Ohh anxiety – it really can be so challenging to deal with! Whether you struggle with a clinically diagnosed anxiety condition or you find yourself feeling anxious a lot of the time, you likely know just how debilitating it can be. The good news is there are SO many ways you can learn to manage your anxiety levels and find your way to a much more peaceful mind. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that sometimes there are underlying health conditions that can make anxiety worse. In fact, there are 3 health issues I see time and time again that can make anxiety go from bad to really bad. In this blog post, I share 3, often unknown, health conditions that can further worsen your anxiety – and what you can begin to do to address them!
3 Underlying Health Conditions That Can Make Anxiety Worse:
- Imbalanced Blood Sugar: the body relies on a steady stream of nutrients from the foods you eat to help keep your blood sugars in check. If you aren’t eating often enough, or aren’t eating the right combination of foods, your blood sugars can become “imbalanced”, oscillating between high high and low lows. This can cause energy spikes and crashes, intense sugar cravings, sleep issues, fatigue, moodiness, irritability, shakes/tremors, and/or dizziness. Oh and of course, the one of most common symptoms of imbalanced blood sugars – heightened levels of anxiety!!
What to Do About it? Follow a blood sugar balancing diet by focusing on consuming tons of leafy greens (1/2 your plate), complex carbohydrates, nourishing proteins, and healthy fats at 3 meals a day. Do your best to avoid caffeine, refined sugars, white flours, and any sort of processed foods (chips, store bought cookies, prepackaged frozen meals, etc.).
- Hormone Imbalances: the body has over 200 hormone or hormone like substances (1), meaning there are a lot of opportunities for hormones to become out of whack! The 3 main hormones that can greatly affect your anxiety levels include; insulin (helps to manage blood sugars), cortisol (the primary stress hormone), and estrogen (the main female sex hormone).
What to Do About it?
– Insulin: focus on eating more blood sugar balancing meals by following the recommendations outlined above
– Cortisol: avoid caffeine, processed foods/ meats, sugar, dairy, and alcohol. Work on managing your stress levels by practicing more self care, partake in mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga, and potentially work with a therapist or life coach to help make lasting changes
– Estrogen: for females, when your estrogen is either too high or too low throughout your cycle, you can experience heightened levels of anxiety. It is most often worse in the premenstrual phase (anxiety is definitely a very common PMS symptom!). If you experience other cycle related challenges such as tender breasts, period cramps, moodiness, challenges with weight management, lowered sex drive (there are many other symptoms I could mention…) it could be helpful to work with a health care practitioner (like me) and get your hormone levels tested (I recommend DUTCH testing) and then make dietary and lifestyle changes accordingly. General estrogen balancing tips include; increasing your daily cruciferous vegetable & soluble fibre intake, eating fully organic, using all natural chemical and beauty products, and cutting out caffeine & sugar.
- Poor Gut Health/ Dysbosis: poor gut health can be one of the largest health conditions contributing making your anxiety worse! This is because 90% of serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in your gut. If you do not have a very wide spectrum of different bacteria, fungi, Protozoa, and viruses (yes, all of these are super important within your microbiome), you could greatly suffer from inhibited serotonin production. Since serotonin deficiency is one of the main causes of anxiety & depression, and almost all of it is produced in your gut, it’s clear to see the that having good gut health is one of the most important factors when considering underlying causes of your anxiety!
What to do About it? Start by consuming more fermented foods (miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, dairy free yogurt, etc.). You should also increase the amount of different organic fruits & vegetables you consume – aim for 30 different varieties a week! Try cutting out refined sugar and refined grains. Spending more time in nature breathing in different ecosystems can also really help to expose your body and biome to a diverse array of important organisms. Finally, do your best to shop at organic farmers markets or better yet, start growing your own food! After all, this truly is the #1 thing you can do for your gut health 🙂
- Consume an organic whole foods plant focused diet loaded with a wide variety of different fresh fruits & vegetables, ancient grains, beans/legumes, nourishing proteins & healthy fats
- Avoid refined grains, sugars, refined oils, poor quality meats, caffeine, and conventional dairy products
- Eat more fermented foods from things like sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, and lacto-fermented pickles
- Adapt various lifestyle practices to help manage stress levels by partaking in things such as yoga, meditation, mindful eating, or speak to a life coach or therapist for further support
- Talk to a health care practitioner or nutritionist (like myself) if you are struggling with one of these underlying health conditions and want to dig deeper into learning how you can address it to prevent further worsening your anxiety levels
Thanks for reading! If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to book a complimentary 15 minute call with me by pressing the black tab in the bottom right corner of this page.
Although I am a registered holistic nutritionist (RHN), I am not a medical doctor or licensed therapist – this article should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice. Be sure to seek additional support from a doctor or therapist if the scope of your condition is challenging to manage