We all have life conditions pop up that make us anxious and this is a normal way to react to stress. Some amount of anxiety can actually be useful as it motivates us to take care of things that we maybe have procrastinated on getting done. Problems occur however if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety so much that it moves you into the category of having an anxiety disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health statistics, 18.1% of adult Americans are reported to be in this category for 12 month prevalence and 22.8% of adult Americans are reported to have a severe anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can really interfere with everyday living, make us moody, and even lead to poor memory and a decrease in cognitive functioning. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, so when we are anxious due to stress, this cortisol release causes our blood sugar and blood pressure to go up, causes the body to store extra fat, interferes with getting quality sleep, and causes a reduction in energy. Henry Emmons, MD, author of The Chemistry of Calm, warns that being constantly bombarded with stress makes the nervous system stay in a stressed state which can cause us to feel anxiety and be overwhelmed by even small stressful events.
Anxiety and Diet
What you eat and what you don’t eat may not be a “cure” for anxiety, but there are foods that can help with anxiety symptoms and some that can contribute to anxiety. Research has shown that there is a definite correlation between mood and stress and food. Eating a healthy diet keeps hormones functioning the way they should which improves your sense of well-being and can help reduce anxiety. When cortisol is released and we feel stressed and anxious and our blood sugar levels rise, we tend to crave and reach for comfort foods that are generally sugary, simple carbs, fried, processed, caffeinated or alcoholic. These are the worse types of foods to eat for anxiety though. They may give you a temporary boost in energy, but are soon followed by the “crash” that increases fatigue, stress and anxiety. Dr. Oz and other experts advise eating foods with amino acids and complex carbs that have been found to increase brain chemicals like serotonin that put us in a better mood, help us stay calm and sleep well and that help in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains like oatmeal, barley, whole wheat breads and quinoa, foods with tryptophan like oats, kale, bananas, soy and poultry, and foods with magnesium such as black beans and tofu are all good foods to eat if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Foods with vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to be good for stress reduction.
For those people that are stressed by having too much to do in a day and don’t take the time to eat right, wholefood supplements can help fill the nutritional gaps. AFA (aphanizomenon flos-aqua) bluegreen algae, with the cell wall for physical well-being and without the cell wall for mental well-being, is one way to get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, and a wide array of other nutrients, vitamins and minerals and the extra protein that can help with stress relief. Vitamin B12 is also important when dealing with stress and anxiety as it helps the body to relax. This vitamin can be found in liver, tuna, yogurt, cottage cheese and AFA bluegreen algae. This form of algae has been found to have high levels of B12 which other types of algae do not. In fact some types of algae can interfere with the body’s absorption of B12, so make sure if you need more B12 that you take the right kind of algae. The friendly bacteria in your intestines also makes vitamin B12. Taking probiotic supplements like acidophilus and bifidus can help increase your B12 levels.
Another AFA bluegreen algae supplement we find useful combines bluegreen algae, eleuthero, Ginkgo biloba, Lion’s Mane, bee pollen, wheatgrass juice, and noni. This combination was created especially for high-performance athletes and those with active lifestyles who depend on concentration and mental clarity. The blue green algae is a good source of whole food nutrition, bee pollen is reported to have a high amino acid content useful for stimulating memory and concentration, wheatgrass juice has been found to provide nutrients that support brain health and clearer thinking, and Gingko biloba has been used for a long time to promote increased memory and mental concentration by increasing circulation and providing increased oxygenation of brain cells. This nutritional combination means support to help you function when stress overwhelms you.
The herbal supplements Kava, Valerian or St. John’s Wort may also be helpful for some people in dealing with stress and anxiety. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking herbal supplements, especially if you are on medications, to make sure they are safe for you.
Anxiety and Digestion
When you are stressed and anxious, it is also common to have stomach or intestinal problems. The stomach actually has its own nervous system, the enteric nervous system. The receptors in the intestines react to fear, worry or anxiety and can cause diarrhea, nausea and heartburn. Anxiety activates the body’s fight or flight response. When this happens it takes most of the brain’s concentration and attention. This cuts back on energy for other brain functions such as control of the muscles used in digestion. For those who experience short term occasional anxiety, this is not noticeable, but when it is a more chronic condition it can interfere with the digestive process and lead to symptoms of gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation and diarrhea. Anxiety can also lower your serotonin levels. Serotonin is needed to send signals to the intestines and lower levels means an interruption in these signals. Anxiety and stress also have a negative effect on the friendly bacteria in the gut necessary for proper digestion and for performing immune system functions.
Some people find the herb lemon balm helpful in calming an anxious stomach and others find some relief with iberogast. If anxiety is messing with your digestive system then supporting your natural probiotics with supplements such as acidophilus and bifidus may also be helpful.
Natural Solutions for Dealing With Anxiety
Schedule Time for Relaxing
Taking time on a regular basis to engage in activities that are relaxing can help stop stress and anxiety before they start. What is relaxing for one person may not be relaxing for another so try out a variety of techniques and activities such as meditation, yoga, hobbies, exercise, listening to music, swimming, sports or anything else you can think of that may be relaxing for you. The main point is that you be sure you make the time regularly for your relaxation time. This gives your body time to recoup from stress and makes it less likely that you will go into anxiety. If you have a really busy schedule, make the decision that your relaxation time is just as important as anything else on your list and schedule the time into your day planner or calendar app. After all, this is for your health, so it really is as important or more so than whatever else you have to do.
A relaxation technique that many find helpful is deep breathing. When we are anxious and stressed we tend to not breathe as deeply and don’t get as much oxygen to the body. This is also something anyone can do anywhere and anytime that doesn’t cost anything. Going outside to walk around in a nature setting to do your breathing can add additional benefits. Dr. Oz suggests keeping a balloon with you that you can blow up during the day when stress takes over. To blow up a balloon you have to use long slow breaths that come from the diaphragm. This type of breathing lowers the blood pressure, slows the heart rate and calms the body with extra oxygen.
Develop Social Networks
Research studies have found that having positive social interactions on a regular basis is a good way to deal with stress and anxiety. Being around friends stimulates the body to release oxytocin which is a hormone that makes us feel good. Laughter has also been found to be good for reducing stress and boosting the immune system. Making time to be with friends, having a good time and laughing together can help you release the stress and anxiety of the day or week that has built up.
Write Your Worries Away
Worry is often a cause for anxiety. The mind wanders and starts thinking about all the things you should have done, didn’t do, wished you’d done differently, have to do tomorrow, can’t remember if you did and so on. It’s exhausting just thinking about all there is to worry about. Then just when the body needs to rest from the day you find you can’t turn your brain off and all the worries come rushing in. Then you are more anxious and stressed the next day because you didn’t get enough sleep. If this sounds like something you experience, Sue Patton Thoele, author of The Mindful Woman, suggests that you try writing down on paper all the worries and negatives that are going through your mind. This helps you acknowledge them, vent a bit and then put them away so you can get to sleep. Dr. Oz suggests a similar exercise in which you make a list of your 10 biggest worries or stressful events coming up for you and writing up a strategy for how you will deal with each of them.
See which of these natural solutions for diet or lifestyle changes work for you to help you reduce anxiety, stress and give you the relaxation time your body needs. A stressed body and mind are no fun and can lead to big health problems. It’s much better to get on a program now that allows you to deal with stress and anxiety and make it a priority in your life.
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