Do you struggle with anxiety? If yes, you’re most definitely not alone. Anxiety is one of the top health complaints we hear from our clients. Needless to say, anxiety can have far-reaching effects. For so many of the women we…
The post Why am I Anxious? Root Causes of Anxiety appeared first on The Organic Dietitian. …
Do you struggle with anxiety?
If yes, you’re most definitely not alone. Anxiety is one of the top health complaints we hear from our clients.
Needless to say, anxiety can have far-reaching effects. For so many of the women we work with, anxiety negatively impacts most areas of their lives — they can’t be as present with their loved ones, it impacts their productivity at work or at home, they have a hard time being more social, and it generally prevents them from being truly happy with their lives.
Anxiety and stress significantly impact physical health and wellbeing.
And this extends far beyond heart health!
Think you need to do a detox? Trying to balance your hormones? Working on addressing some digestive issues? To be blunt: if you aren’t working on your stress levels, then you may not get very far.
Our bodies are designed to keep us surviving and have many backups in place to help when things get out of balance. For example, if your blood sugar is too high or too low, then a hormonal cascade will be set into motion in order to bring things back into balance.
But the body doesn’t have enough energy to allow all of these systems to work well all at the same time. It has to pick and choose what it thinks is most essential to surviving. Your body sees all forms of stress (there are hundreds of internal and external sources) as a threat to survival and so prioritize it over all other functions.
This is why chronic stress has been linked to hormonal imbalances, increased risk of diabetes, leaky gut and digestive disorders, increased inflammation and inflammatory diseases, and so much more.
This is also why addressing mental health and reducing stress is an absolutely essential piece of any physical healing journey.
And it works in the other direction, too: certain aspects of your physical health can trigger or worsen anxiety.
It’s a vicious cycle, and one that we see far too many women trapped within!
But addressing these physical factors can have a tremendous impact on your mental health, reducing anxiety symptoms and helping to break the cycle. And until the imbalances in the body are correctly addressed along with the implementation of neural rewiring practices, the vicious stress-illness cycle will continue.
Low Cellular Energy
Low cellular energy is a spectrum, and most people are on the spectrum to some degree, whether they realize or not.
Many people become very accustomed to living their lives on reduced energy levels and merely pushing through so much so that it becomes their sense of “normal.”
In other words, our cells’ power sources, the mitochondria, are unable to convert the nutrients from the foods we eat into usable energy (ATP) in a timely and effective enough manner (source). When our mitochondria get bogged down and damaged from various stressors, the body and brain will suffer.
Nervous System Dysfunction
The autonomic nervous system runs behind the scenes of our physiology, controlling life-giving functions such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, muscle contraction, sexual function, elimination, and more.
If this system gets out of whack, which is becoming increasingly common, then we will surely experience body and brain challenges such as anxiety. Many things can stress out the nervous system but the biggest issues we see the most include unresolved trauma and trapped energy from negative and/or painful emotional states.
Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone and helps regulate glucose (blood sugar) levels. Our cells cannot withstand being continually bathed in cortisol and adrenaline.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a powerful HPA axis activator. Glucose is fuel for the brain so the hypothalamus (in the brain and is the H is HPA axis) is sensitive to falling blood sugar levels.
So low blood sugar equals stress.
Is it any wonder why so many people experience “hanger” or get anxious and jittery when their blood sugar levels drop!?
The best way to start balancing your blood sugar levels is to eat balanced meals with whole food sources of carbs, healthy fats, and quality protein.
For more information, see this related blog post: How Blood Sugar Impacts Hormones + How to Start Restoring Balance
A number of studies have found a close correlation between low-grade inflammation and anxiety. “Biomarkers of inflammation such as inflammatory cytokines and acute-phase proteins are reliably elevated in a significant proportion of patients with [anxiety disorders], and may be a causal factor driving behavioral symptoms.” (source)
As with blood sugar, diet is key here. Look to reduce processed foods as much as possible, and fill your plate with real, whole, nutrient-dense foods. Also be sure to cut inflammatory “vegetable” oils and replace them with healthier alternatives like olive, coconut, and avocado oils.
Lifestyle can also drive inflammation up or help bring it down. Moderate daily exercise, emotional health and 8-9 hours of quality sleep each night are essential.
Read more in this related blog post: 4 Root Causes of Chronic Inflammation
In recent years, study upon study has confirmed the intimate connection between gut health and mental health, including anxiety.
Many hormones and neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, which actually has its own nervous system. In fact, the small intestine has as many neurons as your spinal cord and the gut contains more neurotransmitters than the brain. The gut also produces 95% of the body’s serotonin, the hormone that regulates mood.
The gut microbiome plays an especially important role in mood and mental health. Researchers have stated:
“Dysbiosis [an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut] and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, which are prevalent in society today. Probiotics have the ability to restore normal microbial balance, and therefore have a potential role in the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression.” (source)
Not surprisingly then, one review of 15 human studies found that supplementing with probiotics for one to two months can improve anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and memory.
But gut health rarely ends with popping a probiotic supplement — if only it were so simple!
Bacterial or pastistic overgrowths are common and need to be identified with proper testing and then addressed through the tailored supplement and lifestyle support.
Gut health also extends into food sensitivities, which can be a major source of chronic inflammation and physical stress on the body, provoking anxiety.
Learn more in this related blog post: How to Heal Food Sensitivities from the Roots
It’s no big secret that our hormones impact our mood. Many premenstrual, pregnant, and menopausal women can attest to this!
So of course, hormonal imbalances can increase anxiety, stress, and depression.
Estrogen dominance, low progesterone levels, and thyroid imbalances (source) can all contribute to anxiety. When progesterone levels decline and are out of balance with estrogen, anxiety can appear. Progesterone is important for brain health and is a “feel-good” hormone. Low progesterone levels can be common when thyroid issues are present but those with thyroid hormone imbalances can have higher incidences of anxiety.
Learn more in this related blog post: Is My Thyroid Really “Normal”?
We are all exposed to thousands of toxic compounds each day via the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the personal care and makeup products we put on our bodies, the household products we use to clean, and the buildings we live and work in. If we take in more toxins than our bodies can process, our body-mind will suffer.
Other toxins that can negatively impact our brains and health can include toxic relationships and toxic thoughts.
Navigating and addressing root causes of anxiety can be complex, confusing, and frustrating when you try to go it alone. But it’s our job to education and support women we work with navigate the journey.
Ready to dive deep into your health? To take a root cause approach to your anxiety?
Now we want to hear from you!
What do you think now that you better understand these physical triggers of anxiety?
Do you think any could be contributing to your anxiety?
What steps will you take to start addressing them?
Please let us know in the comments below so we can keep the conversation going and best support you in your healing journey.