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Have you ever experienced severe feelings of stress, like a racing heart or a panic attack? Everyone feels the physical effects of stress on occasion, but some people deal with anxiety on an ongoing basis, leading them to reach out for professional help. While psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help to an extent, sometimes there’s something deeper and more physical going on. Let’s delve into anxiety and its potential causes. 

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness or fear, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate and sweating. Anxiety can be a side effect of the body’s response to stress, whether there’s an actual physical stressor or an imagined or anticipated one. Fear and worry greatly contribute to anxious thoughts and feelings.  

Anxiety can be caused by external factors, such as stressful life events, or internal factors, such as allergies, inflammation, or traumatic past experiences. The stress hormone cortisol is one of the many hormones behind these anxious feelings and the physical symptoms listed below. Cortisol ramps up when something triggers the sympathetic nervous system, leading to inflammation in the body.  

Within the umbrella of anxiety, the field of psychiatry recognizes several disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (social phobia), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other phobia-related disorders. 

While these other disorders may have additional symptoms, they still have many of these general symptoms of anxiety listed below. 

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety can cause both physical symptoms and emotional symptoms. 

  • Anxious feelings 
  • Irritability 
  • Excessive worry 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed 
  • Numbness and tingling 
  • Phobias 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Restlessness 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Sweating 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Abnormal blood sugar levels 
  • Digestive issues – especially diarrhea 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Sleep issues 

Severe panic attacks usually lead people to seek out medical advice. Other medical conditions associated with anxiety include depression, thyroid disorders, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and other immune imbalances. 

How is Anxiety Diagnosed?

To diagnose anxiety, healthcare professionals take note of the patient’s symptoms and complaints.  

Symptoms

A diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) requires at least three of six somatic symptoms (restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability, tension, and sleep disturbance). They also must have suffered from excessive worry for at least six months. For social anxiety, PTSD, or OCD to be diagnosed, there are a few additional criteria that would need to be met. For this article, we’ll focus on general symptoms of anxiety.  

Testing

There isn’t a specific test to diagnose anxiety, but some clinicians may follow the consultation with a neurotransmitter test. 

The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare

At The Wellness Way, we talk about the mainstream perspective on healthcare versus our perspective, as the “fireman approach” versus the “carpenter approach.”

Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) to take care of people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out during a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish the “flames”: inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.

Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters: They assess the body’s current state with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are some common natural therapies that support the body in healing.

While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in supporting the healing process.

Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Anxiety

Mainstream medicine looks at anxiety as one of many mental health conditions. In most cases, health professionals will reach for medication to help the patient deal with symptoms. Occasionally, an open-minded doctor may also recommend stress-lowering techniques like meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  

Common Medications for Anxiety

Conventional treatment of anxiety usually includes prescription medications of some kind. Here are some common anti-anxiety medications:   

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs are thought to delay the uptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, and norepinephrine, keeping them active longer in the brain. In addition to anxiety, they are also used for depression, panic disorder, fibromyalgia, and back pain. Examples include Cymbalta, Pristiq, and Effexor.  
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs are thought to increase the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. They can be used as antidepressants. Examples include Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, and Celexa.  
  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are used to increase the neurotransmitter GABA’s effects in the brain. These drugs are also used for insomnia, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. Examples include Xanax, Valium, and TranXene.  

These medications supposedly treat anxiety by improving or prolonging the effects of neurotransmitters in the brain. They may help with symptoms. However, they all have side effects. Those side effects are often the reason people seek out natural remedies or home remedies. But sometimes, it’s more important to look at what to remove before we look at what to add. 

What Causes Anxiety? Trauma, Toxins, and Thoughts

While mainstream medicine acknowledges life events may contribute to anxiety, they tend to believe that medication is the only proven way to address it. They also tend to believe that mental health is separate from physical health. However, at The Wellness Way, we disagree.  

Traumas (Physical Stressors)

Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the small intestine, leading to dis-ease there and triggering an inflammatory response. An inflamed gut is an inflamed brain. Other traumas that may contribute to anxiety include: 

  • Concussions 
  • Neck injuries 
  • Sexual assault/rape 
  • Car accident 
  • Severe illness or infection 
  • Witnessing violence or a natural disaster 
  • Military combat – PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) 
  • Having a baby  
  • Surgery 
  • A death in the family or a close friend 

Physical traumas and the potential of chiropractic care should not be underestimated. Taking the stress off the nervous system is a huge component of addressing anxiety disorders. 

Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)

Toxins are biochemical stressors that may be either natural or synthetic. Toxins associated with anxiety include: 

  • Poor Indoor Air Quality: Off-gassing and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) used to sterilize materials in new cars, mattresses, and carpets can create chronic toxicity in the body, leading to feelings of anxiety.
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) – Repeated exposure to this chemical solvent has been known to cause anxiety. [1] 
  • Toxic metals – Metal toxicity may also contribute to anxiety. Mercury, for example, can block serotonin production, leading to increased anxiety. [2] Aluminum has also been shown to induce anxiety in animal studies. [3] 
  • Mold – Exposure to mycotoxins from mold has also been linked to anxiety and other emotional symptoms. [4] 
  • Non-native EMFs – Electromagnetic frequencies from cell phones and WIFI (as opposed to natural frequencies from the earth) may also contribute to anxiety. [5] 
  • Food allergies – Foods can act like a toxin if you’re allergic to them. [6] 

These are just a few toxins to look at. We know the body responds to toxic exposures by creating a stress response, which often triggers feelings of anxiety. Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and emotional stress. 

Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)

Emotional stress is a significant contributor to anxiety, and it’s difficult to overcome anxiety as long as a person is constantly subjected to emotional stressors. Here are some potential contributors to chronic anxiety: 

  • Watching or reading the news (fear/worry) 
  • Emotional stress from marriage, financial, career, or other issues 
  • Social isolation and loneliness 
  • A state of overwhelm by major life changes, such as marriage, a new baby, graduation, divorce, or even moving to a new city. 
  • Grief/feelings of loss 
  • Pent up anger 

Thoughts are powerful! Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen talks about the harmful effects of what he calls “ANTs,” an acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts. He cites a study that found repetitive negative thinking can actually lead to a buildup of plaque in the brain. Ultimately, this may lead to Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Repetitive negative thoughts can certainly also contribute to anxiety. [7] 

The Wellness Way Approach to Anxiety

At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We start with testing to see where there may be imbalances and then develop a personalized nutrition and supplement plan to help your body heal itself. 

Important Tests for Assessing Your Gut and Brain Health

Here are some commonly recommended tests at The Wellness Way:  

Testing depends on which ones your Wellness Way practitioner considers most important for your health history. He or she may also suggest additional testing, such as the neurotransmitter test.  

Dietary Changes for Those with Anxiety

First, we must lower inflammation so the gut can heal. That means avoiding your food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as recommended by your Wellness Way practitioner. These are some additional guidelines for inflammatory conditions like anxiety: 

  • Limit sugar and processed foods Both can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and contribute to chronic inflammation. [8] 
  • Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, creating inflammation there and in the brain. Non-celiac gluten reactions have been linked to anxiety. [9] 
  • No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated –and even beneficial. [10 
  • Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory. [11] Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm oil; or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat. 
  • Avoid alcohol – Alcohol compromises the intestinal lining, increases inflammation, and alters the bacterial balance, causing dysbiosis. [12] Alcohol consumption is also a risk factor for anxiety. [13] 
  • Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods.  
  • Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program, based on your food allergy test results. 
  • Specific nutrient-dense foods: Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for added nutrition. 
  • Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, and foods high in polyphenols can help keep inflammation under control. 
  • Omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. [14] 

Diet is paramount, but supplements can help the body in healing the gut and brain.  

Supplements For Those with Anxiety

Herbal supplements can be incredibly supportive in helping to overcome feelings of anxiety. They can also improve overall feelings of well-being. 

  • Ashwagandha – Ashwagandha was found to have “noteworthy anti-stress and anti-anxiety activity” in both animal and human studies. [15] 
  • Chamomile – Chamomile was also shown to reduce anxiety and depression in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of those with generalized anxiety disorder. [16] 
  • Kava – Kava has a calming effect on the brain. An Australian study indicated kava has great potential for treating generalized anxiety disorder, confirmed through clinical trials and meta-analyses. [17] 
  • Passionflower – In a study of 36 patients, passionflower was as effective as a benzodiazepine drug for reducing generalized anxiety. [18] 
  • L-Theanine – This amino acid derived from green tea has also been shown to calm anxiety. [19] You can find L-Theanine in our Alcedonia supplement.  
  • CBD Oil – Cannabidiol, or CBD, has shown exciting potential for multiple anxiety disorders. CBD may help anxiety disorders through its impact on the limbic system of the brain. In a small study of 10 people with generalized social anxiety disorder, CBD at an oral dose of 400 mg reduced blood flow to the limbic system (often overactive in those with anxiety), normalizing its activity. [20]
  • B Vitamins – In a 2021 study, a higher intake of dietary B vitamins, especially biotin, was associated with reduced anxiety. [21] 
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D is known to have many health benefits, but it is also essential for those suffering from anxiety. Lower levels of vitamin D are associated with symptoms of anxiety. [22] 
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that gets depleted when a person is under stress. Studies are showing potential for magnesium to help those who struggle with anxiety. [23] 

Everyone is different – herbal remedies that work for one person may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to differences in the contributing causes of anxiety. Valerian may work for some people, but scientific evidence doesn’t strongly support its use for anxiety. The same goes for omega-3 fatty acids. Supplementing omega-3s is more likely to work for anxiety if the person is deficient in them. 

Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies for Anxiety

Other natural anxiety remedies include lifestyle changes and other therapies that calm the nervous system, such as the following: 

  • Regular chiropractic care – Chiropractic care helps improve blood flow and nerve flow while decreasing overall physical stress on the body.
  • Physical activity – A review published in Current Psychiatry Reports found that physical activity was a promising treatment option for addressing anxiety. [24] 
  • Breathing exercises Breathing exercises like yoga breathing have also been shown to improve symptoms of stress and anxiety. [25] 
  • Acupuncture – A systematic review found that acupuncture could lead to positive outcomes in those struggling with anxiety. [26] 
  • Diffusing essential oils – Aromatherapy can also help soothe anxiety. Lavender has been shown to be particularly effective as an anti-anxiety natural remedy. [27] 
  • Herbal teas – Holding and sipping a cup of hot herbal tea, such as chamomile tea, can also serve as a natural anxiety treatment. [28] 

Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about anxiety. 

Educational Resources for Anxiety

Videos & Webinars Related to Anxiety

Articles to Support Those with Anxiety

CONNECT WITH US!

We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help!  

References

  1.  Unusual case of anxiety: trichloroethylene neurotoxicity | BMJ Case Reports 
  2. (PDF) Elemental Mercury Exposure and Sleep Disorder (researchgate.net) 
  3. Bergamot essential oil attenuate aluminum-induced anxiety-like behavior through antioxidation, anti-inflammatory and GABA regulation in rats – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  4. Mold Toxicity: A Common Cause of Psychiatric Symptoms | Psychology Today Canada 
  5. Anxiety-like behavioural effects of extremely low-frequency electromagnetic field in rats – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  6. Impact of allergy treatment on the association between allergies and mood and anxiety in a population sample – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  7. Anxiety, automatic negative thoughts, and unconditional self-acceptance in rheumatoid arthritis: a preliminary study – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  8. Impact of sugar on the body, brain, and behavior – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  9. Extra-intestinal manifestations of non-celiac gluten sensitivity: An expanding paradigm – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  10. In vitro evaluation of immunomodulatory activities of goat milk Extracellular Vesicles (mEVs) in a model of gut inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  11. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  12. Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation – PMC (nih.gov) 
  13. Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for anxiety and depression: results from the longitudinal follow-up of the National Psychiatric Morbidity Survey – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  14. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in primary Sjögren’s syndrome: clinical meaning and association with inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  15. A DOUBLE-BLIND, PLACEBO-CONTROLLED EVALUATION OF THE ANXIOLYTIC EFFICACY FF AN ETHANOLIC EXTRACT OF WITHANIA SOMNIFERA – PMC (nih.gov) 
  16. Putative Antidepressant Effect of Chamomile ( Matricaria chamomilla L.) Oral Extract in Subjects with Comorbid Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  17. Kava for the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder (K-GAD): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  18. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  19. The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: a Systematic Review – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  20. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  21. Dietary intake of B vitamins and their association with depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms: A cross-sectional, population-based survey – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  22. Is Vitamin D Important in Anxiety or Depression? What Is the Truth? – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  23. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  24. Moving to Beat Anxiety: Epidemiology and Therapeutic Issues with Physical Activity for Anxiety – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  25. Yoga breathing, meditation, and longevity – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  26. Acupuncture for anxiety – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  27. Effects of Lavender on Anxiety, Depression, and Physiological Parameters: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – PubMed (nih.gov) 
  28. Chamomile tea: Source of a glucuronoxylan with antinociceptive, sedative and anxiolytic-like effects – PubMed (nih.gov) 

 

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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