ANXIETY- What is the message and what can a Naturopath do?
Anxiety influences 1 in 5 Adults. Whether anxiety is new to you or whether it is something you have experienced for years, your body is trying to tell you something…
Anxiety is a huge umbrella term because it can manifest in so many different ways and for so many different reasons. The first and most important step in addressing anxiety is recognition.
Some of the psychological symptoms of anxiety include:
Feeing tense, nervous or irritable/ unable to relax
Feelings of constant worry
Feeling self-conscious and doubt
Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety include:
Shortness of breath
Increased heart rate
Shaking and trembling
Faster and shallow breathing
Dizziness or light- headedness
Digestive issues (stomach aches, pains, cramping, butterflies)
Excessive sweating, hot flushes or rashes
Fatigue and lethargy
Grinding your teeth
As hard as it is to believe I can say with confidence that there is more to your anxiety. Have you ever wondered that maybe your body is trying to tell you something?
Usually the reason we experience anxiety is due to our brain experiencing/ recognising what it believes to be as a threat. This will initiate our fight or flight response – switching our body into a state full of adrenaline and other stress hormones such as cortisol to keep us alive. These hormones will then influence other bodily functions, for example, our hearts will beat faster to pump blood to our muscles, and extra oxygen will be sent to our brain to increase alertness. Because in times of danger- this is what our body will do to survive.
So… anxiety is one of our bodies in built survival mechanisms – however, experiencing anxiety on the regular due to unnecessary perceived threats is not ok, in fact it is a lot of work and stress for our bodies to go through and has multiple other influences on our health long term. This is why it is so important to rebalance and support your body.
What else happens in the body?
Biochemically speaking, anxiety is often associated with an imbalance of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in your brain. In fact, often lower levels of GABA, Serotonin and dopamine are associated with anxiety. This can be due to a number of different reasons, depending on the individual, however we know, across the board that stress hormones will interfere with the production and release of these neurotransmitters.
Doctors will aim to address these neurotransmitters through anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications.
The most commonly prescribed medication for anxiety is an SSRI (Serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) or an SNRI (Serotonin norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitor) or benzodiazepine.
Some Examples include;
SSRI: Prozac, Zoloft, Celeax, Lexapro, Viibryd, Paxil, Pexeva
SNRI; Effexor, Pristiq, Cymbalta
Benzodiazepine; Valium, Xanax, Restoril, Mogadon,
What do they do?
These medications are used to target certain neurotransmitters in the brain that control things like mood by increasing their extracellular level and reducing its reabsorption leaving it available. The main ones being;
Serotonin- also known as the happy brain hormone, necessary in adequate amounts for a stable and happy mood. Often low levels are associated with anxiety, depression
GABA- also known as our relaxing hormone that can put on the breaks of the brain, soak up stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol and act as our bodies natural Valium. Low levels are often associated with anxiety,
Dopamine- regarded as the reward, satisfaction and motivation hormone. Low levels of dopamine can make you feel tired, moody, unable to concentrate and apathetic. Low levels are also associated with depression
Norepinepherine: A stress hormone that circulates through the body. Often higher levels are associated with anxiety.
What are the downsides to the medication?
Replenishment of depletion of neurotransmitters require amino acids (the building blocks of protein), precursors and its nutrients. The medications above do not address this
Nasty side effects - including: drowsiness, fatigue, nausea, insomnia, diarrhea, constipation, nervousness, dizziness, reduced libido, headaches, blurred vision, confusion, depression
This is no long term solution and it will only mask your bodies underlying issues.
What can a Naturopath do?
We can work alongside other health practitioners, even if you are on medication/s. We look at addressing underlying causes of your anxiety, this may include but is not limited to;
Looking at biochemical imbalances of the neurotransmitters: Depletion of these chemicals can be due to stress, poor diet, brain toxins, heavy metals, gene aberrations, poor digestive health stimulants and recreational addictive drugs. Imbalances can be addressed by distinguishing the cause/s.
Conducting a comprehensive dietary analysis. The fundamental building blocks of neurotransmitters are contained in nutrients found in food. We will analysis your diet and make modifications or improvement where necessary to make sure you’re consuming key nutrients for your nervous system.
Looking into your Gut health: Approximately 90% of serotonin is synthesised in the gastrointestinal tract, this means that for your body to produce neurotransmitters, your digestion and the bacteria in your gut need to be healthy. For some, this is key! Food intolerances or food allergies have also been associated with anxiety and depression, so addressing this is also essential.
Taking an extensive health history and Family history. A strong family history of mental health disorders can indicate potential genetic influences. This is something we can test for! Furthermore, taking a comprehensive analysis of all body systems helps us to associate any other comorbid conditions which may be influencing your anxiety eg: Thyroid conditions, food intolerances, hormonal changes etc.
Conducting an analysis of your environment and lifestyle: This includes looking at stressors for your body and your mind (work, drugs, medications, toxins, money, relationships etc) as well as educating and encouraging lifestyle practices which will reduce your anxiety eg: exercise, meditation.
Prescriptions of INDIVIDUALISED medicine: We create individualised prescriptions for every single client which can involve herbal medicine, homeopathic, flower essences and nutrition. They will be used to address symptoms of anxiety (eg: palpitations, sweating, insomnia etc) as well as address underlying causes of anxiety (eg: balancing neurotransmitters naturally, reducing stress, rectifying nutrient deficiencies, healing the gut etc).
If you’re ready to tackle the real causes of your anxiety then we would love nothing more then to help and support you to do so. If you have any questions or would like further information feel free to contact us at the Sana Co- we’re always happy to help. Or if you’re ready, Click here to secure your appointment
Tanika is a degree qualified Naturopath and graduated from the Southern School of Natural Therapies. Her area of clinical interest lies in mental health such as anxiety, depression and general stress. She believes in the concept of food as medicine and always takes into account the holistic picture when treating her clients, exuding they get the best outcomes possible. Tanika is available for consultation Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.