Updated: Dec 15, 2017
Anxiety can be defined as, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, or a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks,(1).”
This feeling can be debilitating for many people, and is commonly associated with sleeping problems, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dry mouth, neuralgia in feet or hands, nausea or dizziness (2). The current common treatment for anxiety is anti-depressant and anxiety reducing drugs as well as psychotherapy, (2). As a clinical nutritionist and kundalini yoga instructor, I have found several alternative ways that can help manage anxiety and panic attacks, that you may want to explore if this is a challenge that you are dealing with.
First, I would like to explain and underlying condition that can contribute to anxiety and the role that diet and vitamin/mineral deficiencies play in relationship to this condition. Anxiety and panic are feelings that can be associated with fear. If you can’t identify the source of the fear and this feeling is constantly occurring, then something called sympathetic nervous system dominance is a condition that I address with my clients. The autonomic nervous system can be subdivided into the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system is a set of nerves that facilitate the unconscious function of your body at rest, and are predominantly responsible for activities such as digestion, urination, and sexual arousal. The sympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is usually referred to as the “fight or flight” system, and is predominantly responsible for the unconscious nerve responses when you are under duress. This system helps you to run or fight the “Tiger” that may be attacking you, (i.e. It increases blood flow to the brain so you can think faster, expands lung function, speeds heart rate, and activates stimulating hormones such as adrenaline.) The body is designed to use this system to survive an attack and this system is triggered by FEAR. However, some of us run on this nervous system function constantly, which is referred to as sympathetic nervous system dominance.
There are a few explanations as to why someone may have this condition. One likely factor is acidic blood pH. The body naturally produces metabolic waste which may be increased in times when the sympathetic nervous system is functioning, because of an increase in respiration and heart rate. This metabolic waste is usually neutralized or buffered by alkalizing minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iodine, and potassium. However, the sympathetic nervous system also reduces digestive secretions and smooth muscle motility and contraction, therefore making these minerals less likely to be absorbed by the digestive system. An increase in acidic waste with a decrease in mineral absorption can leave the blood pH more acidic that usual. The body is always calculating and measuring its blood, and this acidic blood pH can then make the body perceive that it is under stress even when there may not be an actual perceived source of stress or fear. This perceived stress then causes the system to react with the sympathetic nervous system response which then furthers the acidic blood condition, which is why we call it sympathetic nervous system dominance. The body then tries to buffer the blood with mineral storages from bones, teeth, or muscle. If you have severe muscle cramps, osteopenia/osteoporosis, or numerous dental cavities, this can be a possible contributing factor.
Next, there are some dietary habits that can contribute to anxiety and sympathetic dominance. For example:
A diet rich in red meat and sugar can increase this condition due to the extreme acidity of these foods. A diet that is rich in dark green leafy vegetables can help to provide the alkalizing minerals needed to buffer the pH of the blood.
Caffeine can also stimulate adrenaline and this sympathetic nervous system response. The side effects of caffeine include: nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, and increased heart rate and respiration, (many of the same symptoms of anxiety) (3). Coffee can be a major contributor to this condition, not only because of the caffeine content, but also because of its acidic pH and diuretic effect. Diuretics can cause the body to eliminate some of your minerals through the kidneys.
Habits such as going too long without eating can also trigger the sympathetic nervous system and anxiousness. It is important to eat regularly throughout the day to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Dehydration and not drinking enough water can also contribute to systemic acidity and contribute to this condition.
As a clinical nutritionist I suggest pairing alkalizing minerals with a strong digestive enzyme to ensure more absorption, as well as certain B vitamins and essential fatty acids that can relax the nerves.
I also suggest certain products and herbs that can neutralize acidic waste and help to calm the nervous system. Licorice root, ashwaganda, eleuthero, California poppy, and Jamaican Dogwood are a few of many herbs that can calm the nervous system.
I also use certain essential oils, homeopathic remedies, and flower essences that promote relaxation. In your nutritional consultation with me, I try to find you a very specifically tailored protocol that will give you the most effective result for your body, with the least amount of products. These protocols can help to pin point how to get your system to absorb more minerals as well as products for hormonal and nervous system balancing.
Finally, I would like to discuss the instantaneous and profound effect Yoga can have on anxiety. I am a Kundalini Yoga instructor and over the years I have learned that Kundalini is an exact science that uses an ancient technology to impose an effect on the nervous system is a specific and systematic way. Kundalini differs that most yoga forms in that it uses not only postures and poses, but mantra, meditation, mudras, eye positions, and breathing techniques. Here are some of the ways I have found that Kundalini Yoga can ease anxiety.
Long deep breathing can lower your respiration and heart rate instantly changing the stimulating effects of the sympathetic nervous system. This decreased rate in respiration changes the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide in the blood, which can have an alkalizing effect.
Left nostril breathing has a direct effect on the sympathetic nervous system. Breathing only from the left nostril can have a profound calming effect.
Meditation helps you to be focused on the present moment. When you are aware and recognize that you are safe in the present moment; fear of the future begins to dissolve and the source of fear that can trigger anxiety also diminishes. Meditation can also give you the ability to observe and become aware of your source of fear that may be triggering the anxiety.
Mantra is a way to immediately stop negative thinking patterns. Instead of focusing on the fear driven thought patterns, submerging yourself in mantra can give your mind and nervous system a much needed rest.
Stretching your muscles can also release calming endorphins and mineral storages that can relax the entire body.
If you found this information helpful, and would like to know more about how Enlightened Health can help your anxiety, please contact Jennifer at 806-683-0064