Feeling fear, and even panic, from time to time is normal. It is, after all, a very human biochemical response to perceived threats—if humans never had them, we’d have been eaten into extinction by sabertooth tigers years ago. But having fear and panic attacks when outside stimulus doesn’t warrant it… that’s not good. Those are examples of anxiety getting out of control, and it can lead to some serious disorders. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issue in the US. Cumulatively, various types of anxiety disorders—generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and panic disorder—impact over 42 million Americans every year. Fortunately, besides therapy and pharmacological intervention, there are holistic, natural ways to combat anxiety as well.
Understanding the Metabolic Causes of Anxiety
There are many factors involved in developing anxiety disorders, beyond the usual constantly being chased by sabertooth tigers. In fact, in this post-Pleistocene era, metabolic reasons are the more common triggers. They include:
- Hormones. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone play a significant role in the development of anxiety disorders. For women, fluctuations in hormones can trigger nervousness, anxiety, and depression. On the flip side, low testosterone levels in men can decrease sex drive and trigger difficulty in concentrating.
- Adrenaline. The body’s fight-or-flight responses rest upon the health of our nervous system, specifically the adrenal glands. As soon as the amygdala detects a threat, a surge of chemicals occurs in the system to prepare the body to fight or to flee for safety. Anxiety disorders ensue when the system is in a constant state of hypervigilance.
- Low levels of amino acids. Amino acids like gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) and tryptophan are neurotransmitters that slow down the transmission of impulses in the brain and are essential for the production of serotonin. This can trigger anxiety and stress.
- Dysbiosis. An imbalance in the gut flora can cause leaky gut, trigger chronic inflammation, and prompt the body’s fight-or-flight response system. Additionally, dysbiosis can impact the gut’s ability to produces essential vitamins and synthesize proteins and contributes to the development of anxiety.
Nine Natural Ways to Combat Anxiety
Dietary adjustments and a few lifestyle changes can help manage anxiety disorders. Whether you are looking to supplement ongoing traditional treatment methods or thinking of switching to holistic ways to manage anxiety, here is a list of natural ways to combat anxiety:
1. Maintain a balanced diet.
Keeping a balanced, high-fiber, and organic diet supports a healthy gut flora. A robust gut microbiome aids in better digestion, improved nutrient absorption, and higher levels of feel-good hormones.
2. Keep sugar intake to a minimum.
Studies show that too much sugar prohibits protein synthesis in the gut which is key in the production of feel-good neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine.
3. Avoid Alcohol.
Avoiding alcohol is one of the natural ways to combat anxiety. Alcohol damages the gut and upsets the gut’s ability to extract nutrients from the food. With leaky gut and malabsorption, chronic inflammation arises, impacting the immune system and the gut-brain axis.
4. Avoid caffeine.
Decrease caffeine intake and switch to healthier drinks such as chamomile tea, kava root, and lavender tea. As a stimulant, caffeine excites the parasympathetic nervous system, causing the body to be jittery and agitated.
5. Don’t skip meals.
Not skipping meals is another one of the natural ways to combat anxiety. Hypoglycemia sets in when we are hungry and there is not enough sugar in the blood. Consequently, this condition triggers symptoms of anxiety, which include trembling, increased heart rate and sweating.
6. Consider natural supplements.
Taking natural supplements –magnesium and vitamin B, and omega 3–make it to the list of natural ways to combat anxiety. Magnesium aids in muscle relaxation, vitamin B helps in minimizing panic attacks, and omega 3 is effective in decreasing neuroinflammation.
7. Practice mindfulness.
Practice mindfulness through meditation and breathing exercises. Setting aside time to meditate and practice awareness helps calm the mind, guide the consciousness, and relax the body – actions that are crucial to managing anxiety.
8. Get much-needed sleep!
Get enough rest and sleep. Research shows that lack of sleep can cause anxiety. If you find it difficult to sleep, turn to natural oils and aromatherapy to calm your nerves. As much as possible, avoid using gadgets an hour before bedtime.
9. Be active.
Stay active and follow a regular exercise regimen. Besides staying in shape, physical activity releases feel-good hormones and keeps your mind off your worries. Moreover, sweating it out helps release excess energy.
Anxiety disorders were only recognized by experts and practitioners in 1980. However, this mental health issue has been around for as long as humans have existed. Fear, as it is hardwired in our brains, has helped preserve our species. But as we have managed to master our environment, we must learn how to switch off the “alarm” internally. Through natural ways to combat anxiety and stress, we are discovering how to do just that.