Do you or anyone you know suffer from anxiety or panic attacks? You may since General Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder are some of the most common mental disorders in the United States. It is estimated that 19% of U.S. adults have an anxiety disorder and 31% experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.
Do you think you have an Anxiety Disorder?
Over the past 2 weeks (most days out of the week), have you
- Felt nervous, anxious, or on edge?
- Not being able to stop or control worrying?
- Been unable to relax and even to sit still?
- Been easily annoyed or irritable?
- Felt afraid as if something awful might happen?
If so, you may have an anxiety disorder! In order to fit the criteria, you must have those symptoms for at least 6 months. Plus, the symptoms must have caused significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Other symptoms associated with anxiety are restlessness or feeling on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or with a blank mind, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless sleep).
How about Panic Disorder?
Anxiety sometimes is accompanied by Panic Disorder. Panic disorder entails the presence of recurrent panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and accompanied by four (or more) of the following symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Feelings of shortness of breath or smothering
- Sensations of choking
- Chest pains or tightness
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint.
- Chills or heat sensations
- Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
- Derealization (feelings of unreality)
- Depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- Fear of dying
A diagnosis is established if at least one of the attacks is followed by 1 month (or more) of one or both of the following: Persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences (e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy”) and a significant maladaptive change in behavior related to the attacks (e.g., behaviors designed to avoid having panic attacks, such as avoidance of exercise or unfamiliar situations).
NATURAL TREATMENT OF ANXIETY DISORDERS
It is best to take a holistic approach when dealing with any kind of condition, addressing the body as well as the mind significantly increases the chances of decreasing your symptoms.
It is important to realize that anxiety is based on fear and the underlying theme is the dysregulation of worry. Worry means to be uneasy or concerned about something. In anxious states, it is generally worry about things that haven’t happened. Anxiety/worry is based on future thinking, on what may or could happen.
It is essential to bring yourself to the present. Remind yourself that the majority of those concerns and fears (those ifs) are not based on objective present thinking and may never materialize. It helps to reframe the situation and change your perspective. Once you change your perception / your thinking, your emotional responses change. Remember, your emotions are the result of your perception and thoughts.
There are different therapy modalities but here are the most successful ones:
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) involves a cognitive portion that helps to change thinking patterns that support fears, and a behavioral portion using relaxation techniques and desensitization to anxiety-provoking triggers. CBT can include relaxation, exposure therapy, deep breathing, cognitive restructuring, and/or psychoeducation.
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction promotes focused attention on the present, acknowledgment of one’s emotional state, and meditation to help relax and reduce stress. It aims to cultivate moment to moment awareness without judgment.
Eating an organic alkaline diet has a huge impact on anxiety. Having fruits, vegetables and other complex carbohydrates keep your blood sugar stable as there are metabolized more slowly, helping you stay calmer.
Consume foods that have been shown to reduce anxiety:
- Foods rich in magnesium: leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, etc.), legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.), nuts, seeds, avocados, and whole grains.
- Foods rich in B vitamins: avocado, eggs, raw dairy, and almonds.
- Foods with selenium: Brazil nuts, halibut, grass-fed beef, turkey, chicken, and eggs
- Foods rich in zinc: oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks.
- Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids: wild salmon, walnuts, sardines, chia seeds, flax seeds, and mackerel, as well as a good quality omega-3 supplement.
- Beta-carotene rich foods: carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, and kale.
- Foods rich in vitamin C: citrus fruits, red peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and goji berries.
- Blueberries and peaches can be calming.
- Whole grains and oats also help increase serotonin production.
- Probiotic-rich foods: fermented veggies, pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir.
- Vegetables: asparagus, artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli.
- Spices: ginger and turmeric.
Limit or eliminate foods and products that alter your neurotransmitters and endocrine system:
- Caffeine, energy drinks and other stimulants
- Simple carbohydrates and refined sugar
- Processed foods /fast foods
Staying hydrated is very important as dehydration leads to mood disturbances. You should drink a MINIMUM of 8 glasses of water. If you feel thirsty, you are already 1-2% dehydrated. So start the day with a glass of water or water with lemon or apple cider vinegar and habitually drink water throughout your day.
You may also drink herbal teas in order to feel less anxious. Some of the most effective ones are chamomile, lavender, skullcap, and kava kava.
Some supplements have shown to have a positive impact on anxiety disorders: Kava extract, St. John’s wort, tryptophan (also found in most protein-rich foods like turkey and other meats, nuts, seeds, beans, and eggs), 5-Hydroxytryptophan, and S-adenosyl-l-methionine (consult your PCP or nutritionist for any drug interactions).
In anxiety and panic disorders, serotonin is disrupted. Around 90% of serotonin receptors are in the gut not in the brain, which is why a healthy gut-brain axis is essential to mental and physical well-being. Probiotics have shown to be beneficial for treating both anxiety and depression.
Changes in lifestyle are recommended to help reduce anxiety-related symptoms, like the identification and elimination of triggers (caffeine, stimulants, nicotine, dietary triggers, poorly reactions to stress) and the incorporation of habits that help maintain a healthy mind, such as physical activity and sleep quality.
Physical activity not only revitalizes your body and self-esteem but gives you those wanted endorphins, those chemicals that give you feelings of well-being, euphoria and even reduce pain! Additionally, exercise positively affects serotonin, decreases anxious states, elevates your mood, and increases relaxation.
Perform strength training and cardio at 60% to 90% of maximal heart rate for 20 minutes three times weekly in order to see faster results. Yoga and pilates are also beneficial.
Take 15-25 minutes of sunshine daily to maintain optimal vitamin-D levels, which help decrease symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression.
It has been found that aromatherapy, acupuncture, music therapy, massage – even more when using lavender, and Epsom salt baths (great sources of magnesium sulfate) help decrease anxious states. Combine different approaches to get better results.
Remember, anxiety is not the norm but an out of balance state that you can decrease and even eliminate.