We label this generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder. It’s a knot in the chest, difficulty breathing, cold sweats, and sometimes terrifying panic. It’s chronic meaning it can happen for days, weeks, or months at a time for what seems like no reason. Or, there is an underlying reason but the anxiety seems to not match the circumstance.
My anxiety was both. Racing thoughts took control of my mind and physically I was tense, on-edge, and at times even shaky. I just couldn’t seem to shake any of it. It would come and go in intensity, but its presence was always there. Sometimes it would be slight or non-existent, and then out of nowhere, it would make me want to stay under the covers all day.
Getting to the Root Cause
While trying to heal my anxiety, I spent months studying everything I could. What shocked me is how many other issues look like anxiety. Many people are dealing with a completely separate issue and experiencing anxiety as a result of that issue.
Anxiety is our loud and painful call to pay attention and rebalance the body and mind.
By getting to the root cause, we give ourselves the opportunity to heal.
Want to know how you can deal with life-long anxiety? Read 11 Holistic Hacks To Reduce Stress And Anxiety
The Root of Anxiety
1. Blood Sugar Imbalance
Anyone who is experiencing chronic anxiety needs to first look at their blood sugar levels. With the diabetes epidemic, anxiety is often overlooked in this equation. But unstable blood sugar and anxiety symptoms are almost identical.
2. Anxiety from Hypoglycemia
The standard American diet of sugar and carbs is literally a recipe for chronic anxiety. Daily spikes in blood sugar trigger constant snacking and anxiety-like symptoms.
Two of the most common are Hypoglycemia and insulin resistance.
In hypoglycemia, there’s a spike in blood sugar, then a major drop. Hypoglycemia literally means “low sugar.” When this happens the brain and body start to panic because their resource (sugar) needed for energy is getting low.
The brain needs more energy than any other organ in the body. It sends an SOS message to the adrenals which release the stress hormone cortisol. The body goes into a fight or flight state.
In this state, we feel anxiety symptoms like heart palpitations, panic, fear, shakes, and dizziness.
In this case study (link) there was a link between a diet that caused hypoglycemia and anxiety. A 15-year-old female presented with severe anxiety which included excessive worry, discomfort in the stomach, and heart palpitations that impacted her ability to function. Her anxiety was so severe she missed school regularly.
Her formal diagnosis was generalized anxiety disorder. She rated her anxiety an 8/10.
Her diet was the typical standard American diet of high carbohydrates and little fat. This included granola bars, bagels, orange juice, pasta, and constant snacking.
When switched to a high protein and higher fat diet her symptoms went to a 4/10 with higher energy, fewer stomach aches, and greater ability to concentrate.
She reported that if she went back to her previous diet, her anxiety immediately returned.
3. Anxiety from Insulin Resistance
Every time you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose as your body digests them. Glucose is released into the bloodstream, causing a rise in blood sugar. The pancreas responds by releasing insulin to balance the spike in blood sugar. If blood sugar levels are too high, over time the cells stop responding to insulin. Excess blood sugar stays floating around doing all types of damage, especially to the brain.
Insulin resistance alters neurotransmitter production like dopamine and affects the way neurons fire in the brain and communication between brain cells (link).
A study done by the Joslin Diabetes Center found a direct link between the brain and behavioral disorders (link).
Looking to know how you can handle your anxiety? Read Tips And Techniques To Stop An Anxiety Attack
4. Nutrient Deficiencies and Anxiety
When someone’s experiencing chronic anxiety nutritional deficiencies aren’t the first thing that comes to mind, but they should be.
Our bodies need a specific amount of nutrients that work together in a sophisticated symphony with each other. Deficiencies or incorrect ratios of nutrients often manifest as anxiety-like symptoms.
Here are a few of them:
A mineral that supports 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and neurotransmitter activity. It’s closely tied to GABA production, and low levels contribute to anxiety.
It also plays a vital role in neurotransmitters and the central nervous system. Studies show that significantly low zinc levels can trigger anxiety (link). Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety (link).
3. Vitamin D
I talk a ton about how important sunlight is for mental health. Vitamin D is a hormone that’s connected to almost every system in the body. It plays a key role in anxiety and many other psychiatric disorders.
It’s estimated that up to 85% of us are not getting enough. That’s epidemic proportions, and a reason to be conscious about spending time in the sun.