Hey my little eclipse peepers,
Don’t forget that the total solar eclipse is happening mañana.
I don’t know about you, but the energy is funky-town around here. I keep chalking my anxiety up to my upcoming move, but I’ve decided to blame it on the eclipse instead.
I planned to listen to episode 30, The Impacts and Ethics of Eating Meat, recommended by my sweet friend and neighbor Amanda. But I saw the anxiety one first, and went with that. It was super interesting, and I thought I’d share some of the main points with you here.
What is the cause of anxiety according to conventional medicine?
From the podcast:
“In the conventional understanding of anxiety and depression, the idea is that it’s caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. The treatment involves medications that increase the availability of those neurotransmitters or at least have some effect on those neurotransmitters in the brain.
I think there are cases where these medications can be useful and perhaps even life-saving, so I wouldn’t argue that they don’t play any role.”
What is functional medicine?
Functional medicine aims to treat the root of the illness or condition, rather than the symptoms — the health of the person is looked at as a whole. Chris Kresser gives this analogy:
“If you have a rock in your shoe and it’s causing your foot to hurt, you could take Advil or any other pain killer and that would certainly reduce the pain, but obviously that’s not a great long-term solution. The best option would be to take your shoe off and dump the rock out. That’s really what we’re after in functional medicine.
We want to consider – what are the underlying causes that lead to anxiety in the first place? Even if anxiety is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, what is causing those neurotransmitters to go out of balance in the first place? Anxiety is not our natural, default state.”
From Dr. Frank Lipman: What is functional medicine?
5 things that may be contributing to anxiety:
Gut health. If you’re having an inflammatory response in the gut, there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain. In fact, according to Chris in the podcast, the gut produces 400x more serotonin (one of the most important mood neurotransmitters) than the brain!
“Unfortunately, not a lot of primary care doctors or even psychologists or psychiatrists are aware of this connection, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t well established in the scientific literature. It absolutely is.
There aren’t very many cognitive, behavioral or mood disorders that are not linked to problems in the gut, at this point. And I suspect that connection will just grow and grow as more research is done.”
What kind of gut issues could be linked to anxiety? SIBO, parasites, fungal overgrowth, dysbiosis, and inflammation – to name a few. Working with a functional medicine doctor to clear these things up is your best bet (find a functional medicine doctor here). Chris Kresser has a free e-book about gut healing, and Dr. Lipman has a ton of information on his site too (check out his gut cleanse).
Stress tolerance. From an evolutionary viewpoint, our stress response system was designed for acute situations (the “fight or flight” response), but in today’s society we are subject to chronic stress.
“Our stress response system isn’t really designed well for the chronic, low-level persistent stressors that we face on a daily basis. That mismatch between our genes and our biology and the environment we’re living in now is one of the primary contributors to modern inflammatory disease.”
“Too much exposure to artificial light at night, and not enough exposure to natural light during the day.”
Blood sugar regulation.
“Making sure you’re not eating too many processed and refined carbohydrates, and regulating your blood sugar.”
“It’s possible that you are depleted in some key nutrients that play a role in mental health. If you have access to a functional medicine provider, you could consider getting nutrient testing, and then systematically address those deficiencies. Some are B12, choline, folate, B6, B2 and zinc. These are important for a process called methylation – which profoundly affects neurotransmitter production.”
(Don’t forget to check out the amino acid and mood connection too, folks). ;)
Starting points for all of these:
- Listen to Chris Kresser’s full podcast on anxiety here (episode 32)
- Find a functional medicine doctor to guide you.
- Learn more about gut health and check out these gut cleanses.
- Read The Mood Cure by Julia Ross for more on nutritional supplementation for mood.
- Take a 23andMe DNA test to see if you have genetic mutations that impede your methylation process.
- Find new ways to manage your stress like meditation, breathing exercises, saying “no” more, and other calming techniques.
- Optimize your circadian rhythms by creating better sleep habits and connecting with nature during the day.
- Help regulate your blood sugar by cutting back on processed foods and sweeteners.
Anxiety can be complicated, but luckily, we have so many resources to experiment with.
Chris says a lot more in his podcast, but those are some of the highlights. In the podcast he does discuss specific dietary recommendations at length (shellfish, organ meats and bone broth are some of his top recommendations for anxiety).
If all of this information feels a bit overwhelming to you, I totally get it. Just start with looking a bit more into one tip or resource that feels exciting and manageable to you.
Oh, I should probably mention this again…please don’t take anything you read on this blog as a substitute for medical advice! Healthy Crush Medical Disclaimer
Eyes to the sky tomorrow (if you’re in the US), but make sure you are protecting your magical seeing-orbs with either eclipse glasses or…a pin-hole projector. Which I will attempt to make tomorrow.
Showering you with galaxies of love…