Anxiety. Not only is it unenjoyable, it can be out right crippling. It has the ability to turn the simplest tasks into an unmanageable to-do list while sucking quality and happiness from your life.
While anxiety may seem complicated to delayer, it is very important to address it from the root cause. When you experience anxiety it is your body's way of letting you know that something isn’t quite right. This is why digging for answers is essential rather than just masking the symptoms.
There are several key reasons why, as a female, you may be experiencing anxiety. For this reason, staying in tune with your body by noting when you experience anxiety can be very helpful in uncovering the why. For anyone suffering from anxiety or any other health related condition, I always recommend keeping a journal to track things such as food, mood, movement, sleep and other related experiences. While this may seem like an elementary task, it can prove to be very insightful as to what may be causing your symptoms.
Anxiety isn’t something to be ashamed of or to ignore. Just know that if you experience anxiety, you’re not alone! In fact, did you know that women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men?(1) Below are some long term solutions to help combat the effects of anxiety. However, If you continue to suffer from severe, prolonged anxiety, it is important to talk to a qualified healthcare provider.
What’s causing your anxiety and how to fix it
1- You’re Riding a Blood Sugar and Insulin Roller Coaster:
The majority of Americans today walk around with blood sugar imbalances. If you think about your own day to day life, this will most likely be an easy one for you to identify with. You overindulge on too much sugar, simple carbs or perhaps a cup of coffee on an empty stomach and then ride out the effects of high blood sugar. High blood sugar can seem less obvious to identify than low blood sugar, but often includes blurred vision, excessive thirst and urination, headaches and weakness / tiredness (2).
So now that your body is riding this high your pancreas is working hard to make enough insulin to protect your body from the dangerous effects of high blood sugar. The problem is often your body overshoots the target and creates too much insulin causing a dip in blood sugar. Low blood sugar is that feeling of “hanger” you experience when you need to eat or that “crash” after having too much sugar. It often is identified as feeling shaky, irritable, sweaty, hungry and anxious (3). These blood sugar and insulin imbalances are major culprits for mood and behavior disorders, particularly anxiety.
Blood Sugar Rx:
-Eat a high quality protein and healthy fat rich breakfast each day within 90 minutes of rising. Have breakfast be the largest meal of the day, with each meal decreasing in size as the day moves along.
-Don’t wait too long to eat. Try keeping a protein or fat rich snack on you to avoid blood sugar crashes between meals.
-Eat the right carbs at the right time. Focus on complex carbs, such as sweet potatoes and brown rice. Try limiting complex carb intake to one serving per meal.
-Supplement with Magnesium.
2- You’re Inflamed:
Inflammation is a normal, healthy reaction in the human body in small amounts. However, because of unhealthy, toxic lifestyles, many of us are in a constant state of inflammation. One study on medical students showed a connection between reduced inflammation and reduced anxiety(3). If we take steps to reduce our inflammation our anxiety levels and overall health will benefit.
-Supplement with a high-quality Omega- 3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are essential fatty acid, meaning we must obtain them through diet because our body cannot create it. However it can be next to impossible to obtain the amounts necessary for healing through diet alone, which is why I always recommend supplementation of this essential nutrient.
-Reduce stress levels. Chronic elevated cortisol levels can be inflammatory and depleting. It is important to either reduce stress or find ways to better handle the effects of stress such as through meditation or finding ways to turn stressful routines into more playful rituals. It isn’t necessarily the amount of stress that is harmful but more so the way you view the stress.
-Avoid Toxins and Chemicals. These could be in everything from your cleaning products, makeup, personal care products, perfume, candles and so on and so on. Avoid them! Throw them out! Switch them for healthier alternatives! Please, I promise your health as a whole depends on it.
-Support your detoxification system. Through choosing a supportive diet full of cruciferous vegetables, antioxidant- rich and high-fiber foods you can help support your body's natural detoxification abilities. Hydration is also very important in aiding this system. Additional support can be found through the use of supplementing with green tea extract and turmeric.
3- Your Gut Health Needs a Boost:
The Gut-Brain-Axis is a strongly interconnected system for all aspects of health. Variations in the gut microbiota play a large role in many mental health issues including anxiety(4). Nourishing your gut health may result in anxiety reduction.
Gut Health Rx:
-Eat lots of Fiber and vegetables. These provide prebiotics which are what the bacteria in our gut feed on to stay healthy and alive.
- Eat naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi to help bring in more probiotics to your gut.
- Take a Probiotic daily. I especially recommend a spore-based probiotic which acts differently than traditional probiotics. They enter your intestinal tract and act almost as a gardener, weeding out the bad bacteria and bringing to life the good.
-Drink bone broth or collagen. Aim to consume at least one serving per day. These are great for gut health and healing.
4- It’s Time to Cut Out the Coffee / Caffeine:
Coffee and caffeine cause heart racing and increase all the symptoms of anxiety, especially if you already suffer from it. If you are a slow caffeine metabolizer the effects can be even more significant. On top of that, caffeine is a major endocrine disruptor, knocking your hormones out of balance as well as possibly disrupting your sleep.
Coffee / Caffeine Rx:
-Make the switch to herbal teas or sparkling water. Keep in mind the first 3 to 4 days might be very unpleasant due to caffeine withdrawals, but just keep pushing on! You got this! Soon you will feel how amazing it can be to be energized without needing stimulants and your body will thank you.
-Try out some naturally energizing mushrooms such as Cordyceps, in your tea or as a supplement.
5- You Might Want to Consider Tossing the Pill:
The pill works by suppressing our natural hormones and ovulation. This deprives us of the opportunity to work with our body and enjoy those moments of energy and happiness particularly associated with ovulation. The pill also depletes our body of many vitamins and minerals which assist in balancing our mood and calming anxiety such as vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium(5).
The Pill Rx:
This will of course vary depending on what your main purpose is behind taking the pill. Here are a few alternatives which will hopefully resonate with your circumstance.
-Learn how to balance your hormones through lifestyle and diet if you take the pill for symptoms such as acne or irregular / painful periods.
-Learn the FAM method. This is the best alternative in my opinion. Through tracking temperatures and body changes you can know exactly where you are in your cycle as well as gaining a deeper insight into your period health. One of the best resources for this is the book Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weschler.
-Get a non-hormonal copper IUD.
6- Hormonal Anxiety Might Be To Blame:
As women we are amazing and complicated! Each month we got through a cycle of changing hormones. It is important to understand what is happening through each phase of your cycle so you can work with your hormones and use them as an aid rather than falling victim to them. Hormones are the main communicators in our body and play a large role in how we feel from day to day. The first step to all of this would be first understanding and identifying where you are in your cycle. From there you can begin to observe what may be occurring and how you would go about fixing it.
If you experience anxiety during the follicular phase (right after your period until ovulation):
-You likely have too much estrogen. Estrogen can cause increased anxiety and tension.
-Increase foods which support the body’s natural detoxification system (as was outlined above under the Inflammation Rx)
If you experience anxiety during the luteal phase (After ovulation to your next period):
-You may be sensitive to the drop in estrogen
-You may be deficient in progesterone (especially if you are not ovulating)
-You may be sensitive to the drop in estrogen and progesterone which occur a day or two before menses.
-Your blood sugar may be more unstable at this time
- Help boost progesterone production by taking a B-vitamin complex everyday and focus on vitamin B6 rich foods such as grass-fed beef, pasture raised chicken, wild-caught salmon, organic spinach, sweet potatoes, bananas and garlic.
-If you’re experiencing blood sugar imbalances, focus on incorporating complex carbs and healthy fats.
Interested in digging more in depth into the root cause of your anxiety or still feeling a little lost?
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You deserve to be healthy and happy through every stage of life. Gaining an understanding of how to work with you body will reward you with that.