body systems and a downshift of less important ones into maintenance mode. In this way, the fight or flight response prepares the body for extreme action.

When there is danger our body doesn’t need to function at capacity. We just need to get out of danger!

However, even when there is no danger present, the adrenal glands release the stress hormones causing all the same symptoms.  This emergency response causes physical symptoms that many people misinterpret as a heart attack or other serious physical conditions. Misinterpreting these symptoms can cause anxiety and the fear response to continue.

Sheri would feel panic just from walking outside her door.  She had no control over the release of hormones or how she felt; it just happened.  She tried taking medications of all kinds, and received counseling, but nothing seemed to help at all.  She was stuck.

The ways we categorize anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is constant worry or fear.
  • Panic Disorder refers to those who get sudden panic attacks, feel out of control, or sense impending doom.
  • Social Phobia feels like continually being embarrassed in public.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when fearful thoughts take control of one’s actions. People then “have to” do things to relieve the anxiety.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) refers to those who have had major trauma that brings on chronic anxiety.

Anxiety becomes a problem when:

  • You feel anxious most/all of the time for more than 6 months
  • Your level of anxiety is excessive and intense
  • Your anxiety is uncontrollable and disrupts your job, relationships, sleep and social life
  • Your behavior changes due to your level of anxiety – this could be anything from drinking lots of tea, finding it hard to breathe, not being able to leave the house, or performing repetitive rituals, such as counting to 10 before you do something

Generally, anxiety is not considered abnormal unless it affects the normal functioning of the person, such as their ability to work, play, interact with others, or sleep, and has been present more than six months. And, of course, there are levels of anxiety – mild to severe.

Symptoms of anxiety may include one or more of the following:

  • Fear
  • Worry
  • Shortness of breath, or unable to fill the lungs completely
  • Jumpiness and feeling on edge
  • Abdominal pain
  • Swallowing problems, like a lump in the throat
  • Stomach problems and difficulty digesting food
  • Headaches of all types
  • Sleep problems of all types
  • Palpitations of the heart
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Cold sweats
  • Frequent urination
  • Bad moods
  • Eating, drinking or smoking more than usual

Mainstream Medical Treatment for Anxiety

Since the beginning of time people have used alcohol to relieve anxiety.  Doctors call it “the drug of choice” for all types of anxiety and panic because people who have anxiety drink it. And those who have more anxiety, drink more.

  • For some, it works so well they become “addicted” to alcohol. If they stop drinking, then they feel lots of anxiety.
  • Others only use alcohol for occasional anxiety, or in the evening to relax after a stressful day at work.
  • Some try to use it to sleep, but it disturbs sleep.

While it’s effective for anxiety, the side effects of alcohol can be devastating, as most of us know.

Standard medical treatment to relieve anxiety includes medications that stimulate the receptors in the brain that induce calm.

Most anxiety drugs, such as the benzodiazepines, work on the GABA receptors.  Stimulating these receptors in the brain suppresses anxiety. Because GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it slows down the brain function in certain areas. It works immediately, but for only a few hours. However, tolerance to its effects is easily developed. These medications, like Valium and similar drugs, work in much the same way as alcohol to numb anxiety.

Valium was a godsend for many.  In the 1960s they called it “mother’s little helper.” Valium allowed moms to be calm and relaxed with the children – without alcohol!  Doctors originally believed it was not addictive, and only caused some drowsiness. However, this is not the case.  Over time, people become tolerant to the level of stimulation provided by the drug and needed more.

When benzodiazepine treatment is stopped abruptly, patients may develop withdrawal symptoms.  Some benzodiazepines, like Valium, can even cause seizures from withdrawal.

Now, the benzodiazepines have become standard fare for all types of anxiety. I had a patient who found that a benzodiazepine worked so well she carried one pill around for over a year, “just in case” she got a panic attack. It helped her to relax, knowing that relief was available if she absolutely had to use it. She never did, and now doesn’t need it at all.

Other medical treatments that might help include antidepressants for anxiety. Most of these work on the serotonin receptors, which have a relaxing effect.  This makes sense on a chemical level. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that has an effect on multiple brain functions, including anxiety.

Others work on dopamine or norepinephrine receptors as well, such as the “major tranquilizers” or antipsychotic drugs.  The use of these for anxiety is becoming much more common.  Some people with anxiety prefer opiates like morphine, codeine, and the like.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to anxiety. People have different reasons for being anxious and display different anxiety symptoms, and therefore need different types of medications to relieve anxiety.

The primary problem with most of the medications used for anxiety is the same as with alcohol – they suppress all feeling and create numbness.  Using drugs to resolve feelings is always a gamble. This is especially true when people have anxiety because they report they “don’t feel anything.”   Some, of course, prefer to live this way. But many would like to try another way.

Determine the Cause of Anxiety

Medications may relieve anxiety symptoms for a short time. But they don’t take care of the problem, or address the cause of anxiety. The key to successfully treating anxiety is to find the cause(s) and remove them. There are many causes of anxiety:

  • many faces of anxietyExcessive stress, or change
  • Adrenal tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Hypothalamic tumors
  • Hormone imbalances (such as low progesterone)
  • Ectopic adrenal production
  • Medication side-effects
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides
  • Nutrient deficiencies like B-vitamins, minerals, or amino acids
  • Thought disorders
  • Loss of foundation, or shock such as a sudden illness, loss of a loved-one, or accident

Once you find the cause of the problem, you can begin to change it at the roots, not just for temporary relief of anxiety symptoms. In looking at the list, it becomes apparent that this is no simple task. Some may require the help of a professional.

To end anxiety, follow the general recommendations and try each of the specific supplement and herb recommendations one at a time. 

To continue reading the rest of this article, please sign in using your Home Cures That Work login. Not a Home Cures That Work member yet? Click Here to join our exclusive membership and gain access to all our amazing articles!

Foods to Calm and Lower Anxiety

Controlling Gut Behavior

by Amanda Box, N.D.

We have all felt it at some point in our lives. The feeling that paralyzes us sends us into a cold sweat and lends our heart to beat at the speed of light. Anxiety is fear incarnate. It originates from our worries, our fear of failure or simply believing worst is bound to happen.

I personally battle with anxiety. I loathe the awful sense of powerlessness that anxiety brings. But it is a battle over the mind and one that isn’t always easily won!

Releasing negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones can overcome anxiety. One important way to do this is processing through thoughts and fears on paper and with a friend or counselor.

However, what you put into your body can also affect the intensity of your anxiety. Though much of anxiety originates from thoughts and mindset, a healthy body is important for a healthy mind! Our mind, body and spirit are interconnected. So keeping all three aspects healthy is imperative for overcoming anxiety.

Food affects our mood. Particular foods create calm, while other foods produce anxiety. The key to overcoming afflicting anxiety just may be a diet that enhances a sense of peace and a calm mind.

Below are two lists of foods. The first is the list of foods to avoid that promote anxiety. These foods stimulate the nervous system or increase stress hormone production like cortisol. If you battle anxiety, then totally eliminate these foods from your diet to feel your best.

The second is a list of foods that help ease anxiety. These foods contain nutrients that promote a calm mind and help lower stress levels in the body. Make them a regular part of your diet and they will keep you calm and lower your anxiety.

4 Foods to Avoid for Anxiety

1. Caffeine

This is by far the most obvious food on the list to avoid. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant and can cause physical manifestations of anxiety, even if anxious thoughts aren’t present. It speeds the heart rate and can lead to an over-excited jittery feeling that exacerbates or creates anxiety. Some people do well with just a small amount of caffeine in the morning. However, eliminating it all together is best for calming the mind and body.

2. Sugar

When I refer to sugar, I am not just referring to white sugar. I am referring to all things that encompass sugar: fruit juice, corn syrup and honey, etc. All these sugary foods can negatively affect the body.   They spike blood sugar levels which, in turn, flood your body with cortisol, a stress hormone. When cortisol levels are high, you can feel on edge and anxious. Therefore, steer clear of sugary drinks and desserts. Instead, opt for natural sweeteners that do not affect the blood sugar such as stevia.

3. Processed Foods

Processed foods included already made meals like boxed foods and fast foods. These foods contain a plethora of ingredients that are nearly unpronounceable. This abundance of fake food is not tolerated well by your body. Chemicals from the artificial preservatives and other ingredients can aggravate the brain by exciting neurotransmitters. This creates a sense of anxiousness and overstimulation. Many of the artificial ingredients are additive as well. Your body begins to crave these processed foods and you become anxious if you’re not able to eat them. The best way to avoid processed foods is to choose foods as close to their natural state as possible and cook your meals from scratch.

Also, read labels. If you see ingredients that sound more like chemicals than food, but it back on the shelf and buy something healthier!

4. Alcohol

Many people drink alcohol to help calm their nerves. However, alcohol can backfire. It can cause an even higher level of anxiety the following day.

  • Alcohol depresses the body.
  • That depression can carry through to the following day.
  • Depression feeds anxiousness.

The short term fix that alcohol creates can also be addictive, creating a cycle of anxiety and more depression.

Foods to Eat to Calm Anxiety

Pumpkin Seeds

Green pumpkin seeds are high in zinc. Studies have found that anxiety is linked to a zinc copper imbalance. Too much copper and not enough zinc in your body can cause anxiety. Just a small handful a day of pumpkin seeds provides a daily dose of zinc! Pumpkin seeds provide a healthy balance that offers relief for people suffering from anxiety.

Fatty Fish

Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon and sardines can increase EPA levels in the brain. EPA is the primary anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid for the brain. High levels of EPA are correlated to a calmer mood and lessened anxiety. Essentially, EPA will make you happier and better able to handle stress. If you don’t consume large amounts of fish, then purified fish oil supplements can increase your EPA.

dark chocolate can reduce stress and anxietyDark chocolate

In a study of chocolate’s health benefits, eating 40 grams of dark chocolate (74% cocoa) every day for two weeks significantly reduced stress hormone levels. Those tested also noted feeling less anxious after eating the chocolate. This is likely due to cocoas flavonol content. Flavonols are a subclass of flavonoids, natural chemicals found in plants, fruits and vegetables that repair cellular damage. Flavonoids are antioxidants so they help to lower stress and inflammation throughout the body.

Turkey

Turkey is high in amino acid l-tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps you feel calm. Tryptophan found in protein like turkey has been found in studies to lower anxiety levels!

Full-fat yogurt or kefir

The majority (95%!) of serotonin, your feel good neurotransmitter that keeps you happy and calm, is produced in the gut. Therefore it is important to eat foods that help maintain proper intestinal balance.

To cultivate proper bacterial balance in the gut, go no further than your refrigerator! Naturally elevate your mood and reverse anxiety with fermented foods. The bacteria in fermented foods create an environment suitable for proper serotonin production. Fermented foods like kefir and yogurt contain probiotics that restore your gut health. Since gut microbes may influence your behavior, this is proof that fermented foods make us happier!

Tea (chamomile and green tea)

Each of these teas has anxiety reducing benefits.

The effect of chamomile is to soothe and calm the nervous system. When feeling anxious, drink chamomile to relax. Studies showed drinking chamomile tea lowered anxiety in 2 weeks! Best of all, chamomile comes without the nasty side effects of traditional anxiety and depression medications.

Green tea contains amino acid l-theanine, which has a soothing, calming effect on people who drink it. L-Theanine stimulates production of brain waves known as alpha waves. Alpha waves indicate a person is relaxed. L-Theanine also increases the levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These two neurotransmitters directly affect a person’s mood and help induce a sense of calm and relaxation.

So, alleviate your mood and feel better by drinking quality green tea!

eggs induce relaxation and promote sleepEggs

Eggs contain copious amounts of choline, needed for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is essentially the opposite of adrenaline. It induces a state of relaxation and promotes sleep. Farm raised cage free eggs are the best choice. They are fresher and have higher levels of nutrients. Eggs just may give you a new reason to come out of any depressing anxiety phase!

Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are low in calories, and high in many nutrients, including magnesium. Magnesium is a natural nervous system relaxant. A lack of magnesium can cause electrical changes in your brain.

Most diets are deficient in magnesium, and stress causes our bodies to deplete this important mineral. This is why getting enough magnesium in your diet while you’re stressed is so important. This essential mineral is key to relaxation and a lowered sense of anxiety. Nutrition just may trump any other form of self-help anxiety methods!

The Gut-Brain Connection

As mentioned earlier, our gut and our brain have an intimate connection. Many refer to the gut as the second brain, and for good reason! Our enteric nervous system is the name of the nervous system that resides in our gastrointestinal tract and enables us to “feel” the inner world of our gut and its contents. It is equipped with its own reflexes and senses to control gut behavior.

Our central nervous system, which is located in our brain and spinal column, is connected through the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain stem down to the abdomen.

It is through the vagus nerve that gut bacteria transmit information to the brain. Thus, the nerves in our gut probably influence a big part of our emotions.

Also, the gut produces more serotonin in the gut than it does in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps us to feel good and it produces a sense of calm. This gut-brain connection applies to anxiety levels as well.

Dr. Kirsten Tillish, a lead author in a study of gut bacteria and anxiety stated, “Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut.”

All of this makes creating a healthy gut environment key to overcoming anxiety. I believe there are 3 keys to creating a healthy gut.

1. Probiotics

Supplementation with a daily multi-strain probiotic is important in creating a healthy bacterial environment in the gut. Fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha are also great to add into your daily diet to boost healthy bacteria.

2. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are dietary fibers that act as food for good bacteria. This allows the healthy bacteria to multiply. Some foods containing prebiotics include:

  • Chicory Root
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Jerusalem artichoke

3. Going Gluten Free

More and more research is pointing out that gluten intolerance and diseases such as Celiac, can cause anxiety and depression. Shockingly, as much as 80% of the population is thought to have some degree of gluten sensitivity!

Lectins contained in gluten can cause intestinal inflammation and permeability of the intestinal walls allowing toxic microbes to pass through the gut, into the bloodstream and to the brain causing anxiety! Some even believe that gluten itself can cause anxiety. Dr. Rodney Ford, a New Zealand-based pediatrician and author of The Gluten Syndrome, believes that gluten harms your nervous system directly and produces symptoms such as anxiety.

Going gluten free takes a firm commitment and cannot be done partially. I’ve been gluten free for nearly a year now and have no plans to go back. It has changed the health of my gut and my mind dramatically and has been worth the sacrifice. Honestly, with the rise of gluten free alternatives, I haven’t had to sacrifice much. Nearly every gluten product now has a tasty gluten free version.

Incorporating these 3 keys will create a healthy “second brain” and lower your anxiety levels. You’ll truly be amazed at how powerful the gut-brain connection is once you begin to make changes to your diet!

Below are two recipes to get you on the road to lowered anxiety and a healthy gut. The first is a salmon recipe. This incorporates the omega 3s from fatty fish and prebiotics such as garlic. Serve this with a healthy serving of asparagus on the side for even more prebiotic power. This recipe is also gluten-free!

garlic salmon with asparagusGarlic Salmon with Asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb wild caught salmon
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp cold organic butter, cubed
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemon juice and minced garlic; allow the lemon juice to reduce to 1 tablespoon. Add in 1 tablespoon of butter, remove pan from heat and swirl so the butter starts to melt. Place back on the heat for a few seconds, removed and continue to swirl until butter completely melts. Repeat with second tablespoon of butter. When butter is completely melted, remove sauce from stove.
  3. Place the salmon filet in a piece of foil large enough to fold over and seal. Using a brush or spoon, brush the salmon with the garlic butter sauce. Season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Cover with foil so that all sides are properly closed so the sauce does not leak.
  4. Bake the salmon for 12-14 minutes or until firm. Open the foil and allow the fish to broil under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, keeping an eye on it so the fish does not burn. Remove from oven, top with parsley. Serve with a side of steamed asparagus.

This next recipe incorporates the mood lifting power of dark chocolate with zinc rich pumpkin seeds. Though only two ingredients, these little bites can calm a sweet tooth as well as calm the mind.

dark chocolate pumpkin seed bites Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bites

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp of dark chocolate (at least 74% cocoa content)
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds (raw or roasted)

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate in the microwave for 20 seconds. Heat for 10 second intervals, making sure to stir in between.
  2. On a piece of wax paper drip chocolate from a spoon and make 8 even circles around the size of a quarter.
  3. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds into the chocolate and slightly press down.
  4. Let dry for around an hour or place in the fridge for even faster results.

Remember, what you eat can have a huge influence on the levels of anxiety you’re feeling. Don’t rely on simply medications any longer! Take your health into your hands and begin eating in a way that lowers your anxiety. I have personally experienced the power of food choices on my anxiety and I encourage you to as well!

 

If you liked this article, then you’ll love these:

 

Amanda Box, N.D.Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.com/ for contact info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon recipe adapted from littlespicejar.com

Pin It on Pinterest