Anxiety impacts at least 20% of Americans, with women being 60% more likely to suffer with anxiety – and the resulting panic attacks, insomnia, and stress – than men. The reason for this is that anxiety is often hormonally-derived. Anxiety can be the result of a hormonal imbalance in a woman’s body. This means that commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications may not work for everyone because they do not address the root causes of the anxiety. Unfortunately common anti-anxiety medications also come along with a whole host of side effects, so they can be both ineffective and cause other health issues. The good news is that hormonally-derived anxiety is often very treatable with natural remedies. Preventing anxiety can be a matter of choosing the right anti-anxiety foods, strategies, and supplements.
There are three root causes of hormonally-derived anxiety, or the anxiety symptoms that result from a hormonal imbalance. And they are, of course, connected.
- Insulin based anxiety – when your blood sugar soars from eating the wrong kind of or too many carbohydrates (I’m talking white bread, pasta, white potatoes etc.), then insulin is secreted in high doses by your body to bring that blood sugar level down. This is done so that your brain is protected from the dangerous effects of excess sugar. That is, of course, a good backup feature when you don’t get it quite right with eating once in a long while and have a carb slip, but when it is chronic, as in you’re eating like this frequently, then you will experience the secondary effect of this elevated insulin forcing the blood sugar to drop to safer, low levels. When this happens you’re creating a state of hypoglycemia – that’s low blood sugar – which has a whole host of symptoms like the shakes, fatigue, irritability, that “hangry” feeling, and anxiety. Why does hypoglycemia include anxiety as a symptom? When hypoglycemia becomes a chronic pattern, then your body has another safeguard mechanism that kicks in to protect your brain and heart from too LOW blood sugar levels (rather than too high blood sugar levels) and that safeguard is the stress hormone cortisol. So, when you’re getting elevated cortisol levels at the wrong times, it’s then that you’ll experience the anxiety.
- Cortisol based anxiety – when your stress hormone, cortisol, levels are elevated at times when they should not be, as I discussed above as a cause of anxiety, and this happens frequently enough to become a pattern, then it can start to affect your body’s normal secretion patterns of this hormone. Instead of waking up with your biggest boost of cortisol in the morning (which is the right time to have a cortisol boost), you won’t get any cortisol until much later in the day (this experience, in its many varied versions is called Adrenal Fatigue). As a result of these disrupted cortisol secretion patterns you will feel anxious, fatigued and depressed.
- Estrogen based anxiety – estrogen has a calming effect on the brain, but too little or too much can have the opposite effects. Anxiety can occur specifically during your pre-menstrual phase, during perimenopause, or as you are entering menopause, as a result of shifts in your body’s production of estrogen. This also relates to low progesterone levels. An imbalance of estrogen to progesterone can bring about PMT (premenstrual tension), which has anxiety as a symptom. As your body is producing less hormones during perimenopause and towards menopause this imbalance can be experienced in more pronounced symptoms.
The best anti-anxiety supplements
Commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications address serotonin (Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs) and/or norepinephrine (Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) or they are tranquilizers that work by slowing the nervous system. They are designed to block or manage symptoms, but they do not work for everyone and have a long list of side effects. They do not get down to the root cause of the anxiety and actually treat the biological problem leading to the symptoms – which are hormonal imbalances caused by improper diet. Managing serotonin and norepinephrine levels doesn’t address this at all. It’s always better to try addressing symptoms like fatigue, depression and anxiety with food and natural supplements before turning to pharmaceuticals in order to avoid consequential and connected health issues from the immediate side effects and whole body impact of prolonged use.
The supplements get down to the root cause of your anxiety and calm your nerves from the inside out.
- Cinnamon – have it as tea, or sprinkle it on your oatmeal in the morning or take it as a supplement. Cinnamon is an excellent blood sugar regulator as it slows down the speed at which your stomach empties after you’ve eaten a meal.
- Holy Basil – you can take the adrenally-supportive Holy Basil as a nourishing, soothing tea. Holy Basil actually functions as an adaptogen, which means it enhances the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress.
- Oatstraw – take this supplement as a liquid tincture in your tea. Oatstraw is cortisol-calming and adrenally-supportive.
- Ashwagandha – another adaptogen, Ashwagandha is the perfect herbal supplement if you suffer with anxiety. It is well-researched and respected for its ability to lower cortisol levels and prevent stress.
These supplements will, however, only work effectively to reduce your anxiety as part of a wider effort to support your adrenals and balance out your blood sugar. These tasks are best addressed with food first, then the supplements. Getting plenty of B vitamins, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids from your food is vital. These vitamins and minerals prevent the hyper-production of cortisol by your adrenals. You also need to practice what I call “extreme self-care” measures like getting a full 8 hours sleep every night, taking time out of each day to relax with a walk, yoga, or other pleasurable activity, having plenty of orgasms, and preparing yourself nutritious, satisfying meals 3 times a day. The Flo Living protocol supports this way of organizing your life and provides an eating plan that is inherently de-stressing, calming, and mood-elevating.
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
to your FLO,
Good things come in threes:
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First, do you have anxiety?
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