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We all know the feeling of being anxious about something. Whether it’s an upcoming test, balancing calendars, drama in relationships, or a deadline at work, we’ve all experienced the feeling of knots in our stomachs. But what happens when those feelings don’t leave? — What if everything seems like a cause for concern and worry? It can be exhausting being on guard like that all the time. The good news is that this anxiety doesn’t have to be a part of your everyday life. You can take control of it by supporting your overall health. 

WHO IS IMPACTED BY GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER? 

According to 2019 statistics from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), over 15% of the American population has a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). To break it down further, 9.5% of adults experienced mild, 3.4% moderate, and 2.7% severe anxiety symptoms. [1] 

Surprisingly, generalized anxiety diagnoses have increased in the West, even though Western nations are considered first-world countries. 

A common misconception is that countries with lower socioeconomic statuses would have higher anxiety rates. Those experiencing poverty would surely have more to worry about, right? However, a large study published in JAMA Psychiatry found this wasn’t the case. GAD is especially common in high-income countries. [2] 

While there is no direct understanding (only speculations) about why the West has increasing anxiety rates, an uptick in studies analyzing the harmful effects of a Western diet may have something to share. 

WESTERN DIETS AND INFLAMMATION 

It’s common knowledge among all forms of medicine that our Western-style diet isn’t healthy. Western diets include highly processed convenience foods and high-sugar beverages. This diet is typically attributed to the Western consumer’s “busy lifestyle.” Foods that make up Western diets are high in calories, sugars, trans fats, low-quality salt, and other food additives. These components are linked to inflammation in the gut. 

The Cleveland Clinic points out that eating this way leads to notable changes in the microbiome, shaping the immune response. This diet can also disrupt the integrity of the gut barrier, allowing food particles and bacterial waste products to prematurely enter the bloodstream, leading to inflammation. [3] To learn more about how that happens, read our article on leaky gut here. 

The bacteria in the gut directly communicate with the brain through the enteric nervous system. So, when there’s inflammation in the gut, there’s inflammation in the brain. What causes inflammation in the gut and brain? Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts. 

Traumas, Toxins, Thoughts, and Inflammation 

Toxins 

Foods aren’t the only potential source of inflammation. When you take in toxins from things like home cleaners, beauty products, lotions, nail polish, hair care, and even the air and water around you, it can create an inflammatory response in the body. 

Thoughts 

Did you know stress and anxiety can cause inflammation, which can then, in turn, lead right back to anxiety? It can be a rough cycle, and it takes work on both sides of the process to bring it to a stop. The opposite is also true: when you keep your thoughts positive, it supports and improves your health. This is why we have 5 ways to cope with stress and 5 ways to overcome it. It’s why we suggest committing to an attitude of gratitude and taking active control of your thoughts. 

Trauma 

Physical trauma can cause inflammation just as much—if not more so—as traumas and thoughts. What happens when you slam a finger in a door or stub a toe? Either one will swell and get red, tender, and warm. That’s the inflammation coming to fruition. 

But just because you don’t see the inflammation on the outside doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The body can be chronically inflamed and not manifest noticeable symptoms. 

Chiropractic adjustments are a fantastic way to get the body back into alignment and ease the inflammation from physical traumas. 

INFLAMMATION AND ANXIETY 

High anxiety rates and the consumption of a Western diet might be correlated. 

Since inflammation from unhealthy foods alters the microbiota in the gut, researchers have found that it could have multiple effects on motivation, higher cognitive functions, and other aspects of brain health. 

One study found “markedly decreased microbial richness and diversity” in patients with a generalized anxiety disorder. [4] 

However, it’s important to note that healthy foods can also cause inflammation. Eating foods you’re allergic to also sets off an immune response and may lead to chronic inflammation and anxiety.  

Evidence of chronic inflammation leading to anxiety disorders is especially present on the cellular level. Scientists identified elevated inflammatory markers, such as pro-inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein, in patients with anxiety disorders, particularly those with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). In contrast, patients without anxiety had lower levels of inflammatory markers. [5] 

ADDRESSING ANXIETY FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE 

Treating anxiety starts with eating better and supporting your gut health. The best way to do this is to get your food allergies and gut health tested so it’s possible to determine your starting point. Does it make sense to look at a map and decide where you want to go if you have no idea where you are now? Nope. You can only figure out how to get to point B if you know where point A is.   

Getting your food allergies tested will tell you additional sources of “toxins.” Just because something is a “health food” doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you. Kale, coffee, and cacao might have a lot of health benefits, but if you’re allergic to any of them, you’ll be hurting your body more than helping it. 

Gut health is a complicated field of study. There is so much that happens there that impacts not only your digestion but also your brain health, immune response, and so much more. This is not something you want to guess with. Getting your gut health tested, and having the tests reviewed by a Wellness Way practitioner will give you a clear idea of where to start when working to improve your gut health. 

Anti-anxiety/anti-depression medications can have life-altering side effects and are expensive. Eating healthier is less costly in the long run and benefits your body in many ways. 

It’s time to take charge of your microbiome by feeding it the nutrients it needs to thrive and avoiding foods that cause inflammation. 

START SOMEWHERE 

Many people struggle with anxiety, but the good news is that you can put yourself back on the path to wellness. To get thorough testing and guidance for healing your gut and brain inflammation, contact a Wellness Way clinic today! 

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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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