Anxiety can affect anyone in vastly varying ways. The term “anxiety” is a general one which is used to cover a multitude of conditions. The symptoms of anxiety can be very general or acute. Speaking with your doctor about your specific symptoms is vitally important in the treatment of anxiety as different symptoms have vastly different treatment regimes. It can be situational, such as when it is related to test taking or social events. In children (and even some adults) separation anxiety can occur when the person you are strongly attached to leaves. It can also be generalized, where you feel anxious all the time without any identifiable cause. People with anxiety are often presented with feelings of being “keyed up”, have difficulty concentrating or making decisions, may be irritable or fatigued, have muscle tension and physical restlessness, or sleep disturbance. Panic disorder is an anxiety condition in which people feel short but intense bouts of fear in which their heart will race, they will sweat, and feel like they are going to die. After it passes sufferers may live with the anxiety that another panic attack could happen at any time without warning. Sedating medications as well as anti-depressants are often used to treat these conditions conventionally. Many people are unhappy with the sexual side effects, weight changes, or are concerned about addiction with the conventional drugs. This can lead to a vicious cycle of more anxiety, more meds, and then even more anxiety because of the meds. Fortunately, naturopathic medicine can offer both relief from anxiety, and help with getting off of meds.
Removing Obstacles in Anxiety
The most common obstacles to healing in anxiety are poor diet or eating habits, lack of exercise, and thyroid or adrenal dysfunction.
What and when you eat can play a significant role in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Sugar and other simple carbohydrates are the biggest food culprits. Skipping meals comes in a close second. When you consume carbs your blood sugar spikes, insulin is released to store that sugar, and then your blood sugar drops. When you don’t eat you just maintain a low blood sugar. This is called hypoglycemia. When your blood sugar drops too low it can make you feel anxious, irritable, and fatigued. Depending on your individual biochemistry and dietary needs, you may need to adjust the amount of food you eat, the frequency of meals, or increase foods like proteins and fats that help slow the absorption of sugar.
Exercise has been shown to be a more effective treatment for anxiety than medication in many studies. This simple habit change may be the only tool some people need to improve their anxiety. Exercise improves mood and energy while reducing inflammation. It also gives a mental “break” from worries. It is best done (after checking with your doctor, of course) a minimum of 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. It will usually take about 4 weeks for the effects to fully kick in, so not losing hope in the first month is vital.
As with many mental health conditions, the disorders of the endocrine system may contribute to or cause anxiety. In particular, hyperthyroidism, or the over functioning of the thyroid gland, causes the same symptoms as anxiety as well as weight loss without a change in food intake and heat intolerance. Hyperthyroidism should always be ruled out with lab testing if you have these symptoms. The adrenal glands can also contribute to anxiety. The adrenal glands produce many hormones, one of which is cortisol, commonly known as a stress related hormone. Chronic stress will stimulate the release of excess cortisol. In time, the adrenals become “fatigued” and are no longer able to release this hormone in response to stress. To compensate for this, they start to release epinephrine and norepinephrine, hormones that are part of the “fight or flight” response. This leaves people feeling agitated, fatigued and anxious with a litany of physical symptoms as well. Finally, the medications that are prescribed for anxiety can cause a deficiency of melatonin, the hormone that is responsible for regulating sleep. Disruptions in sleep patterns have been linked to the onset of anxiety or the exacerbation of symptoms. Supporting hormone function, replacing hormones when indicated, and reducing stress through lifestyle, and coaching coping strategies which teach resilience will help most people who are anxious to respond to their treatment better.
Stimulate Healing in Anxiety
I have found that the most effective method to stimulate healing in anxiety is homeopathy. This unique system of medicine is the cornerstone to my success in treatment and to helping my patients find balance and improve their mood. With its use I am often able to help patients reduce or eliminate their need for medications. Homeopathy by it’s nature is most individualized medicine available because in order to be prescribed accurately and effectively it has to be selected based on your unique symptoms. Finally, it is the most comprehensive medicine available. The mind and the body are not separate, and what happens in one part affects others. Homeopathic medicines succeed, where conventional pharmaceuticals fall short, by treating the whole person, mind, body and spirit.
Resilience in Anxiety
Anxiety does not have to be a lifelong battle or require long term use of medications. With time, perseverance, and and appropriate naturopathic and homeopathic treatment, many people who have been previously unable to stop medication without side effects will be able to live in recovery with resilience. They find that they can move fluidly through the ups and downs that are a natural part of any life, free from anxiety. And the best part of it all – it is their own body healing itself!