Characterized by symptoms like: shortness of breath, chronic worry and stress, chest tightness or pain, headaches, panic attacks, feeling low or agitated at times and more, anxiety is “silent” because it easily goes “underneath the radar.” Many of the symptoms are not always seen with the naked eye.
Nevertheless, the struggle is real, and if you’ve ever struggled with anxiety yourself, you are probably not foreign to sitting in a therapist’s office, fulfilling a medication prescription or being told to “just get over it” by other people who just don’t understand it.
I get it. I’ve been there too.
MY ANXIETY STORY
“It’s just a small dose. You should take it. It will help you.”
This was a common phrase I heard, in and out of eating disorder treatment hospitals and residential centers for years.
Coupled with a steady re-feeding diet of processed foods, whole grains, sedentary living, and groups and individual therapies, every girl in each center I went to had a weekly Psychiatrist appointment with the resident doc on staff.
And every week—no matter which center I was in—I, too, met with the Psych who told me all about the benefits that SSRI’s would give my anxious mind.
“It will calm you down,” she would say. Or, “It will help make things easier.”
While I do believe there CAN be a time and place for medication, I also know in my own personal story and journey, every time I went on one of these pills for an extended period of time, I felt completely…Flat.
A foggy brain. Slowed down.
On the pills, I was disconnected—perhaps a bit more chill, but still disconnected. And, off the pills, I was disconnected—a worrier, a planner, an overthinker, a high-achiever, a go-getter, easily fixated on “what ifs” and highly self-conscious.
Both versions: I WAS NOT myself. A different person.
Although I’ve worked with countless of clients who, too, have been on pills in their present or past—and some have seen success—at the time, I always wondered what (if any) other options and “remedies” were available—other than a pill.
After all, long before Lexapro and Zoloft existed, humans functioned without this rising epidemic in anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses we’ve witnessed as a society over the past several decades.
How could I cure anxiety naturally?
In my efforts to “heal thyself,” I Google searched and tried every remedy in the book to fix myself—
- Deep breathing
- CBT and DBT
- Online blogs
- And yes, different rounds of medication
These were great “tools” in the tool belt…but NONE of these helped me really overcome anxiety (from the inside out) until I learned about these “slight edges”—3 Natural Anxiety Cures (no doctor or therapist ever told me about) that not only helped “cure” my anxiety, but also helped me “quiet the noise” in my OCD, eating disorder, Type-A, perfectionist, people-pleaser brain.
If you’ve “been there,” you know what it’s like to have something else “control you,” until now…
Anxiety Cure 1: Boost Your Mood
“You are what you eat.”
We tend to think of this as meaning we will look like a Dorito potato chip if we eat a Dorito potato chip; or feel as clean if we eat chicken and broccoli.
But no, no, no, what we eat matters and goes far beyond what we look like.
Food not only feeds our bodies—it feeds our minds.
We literally are what we eat (and what we digest).
In a study of
How is your food impacting your mood?
When I look back in my own life, to those years spent battling an eating disorder, going in and out of treatment, and battling anxiety, my food was far from the real foods my body (and brain) were meant to thrive upon.
In my dieting and restriction, I lived off artificial sweeteners, Crystal Light, protein bars, Lean Cuisines and protein shakes.
In my treatment and hospital experiences, I was often re-fed on processed and refined grains, cereals, bars, canned green beans, sweetened yogurt, crackers, ice cream and Ensure Nutritional shakes infused with high-fructose corn syrup.
Both, two extremes.
Both NOT rich in real foods.
Both instances, I equally struggled with anxiety.
Enter: lightbulb #1…My food choices to nourish my body with real whole foods practically instantly began to change how I thought for the better.
In fact, research confirms this. One study on the effects of probiotic-rich foods and social anxiety alone found a direct cause-and-effect relationship between fermented food consumption and decreased anxiety symptoms (Hilimire et al, 2015).
What is real food?
In the simplest of terms, “If it didn’t grow on the land, swim in the sea or roam the earth, it’s not real food.” (Most) real foods do not have a label.
Think: Meat and fish, nuts and seeds, fresh veggies and fruits, some starch, no added sugars, healthy plant and animal fats, lots of water.
Here are some of my favorite brain (and mood) boosting real foods:
Brain & Mood Boosting Foods
- Pastured Meats
- Wild-Caught Salmon
- Organic Organ Meats
- Pastured Egg Yolks
- Ginger Tea
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Berries & Citrus Fruits
- Green-Tipped Bananas
- Pumpkin Seeds & Raw Soaked Nuts (Brazil Nuts, Walnuts, Macadamia, Almonds)
- Grass-fed Ghee, Coconut Oil & Traditional Fats (lard, tallow, duck fat)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kefir, Fermented Veggies and Kombucha
- Spices—Turmeric, Curcumin, Cinnamon, Ginger, Oregano
Brain Draining Foods
- Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
- Coffee (excess or Instant)
- Conventional Eggs, Meats & Dairy
- Processed Foods & Refined Grains
Anxiety Cure 2: Heal Your Gut
Beyond food, the state of your gut health impacts how you think and feel. Since approximately 90 to 95% of your serotonin (“feel good” brain chemicals) is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.
In addition, your vagus nerve—the nerve that is responsible for governing digestion runs directly from your frontal lobe of your brain (the largest part of your brain that helps you think rationally) to the top of your stomach. Hence if “digestion is off” (or vice versa, your brain is “off”), then the brain and gut are out of sorts.
Thus, when we “heal” and support our gut with “good gut health,” we empower our brains to “feel amazing” too (i.e. lower anxiety).
How to support our gut?
That answer is complex. In my practice, I find about 75 to 80-percent of my clients who come to me for anxiety alone actually have more going on “underneath the hood” than “brain chemical imbalances” like their doctor has told them.
From SIBO (bacterial overgrowth) to leaky gut, fungal or parasite infections, food intolerances or low stomach acid, their is typically an underlying pathogen at play that, when treated, lifts their mood for the better.
Aside from partnering with a functional medicine practitioner or nutritionist trained in anxiety and gut healing, some simple at-home basic digestive steps you can take to supporting a healthier gut (and brain) include:
- Take a Probiotic Supplement Daily (Find my fave Prescript Assist in the store here)
- Eat 1-2 Condiment-Sized Servings Fermented Foods/Daily (Kombucha, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Pickled Veggies, Fermented Plain Full Fat Yogurt)
- Drink Warm Lemon Water Every Morning
- Take 1 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar in 2-4 oz. of Water with Meals
Anxiety Cure 3: Address Stress
Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand.|
Anxiety is typically classified as a “stress response,” however contrary to popular belief in psychological science, this stress goes far beyond mental. More than CBT or DBT skill training can give you, stress can also be physiological and it’s essential you understand what is going on “underneath the hood” here as well in order to master stress—instead of letting stress master you.
In the case of chronic anxiety, the HPAT-Axis is out of sorts.
Your HPAT-Axis (also known as your hypothalmus-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid axis) is the “mothership” operating board of your stress response and hormones—namely cortisol (your stress hormone.
When healthy, it helps your body keep in the “yin and yang” balance it needs and desires. Sometimes it goes into “hyper drive” (like if you’re running from a bear or slugging through a great workout). Other times, it helps your body cool down and chill out (like a good night’s rest). Ideally, it is able to handle (and get you through) times of stress, while equally always bringing your body back to center. Unless…your HPAT-Axis is constantly challenged to be in “hyperdrive” mode.
Constant sources of stress disrupt the HPAT-Axis to the point that “imbalances” become the “norm.” Stress comes in many different forms, including:
- Poor quality diet (fake foods, artificially sweetened foods, etc.)
- Low sleep
- More than one cup of coffee per day
- Burning a candle at both ends
- Biting off more than you can chew
- Long term medication use
- Injuries or surgeries
- Exposure to foreign water/foods during travel
- Trying to be “all things” to all people
- Blue light (LED) exposure—particularly at night
- Body image woes and stress (constantly comparing yourself on Instagram)
While stress IS inevitable (we will always face some amount of stress), constant sources of stress wreak havoc on your body’s ability to bounce back. Hello your genetic pre-disposition to struggle with anxiety when that stress mounts—with little to no relief.
A chronically stressed HPA-Axis is like a wasp nest.
If you poke it—even with the s “littlest” sources of stress (i.e. speaking in public, a tight work deadline, or conflict in your relationship over where to eat for dinner)—the stress, or anxiety and overwhelm swarms more.
How to address stress “naturally”—beyond meditation?
Here’s my “Pick 7” (of many) stress-less tips that don’t involve “deep breathing” (ALTHOUGH deep breathing is a game-changer)
- Shut off screens 1 to 2 hours before bed (and use lux or Night Shift apps to dim them at night)
- Just say no. Cut off something off your plate or schedule weighing you down.
- Sleep in a completely blacked out, cool room (68 degrees or below) (or use an eye mask)
- Break up with artificial sweeteners
- Ditch the coffee or, at the very least, replace it with ONE 6-8 oz. cup of high-quality organic coffee (it’s not serving your anxiety right now)
- Do less to do more. Prioritize your top 3 to-dos on your to-do list each day—instead of all 50 things
- Incorporate essential oils into your home remedies (lavender, peppermint, vanilla)—diffuse them or rub on pulse points to ease tension. (I also love Adrena-Calm —a natural anxiety busting topical cream to rub on pulse points).
The bottom line: Anxiety goes far beyond just a struggle “in your head” that you should just “deal with.”
Heal the underlying roots—not just the symptoms—and you’d be amazed.
You don’t know how good you can feel until you feel really good. That, my friend, is called a “lightbulb.”