Ever feel anxious? Ever wonder if maybe you have too much anxiety? In this week’s guest blog, Dr. Emily Dashiell shares 8 surprising causes of anxiety and easy changes you can make to reduce them and reduce your day-to-day anxiety.
Feeling anxious? This is a normal emotion to have in response to acute stress or danger. However, when this sense of perceived stress or danger is prolonged, it becomes a medical concern. There are many causes to chronic anxiety. While stress and poor stress management are the primary causes, other contributing causes include blood sugar imbalances, poor diet and food sensitivities, and hormonal imbalances. Good news is: All these things are correctable!
We’ve all experienced anxiety at one point in our lives, whether it was due to an isolated event, such as speaking in front of a large audience, or related to the stress of everyday life in our fast-paced society. But what exactly is it?
Anxiety is a sense of nervousness or worry about a certain event or a generalized state that one may be in. Symptoms may include increased blood pressure, heart palpitation and chest pain, digestive disturbances, and shortness of breath. Chronic anxiety can lead to symptoms of insomnia, difficulty focusing, and other emotional imbalances. Anxiety can be extremely uncomfortable and may interfere with one’s daily activities.
Possible causes of anxiety include:
- Blood-sugar imbalances. Eating properly balanced meals is a must for anyone living a healthful lifestyle. For those looking to reduce their anxiety levels, be sure to focus on choosing whole-food sources of fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Try to eat every 3-4 hours and make sure you have 15 grams of protein at every meal.
- High caffeine intake: Caffeine is stimulating to the nervous system and may increase symptoms of anxiety.
- Food additives: Aspartame, food colors and dyes, and other food additives are excitatory to the neurologic system and can exacerbate anxiety.
- Food sensitivities: Many people develop “sensitivities” to certain foods that can affect the body in many ways, including increasing symptoms of anxiety. Common food sensitivities include wheat and gluten, dairy, soy, and corn. Identifying and stabilizing any food imbalances can help restore proper function.
- Nutrient deficiencies: Deficiency in magnesium, B6, or B-complex vitamins may cause anxiety. Nutritional supplementation can assist in correcting these deficiencies, as well as help support the body when prone to anxiety. Omega-3 oils, such as those found in fish, have also shown to be helpful in the management of acute and chronic anxiety.
- Poor stress management. Chronic stress can wear on the system and cause fatigue, which weakens the body, making it more susceptible to anxiety. Identify the stress factors in your life and, if you can eradicate each completely, try to reduce their effects through stress-management techniques such as meditation, yoga, visualization, deep breathing, laughter, and exercise. Many patients find that writing gratitude lists also helps to keep their priorities in perspective.
- Hormonal imbalances. Low hormonal levels, such as those related to PMS or peri-menopause, tend to cause an increase in anxiety. Working with your doctor to balance your hormone levels may be beneficial to reduction in symptoms of anxiety.
- Neurotransmitter imbalances. Neurotransmitters are our “brain chemicals.” All of the above mentioned items could lead to this. In addition to what is already mentioned, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals can be helpful in restoring normal balance.
If you know you are prone to anxiety, it is important to review your diet and lifestyle habits. I’ve seen many cases of anxiety resolved simply by addressing dietary issues and correcting nutrient deficiencies, and by using dietary adjustments, herbal medicines, and nutritional supplementation to balance the hormonal and neurotransmitter systems.
Feeling a little less anxious? I do hope so. With the proper treatment and nutrition, anxiety shouldn’t be anything to stress out about.
Dr. Emily Dashiell
Dr. Emily Dashiell is a licensed doctor of naturopathic medicine who specializes in women’s health and pediatrics at Arbor Vitae Wellness Center in Santa Monica, California. A former collegiate swimmer, she is a member of the Professional Development committee for the California Naturopathic Doctor’s Association (CNDA).
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