Anxiety - more than neurotransmitters?

Anxiety affects approximately half of my patients on some level, mild to severe.  I see it as early as elementary school-age all the way to menopause (a great side-effect of menopause that is under-discussed).  What I would like patients, especially women, to know, is that there is so much that can be looked into for anxiety, often helped with simple diet or lifestyle changes.

First and foremost, let me be clear that I am not anti-pharmaceuticals.  For many of my patients, anxiety and/or depression treatments afford them the means to keep going, to get out of the house into my office, and to take care of themselves and families.  Many feel guilt being on them or are anxious to come off them, but I want to reassure them that using them as a bridge to healthier eating, getting motivated to exercise, and more is maybe a good option.

1. Blood sugar control

How well your blood sugar operates often dictates how well other parts of your body operate.  I describe this to patients as the temperature in the room: When it's too cold, your printer and any machinery may slow down, any people in the room start acting differently as they become cold and so forth.  With good temperature regulation in the room, all things work their best.  The same is true of blood sugar and the effects on digestion, hormones and stress especially.  Many of my anxiety patients will be triggered by their blood sugar dropping.  Many sleep disorders, such as trouble staying asleep or light/anxious sleep, are also due to poor blood sugar control.  There are many dietary tips to improve this and over time see anxiety lessen.

2. Hormone imbalances

Excess estrogen or low progesterone often leads to anxiety, irritability and mood swings, especially pre-menstrually.  Excess progesterone or low testosterone can be associated more with a lower mood, as can an underactive thyroid gland.  Feeling wired but tired, irritable and burnt out can be a sign of high stress hormone, cortisol, while to little cortisol tends to make one feel overwhelmed easily, cold, tired, and slow to get going in the morning.

3. Diet and digestion

Poor food choices, namely excess sugar and caffeine, too little protein, B vitamins and magnesium intake and digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, heartburn and poor bowel movements can all worsen feelings of anxiety and can be often be easily addressed by naturopathic medicine.