April 25, 2023

A Functional Approach to Anxiety

A functional approach to anxiety

Do you find yourself laying in bed often struggling to fall asleep? Is your mind racing keeping you tossing and turning all night? “When is uniform pickup for the kids soccer?” “Did my boss like my presentation?” “Do my coworkers like me?”

Does your anxiety keep you from attending social functions? Sometimes anxiety can just pop up and cause you to be “not present” in the moment, disrupt your sleep a little or it can be so bad that it causes panic and the inability to leave your home.

Typical treatments for anxiety are medications like SSRI’s, benzodiazepines, etc. To get to the right medication and dose can take a lot of trial and error with medication switches and dosage changes. Sometimes the medications can make you feel like a zombie. And there is no real solution to the symptom other than you are now dependent on the medication.

These medications all have some level of impact on your body. Most of them lead to nutrient depletion, cell dysfunction and organ stress. Nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin D, melatonin, COQ10, vitamin c and magnesium can all become depleted by taking these types of medications. Not to mention the impact on the gut microbiome and protective mucosal lining of the GI tract. These medications also have their own set of side effects – decrease libido, weight gain and sleep disturbance (Mohn, E.S.).

If you are looking to get rid of your anxiety – racing thoughts, panic, insomnia and other anxiety symptoms – a functional approach is what you need. The functional approach gets the “why” of your symptoms and what caused your symptoms in the first place and what to do about it. A whole-body approach to your symptoms.

Keep in mind there is a time and place for medications, but getting to the cause without just simply taking a pill to mask your symptoms will set you up for long term success.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY?

Anxiety can manifest in a variety of different ways. Some common symptoms are things like:

  1. racing thoughts

  2. difficulty focusing on the present

  3. rapid heart rate

  4. skipping heart beats

  5. trouble concentrating

  6. trouble sleeping

  7. overthinking

  8. shallow breathing

  9. feeling tense or nervous

  10. feeling exhausted and weak

GUT – BRAIN (ANXIETY) CONNECTION

More and more research is being done on the gut-brain connection. The gut is now being called the “second brain.” I almost feel as though the gut is the first brain. The gut and brain are connected by a highway known as the ENS (enteric nervous system), the VN (vagus nerve), the neuroendocrine and HPA – axis, the immune system and microbiota-derived neuroactive compounds (Gwak, M.G.).

Our gut bacteria actually produce neurotransmitters such as GABA, dopamine, serotonin, tryptophan, and SCFA (short chain fatty acids – fuel for our colonic cells). The gut epithelium has hormone secreting neuroendocrine cells that travel through the blood and interact your immune system and metabolism and directly signal the brain (Gwak, M.G.). The make up of the gut bacteria determines whether the gut mucosal barrier is intact which controls the transit and signaling of immune cells and neurons. The more ‘“bad bacteria” present, the more chance of a leaky membrane leading to altered signaling. “Bad bacteria” and pathogens like parasites and fungal overgrowth (candida) lead to increased inflammation in the intestines and less production of neurotransmitters and amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is present in large amounts in turkey meat and is known for it’s ability to cause drowsiness and promote sleep. Stress plays a role as well as cortisol regulates neuro-immune (neurotransmitter and immune cell) signaling and affects intestinal mucosal barrier integrity.

IS INFLAMMATION CAUSING MY ANXIETY?

Yes! Inflammation is definitely playing a role. Inflammation in the GI tract leads to leaky gut which leads to systemic inflammation even in the brain! As inflammation increases in our bodies our cells do not function the way they should. Inflammation from poor dietary choices, infections, lack of movement, genetics, psychological stress, trauma, food sensitivities and leaky gut all affect the way our cells work and the way our brain works!

How to control inflammation

  1. Ditch highly processed foods and opt for whole foods

  2. Move your body daily!

  3. Implement some stress relieving techniques – yoga, meditation, gratitude, and stimulate your vagus nerve!

  4. Reduce your exposure to toxins at home. See my article on Ditch and Switch to non-toxic products.

  5. Address nutrient deficiencies and get your gut right!

CAN NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES BE CONTRIBUTING TO MY ANXIETY?

Yes! Nutrients are what make our cells work. The engines of our cells, our mitochondria, require lots of nutrients and a robust cell membrane to function properly and help our body to rid itself of toxins on a daily basis. Nutrients like magnesium, zinc, b-vitamins, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin c, adequate protein and fat, copper, and vitamin d need to be present. To have these nutrients present for our cells we need to be eating a diet that is nutrient dense and have proper gut function to digest and absorb these nutrients from our food.

HOW TO NATURALLY TREAT ANXIETY

  • Get yo
    ur gut right!

  • Meditate

  • Start a journal to organize your thoughts

  • Practice gratitude

  • Practice good sleep hygiene – avoid blue light an hour before bed, go to bed at the same time every night, avoid caffeine after 10am, avoid social media before bed, make your a cool, dark place for sleeping or intimacy only

  • Reduce your overall caffeine consumption

  • Take an epsom salt bath prior to bed

  • Try supplements like magnesium, ashwagandha and L-theanine

  • Stimulate that vagus nerve! Hum, sing, deep breath!

  • Get with a functional medicine provider to better understand what is contributing to your anxiety with gut testing, hormone testing, nutrient testing and more. Schedule a call with me here

A FUNCTIONAL APPROACH TO ANXIETY

A functional approach to treating your anxiety can help you to get your symptoms under control by addressing contributing factors such as diet, gut health, supplementation and lifestyle choices. This approach can help you transition off anti-anxiety medications and help your body to function optimally for long-term health. Always check with your healthcare provider before coming off any medications.

If you would like access to comprehensive, personalized testing and lifestyle plan with a functional medicine expert schedule a call with me here.

Best,

Nicole

References:

Gwak MG, Chang SY. Gut-Brain Connection: Microbiome, Gut Barrier, and Environmental Sensors. Immune Netw. 2021 Jun 16;21(3):e20. doi: 10.4110/in.2021.21.e20. PMID: 34277110; PMCID: PMC8263213.

Mohn, E.S.; Kern, H.J.; Saltzman, E.; Mitmesser, S.H.; McKay, D.L. Evidence of Drug–Nutrient Interactions with Chronic Use of Commonly Prescribed Medications: An Update. Pharmaceutics 2018, 10, 36. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics10010036

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