It is normal to feel anxious or worried at times. However, when anxiety becomes excessive or prolonged and begins to interfere with your ability to perform your daily activities you have crossed the road to full force illness. Instead of suppressing your symptoms, investigate the root of the problem. Here are the 12 top tips to help you relieve anxiety.
Do you feel trapped inside your body? Want to jump out of your skin? Feel like your foot is stuck on the accelerator and you are not moving? Do you have trouble sleeping – wake early in the morning and hear your heart pounding? You could be suffering with anxiety.
Don’t suppress it – find the root!
It is normal to feel anxious or worried at times. Everyone experiences a certain amount of nervousness and apprehension when faced with a stressful situation. The physical changes that happen – increased heart beat and breathing, re-focusing resources to essential organs make us able to survive and get over those situations.
However, when anxiety becomes excessive or prolonged and begins to interfere with your ability to perform your daily activities, reduce your energy and nutrient reserves, that’s when you can say one has crossed the road from simple worry to a full force illness. Your GP might prescribe medications which may be helpful, but only address the symptoms, while the root of the problem may lie not in your head at all!
It is always a good idea to run some tests with your GP to see if there is a more sinister obvious medical reason behind the restlessness, muscle tension, feeling a lump in your throat, excessive sweating, insomnia and so on. Checking thyroid function, heart, reproductive hormones, cortisol levels, full blood count, inflammatory markers, Vitamin D, B12 and Folate levels can highlight issues.
If they all come back normal, further functional blood testing can be helpful. I run adrenal stress profile, organic acid test and red blood cell nutrient levels (to see functional problems within cells / detoxification issues, nutritional deficiencies) food allergy and intolerance tests, digestive and gut microflora analysis – as imbalances in any of these areas all can cause the body to go into stress mode and produce the above-mentioned symptoms.
Once the underlying cause is found it can be addressed naturally or with the help of your doctor and you will start to feel better soon. In any case, anxiety symptoms can be reduced with a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes – and often these are enough to allow your body to heal.
12 Top Tips to Relieve Anxiety:
1, Avoid aggravating factors
The closer to nature your diet is, the less likely it is to aggravate your symptoms. Avoid stimulants such as all sources of caffeine (coffee, black tea, coke, energy drinks, chocolate) and other stimulants as phenylalanine, sugars and additives.1,2
2, Swap your coffee / tea for Green Tea
Be aware that cutting these out may cause withdrawal symptoms for a few days. To prevent this and support your mood and cognitive function, swap your morning coffee and tea for green tea, which has lower level of caffeine, high in antioxidants and contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps up-regulate our “Zen” neurotransmitter; GABA.3 L-theanine is also available as a supplement, up to 100mg may be taken three times a day for best results.
3, Balance your blood sugar levels
Eat at regular intervals – same time every day if possible and include protein and essential fats in every meal (and snack if you need those). The more balanced your blood sugar levels are – the less stress hormones you produce and the better you will sleep.4 The best protein sources are fish, eggs, meat, liver, heart and other offal, whey protein powder, collagen powder, gelatin or vegan versions such as rice / pea / hemp protein isolates. Good protein sources are beans, quinoa, tofu, nuts and ground seeds and their butters. Fats should come from fish, avocado, olive oil, coconut, whole nuts and ground seeds.
4, Chose B vitamin-rich wholegrains
Always chose wholegrains – especially real sourdough bread and pre-soaked gluten free grains (such as oats, brown rice, buckwheat) that don’t irritate the digestive system. The grains are rich in B vitamins that contribute to normal functioning of the nervous system. In a recent double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, B complex supplementation significantly improved mood and psychological strain effects of occupational stress after 12 weeks.5
5, Magnesium and Zinc – the wonder-minerals
Include Magnesium and Zinc rich foods in your diet; nuts, seeds – especially pumpkin seeds, dark green vegetables, seaweeds and seafood. Magnesium is a fantastic mineral that sits into the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor of the neurons, blocking the excitatory messages and modulates the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. It also helps your muscles to relax. Take an Epsom-salt bath a few times per week (600g of salt per bath), add a few drops of lavender and relax for at least 20 minutes. The salt will be absorbed through your skin and saturate your tissues. One of the best Magnesium supplements for an anxious mind is Magnesium Taurate, as it crosses the blood-brain barrier the easiest.6,7 Zinc may modulate responses at receptors for a number of different neurotransmitters, both excitatory and inhibitory, including the NMDA and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABAA) receptors involved in mood disorders, and possibly through alterations in the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and our sleep hormone, melatonine.8
6, Support the gut-brain axis
A recent cross-sectional study suggested that fermented foods that contain probiotics may have a protective effect against social anxiety symptoms for those at higher genetic risk.9 Emerging evidence highlighted the close relationship between the gut and the central nervous system and several ways of communication between the microbiome and the brain. These included their effect on the immune system and inflammation, their effect on stress hormone production, communication via receptor sites on the neurons for their by-products (short chain fatty acids), via the Vagus nerve that connects the brain with the enteric nervous system around the gut, or by producing neurotransmitter-like substances such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine or GABA – depending on the strain itself. Pre-clinical and clinical studies identified certain anxiolytic strains that are more likely to reduce anxiety, these are B. longum, B. breve, B. infantis, L. helveticus, L. rhamnosus and L. plantarum.10-12 All of these strains are found in a supplement called Bio-Kult Advanced multi-strain formula, designed by neurologist Dr Natasha Campbell McBride.
7, Eat the rainbow for antioxidants
Antioxidants are crucial in counteracting the increased free radical damage caused by stress and break the vicious circle of cell damage – inflammation – stress – more free radical damage. You find a great variety of potent antioxidants in strong colored vegetables, herbs and spices. Fat soluble antioxidants are found in nuts, seeds and avocado. Try to eat the rainbow every day. Vitamin C need is especially increased during stress, as our adrenal glands secrete it upon stimulation by adrenocorticotropic hormone from the pituitary gland.13
8, Fish oil – the double edged sword
Another important nutrient that has been clinically proven to reduce inflammation and anxiety in medical students during exam time is Omega 3 fish oils.14 This study used 2.5g of fish oil, with a 7:1 ratio of EPA to DHA, which resulted in a 14% decrease in lipopolysaccharide (or LPS – the stuff that bad bacteria produce in the gut) stimulated pro-inflammatory interleukin 6 (IL-6) production and a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms! Eat organic or wild oily fish at least three times a week or take a high-quality supplement in triglyceride form for better absorption and results.
9, Optimize your Vitamin D levels
Get some sunshine vitamin! Going on a sunny holiday can relieve the stressed mind, but even supplementing cholecalciferol, or Vitamin D3 may do the trick. Deficiency of this nutrient has been linked to many psychiatric disorders. A recent cross-survey confirmed significantly lower levels of blood calcidiol levels in men and women with depression as well as anxiety disorders,15 while correcting hypovitaminosis improved both depression and anxiety disorders.16,17
10, Gentle herbal remedies to the rescue
Certain herbal remedies are very useful (unless you are taking any prescription medications) to help your body to cope better.6, 18 Lemon Balm, Passion flower, Hops, Chamomile, Valerian, Brahmi, Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, Schisandra are probably the best options – combination supplements and teas are available in health stores, depending on whether you are just wired or wired and tired – indicating different states of adrenal imbalances. Always check for contraindications if taking any prescription medications! Remember, in the long run, these may also just mask the underlying issues.
11, Get moving!
Exercise, especially in nature, is one of the best remedy for mood disorders. Its documented benefits are so plentiful and powerful that one paper suggested it should be utilized as a drug.19 It boosts circulation and endorphin levels, kick-starts the thyroid gland and creates a feel-good buzz. A cross-sectional trial showed that those individuals who exercised the least were more likely suffering from anxiety,20 while a review of meta-analyses concluded that exercise regimes improved both anxiety and depressive disorders.21
12, The right mindset is crucial
Your brain has an enormous power over your body, so the right mindset is of utmost importance. Work-life balance, meditation, prayer, relaxation techniques are not just helpful, but crucial in healing stress related health problems.22 Do a simple breathing exercise to slow a racing mind and reduce Cortisol levels, anytime during the day and at night to help you turn off.23 Simply breathe in for 4 slow counts, hold it for 7 and breath out for 8 counts. Repeat at least 3 times. Letting go of old grudges that only hurt yourself, forgiveness, gratitude, spending time in prayer and just quite the mind are great practices the Bible taught us for thousands of years – for good reason. You need body, mind and spirit to be in harmony for optimum health.
A new data-analysis investigated the effects of an intervention, which included the above mentioned dietary and lifestyle changes and optimizing vitamin D levels, on depression and anxiety outcomes from community-based program. Of the 16,020 participants, 49.2% who reported any level of depression or anxiety at baseline reported improvement after the one-year follow-up.24 Therefore, eat well, get active and get some relaxing sunshine into you! Contact me to find Your ‘root’ to better health!
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