I know, I know, that title sounds like major click bait. I may as well have said “Four Ways Your Anxiety is Killing You”. But in a sense it is. Anxiety puts so much stress on your body when it’s not really in a state of danger. It serves a short-term purpose of telling you to stand guard, however in today’s modern society you aren’t running from lions or making sure no one swipes your perfect cave. You’re more likely to worry about swiping left or right, whether you have enough followers on social media, or what your boss thinks about you.
Even though anxiety isn’t needed in certain situations let me tell you it feels hella warranted. As a long-time anxiety sufferer (me along with over 3 million Canadians who report having an anxiety/mood disorder) I’ve had lots of weird thoughts wiggle into my brain. What if no one really likes me? What if people find out I have no idea how to adult? What if my heart explodes from this panic attack? I’ve felt it all! Now the tricky part with anxiety is it’s not just caused by one thing. Here are some sneaky reasons your anxiety may be spiking and remember knowledge is power people!
Your gut bacteria is off
Did you know that certain bacteria in your gut can change how areas of your brain function? Areas in the brain responsible for emotions and anxiety to be exact! Interestingly, this relationship goes both ways. The gut bacteria composition influences your brain, but your brain also affects the bacteria, with stress being a major contributor to a change in bacteria. This is an issue because many neurotransmitters (chemical messengers for the nervous system) are made by the good bacteria in the belly. For example certain strains of bacteria make serotonin, your brains happy neurotransmitter and others make GABA, a relaxing neurotransmitter. So it’s a cycle: you feel stressed and your gut bacteria plummets, which makes your brain unhappy, which makes your gut unhappy…and on and on.
Your adrenals are shot
Remember that running from a lion example of stress? When you are anxious all the time your adrenal glands think you’re continually running from that lion and they pump out cortisol. That stress hormone helps you in tough situations but gets stuck in the “ON” position. It affects your sleep, immune system, ability to focus, digestion and more! All of these in turn affect your: you guessed it…anxiety!
You have food sensitivities
Food sensitivities affect the health of your gut. They lead to inflammation, bloating, and constipation and/or diarrhea. Now the thought of having diarrhea in public is probably anxiety-inducing in itself, but sensitivities cause anxiety in other ways too. When the gut is inflamed inflammatory products called cytokines are produced. These have been linked with anxiety and depression. Also food sensitivities affect the good bacteria in your gut which you already learned is a dangerous cycle!
You have nutrient imbalances
It’s easier to notice the link between a deficiency and physical problems. Don’t get enough calcium? Boom! Osteoporosis, fractured and broken bones. But deficiencies can also affect your mental state. Magnesium is key for mental health as its essential for nervous system activity and promotes development of GABA. And it’s estimated that 50% of people don’t get enough from their diet. I could write an entire blog just on these deficiencies, but some of the main ones are zinc, vitamins B5 & B6, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium.
So what to do?? Hide under a rock? Tempting…but there are other ways to survive. I work with clients in a holistic sense and come at anxiety from all angles.
Focus on stress management techniques
Eat real, whole foods to avoid deficiencies
Incorporate fermented foods and a probiotic supplement into the diet
This work takes time and dedication, but imagine a time where your anxiety doesn’t control you or consume your thoughts… isn’t that worth fighting for?