I have been writing about stress and ways to manage it in the past. Today I want to delve deeper into the topic of anxiety and overwhelm as these as well as stress can create imbalances in the hormones, cause digestive issues and weight gain or weight loss, driving infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome in women, affecting also our immune system function.
Many people tend to turn often to medications, alcohol, drugs, cigarette to find a solution to calm the body and mind. I know it can be tough- there is a lot that have been going on during the last couple of years that have affected many people's lives globally.
It's good to practice different natural body and mind healing remedies on a regular basis so that if and when we get into these anxious periods of our lives, where we might feel we are loosing control, that we have tips to pull from our sleeves and help ourselves and people around us.
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Symptoms of anxiety and overwhelm
Do you experience any of the below:
tension in the shoulders
raising thoughts and struggles with concentration
teeth grinding at night
digestive issues on a frequent basis, like bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhoea
loss of appetite or over-eating
muscle tremors, twitching in the eye, shakiness in the hands
fluctuations in energy
poor sleep- challenges falling asleep and staying asleep
Anxiety can lead to mental exhaustion and chronic fatigue. If w are not managing our levels of anxiety and stress, it can throw off our neurotransmitters, creating alarm bells in the brain, which then stimulates more cortisol production in our adrenals. This tells the body to store more fat around your waist, driving weight gain, elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance. As brain and gut are connected through neural pathways, anxiety and stress can do quite a bit of damage in the gut, causing yeast and bacterial overgrowth and affecting the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are primarily produced in our gut.
Issues in the gut and heightened stress response affect also the inflammation in the body and can contribute to auto-immune diseases, where body sees itself as an invader and starts to attack its own cells (Hashimoto's, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis etc).
What is the cause for your anxiety and overwhelm?
At the same time when trying to work on improving your diet and lifestyle, it's important to focus on the root-cause of the anxiety and overwhelm:
what's causing it?
have you done anything to try and resolve it? If not, what is the one small step you can take week by week to relieve the overwhelm and anxiety? Create a list of activities to do to resolve the issue(s). Ask help from people around you if it feels too overwhelming.
How can you support your over-anxious body to help to accelerate mind-body balance and promote optimal health?
It's important to fuel the body with right types of minerals, vitamins and amino acids that are building blocks for neurotransmitters- to manage moods, resolve anxiety and also help with food cravings. Depending on your level of anxiety, how long it has been going on, you might want to consider finding a good functional medicine practitioner, who can help to order necessary tests to determine the levels of vitamins and minerals, to get an understanding of your gut health, your hormone levels, whether you have any underlying infections, parasites or mould toxicity as all these influence your body's anxiety levels.
Remove inflammatory foods from your diet
There are certain foods that drive inflammation in the body and this can vary a bit from person to person. When you remove or reduce the irritants, it helps the digestive tract to heal and cool down, which in turn does not require your immune system to over-react all the time.
The top inflammatory food groups include gluten, corn (as it's often made from genetically modified organism crops), soy (also predominantly GMO), sugar, dairy (because of lactose and casein, which can be primary irritants for individuals who can't digest those proteins), vegetable and seed oils.
Help your body to reset your gut microbiome
Our bodies have billions of bacteria and yeast in our mouth, gut and skin. When you focus on helping to grow good bugs in your digestive tract and starve the bad bacteria, you will help with healthy neurotransmitter production in the body. If you are consuming too many carbohydrates, foods high in refined sugar and yeast, you drive bacterial and yeast overgrowth in the body.
When we are anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, our bodies produce less saliva. Stress also slows down food breakdown in the digestive organs, which can cause the fermentation in the gut, leading to bacterial overgrowth and bloating. Stress also reduces the production of stomach acid and also production of good bacteria.
Here are some of the drivers for gut dysbiosis: high sugar and refined carbohydrate foods; excessive alcohol; antibiotics; oral contraceptive use, steroid use; use of antacids or proton pump inhibitors; also how you were born and fed when baby (born through c-section and formula fed) and stress.
Make sure you also drink adequate amount of clean water on a daily basis. Learn more about the importance of water and electrolytes here.
Help your body to repair the gut lining
I have written about the leaky gut and the importance of having an intact gut lining, so that body is able to absorb the nutrients and not allowing food particles and toxins get into the bloodstream. Excess toxins and waste in the body can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, chronic fatigue etc.
Here are some foods and supplements that help with gut healing: bone broth, meat stock, omega-3 fats (from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring), turmeric, ginger, pineapple, papaya, digestive enzymes, L-glutamine, liquorice root, aloe etc.
Provide your body with the right nutrients that support adrenals and contribute to production and regulation of neurotransmitters
Ageing, healing from injuries, trauma, pregnancy, breastfeeding and even exercising can increase demands on nutrients. When we have anxiety, stress, our body needs more B- vitamins (B6, B9, B12), C-vitamin, D-vitamin, magnesium, chromium, selenium, zinc, calcium, glutamine. Learn from here from which foods you get what vitamins and minerals.
A diet rich in anti-oxidants is also seen to help with anxiety and stress. Consume foods like berries, cacao, herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, rosemary), ginger, turmeric, maca, matcha, rooibos.
If you are someone who does not break down food properly, have hard time to digest fats, you might need to support your body with digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid with pepsin, ox bile etc. The acidity in your stomach is needed in order to absorb nutrients like amino acids, iron, calcium and B12.
It's important to note here that there could be also genetic predispositions that can drive higher susceptibility to anxiety, but focusing on the healthy diet and lifestyle will reduce the chances for those genes to be expressed.
Other lifestyle support action list to incorporate to reduce anxiety
Engage in gentle movement: walking, yoga, pilates, stretching
Body brushing and cold/hot showers
Using sauna and Epsom salt baths with essential oils
Getting a whole body massage
Doing breathing exercises- here are a few to try
If you are someone struggling with anxiety and looking for guidance and support how you can make dietary and lifestyle changes to feel calmer, with better focus, more energy, reach out to me for coaching at firstname.lastname@example.org.