Holistic living is not a trend or fad but rather a conscious choice to create balance in our lives and to attain the highest potential of well-being for our body, mind, and soul.
Solutions to reduce anxiety without drug therapy
Anxiety and stress are the most prevalent mental health issues affecting people today. Shockingly Over 40 Million people in the U.S. alone (1.386 billion people), report being affected by the feeling of anxiety and/or depression. Holistic living naturally lowers anxiety by allowing the body to heal itself and by taking preventive measures to eliminate stressors like environmental toxins, toxic processed foods, and sedentary lifestyles.
In contrast to what most people think, stress and anxiety are very different conditions. Anxiety normally precedes a potentially undesirable or feared circumstance. When brain chemistry in out of balance, a person with anxiety may be constantly perceiving an undesirable or feared circumstance causing them to be in a hyper vigilant state of flight or fight which over the long term causes a cascade effect of other health issues.
Their constant anxiety generates stress which causes multiple changes to the biochemistry of the body that lead to various health issues including IBS and other gut disorders, metabolic disorders, thyroid disorders, hormone imbalance, and more. Understanding that anxiety leads to the stress response suggests that reducing anxiety can prevent future stress.
While there are many reasons for anxiety, and some cases might require working closely with an expert in holistic approaches to correct brain chemistry imbalances, it is fundamental that people take foundational steps in the right direction. Practicing wellness and general health might be one of the best ways to counter the unfavorable effects of brain chemistry imbalances. The following are simple practices and tools that can be used to help start the path of healing your anxiety or depression.
1. Clean up your diet:
Environmental toxins found in your drinking water and non organic foods cause inflammation, a weakened immune system, food sensitivities, allergies, microbiome imbalances, hormone imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies from lack of nutrients and/or inability to absorb nutrients. Many of the same toxins found in your food and water are also found in your household products like cleaners, shampoos, body soaps and toothpaste, and laundry soaps or the glyphosates (round up) that are in your ‘conventional’ (non organic) foods and other toxins found in your processed foods can all interfere with your gut microbiome function and lead to brain chemistry imbalances and a host of other chronic and serious health issues. Avoid refined sugars, gluten, added sodium, saturated fats, and processed foods as are damaging to the whole body and cause inflammation in your nervous system which can lead to brain chemistry imbalances like increased anxiety. Environmental toxin testing can be done by your holistic health practitioner to rule out any possible underlying cause from environmental toxic load.
Why we need to eliminate Dairy and Gluten for life– A study by world renowned immunologist, Aristo Vojdani, PhD, shows that Dairy and Gluten are known to cause inflammatory reactions and immune responses that destroys not only the gut but our brain tissues. And this isn’t the only study on this – there are MANY studies and overwhelming evidence of this. Would you have ever imagined that gluten could actually cause manic depressive episodes and such severe anxiety that it causes panic attacks? I have personally seen this in countess numbers from clients I have worked with and believe me, once they realize that gluten was a huge trigger for them they had no problem staying away from it!
Why we should eliminate alcohol – Alcohol is not only bad for you brain, but it is bad for your gut. If you are suffering with depression and anxiety the last thing you need is alcohol. Drinking adult beverages can lead to brain shrinkage of your gray matter, severe learning and memory issues. If that’s not bad enough alcohol is a known carcinogen (that means its cancer causing). What you may already know about alcohol being a ‘depressant’ – We need to consider this last one heavily because if you are struggling with depression or anxiety and you are drinking then you are essentially making your problem worse.
A nutrient-rich diet has many advantages, among them, helping to improve mood and reduce anxiety and inflammation in the brain. While changing your food choices may seem oversimplified as a solution you’d be surprised that changing even just a couple of simple foods can positively alter your brain chemistry and help you lower and prevent anxiety and stress.
Add Brain beneficial foods to your diet – Most of these foods help to improve not only your brain but also your overall health because they contain essential nutrients like essential fatty acids and essential amino acids.
- Walnuts – Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for memory and concentration. Antioxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenols, protect brain cells from damage by environmental and dietary toxins.
- Almonds – Contain folate, tocopherol, polyphenols and unsaturated fatty acids. Almonds may prevent or delay the onset of age-associated cognitive dysfunction and improve memory.
- Coconut Oil- Contains medium-chain fatty acids, which are easily absorbed compared to LCFA. Medium-chain fatty acids can be converted to ketones, which are helpful in memory loss and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Leafy Greens – Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, watercress, mustard greens, romaine, and Swiss chard protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. This is because leafy greens are high in vitamin E and other essential nutrients.
- Sauerkraut –Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) contains high levels of dietary fiber and vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and B vitamins. Good source of proteins and minerals such as calcium, iron, sodium, manganese, magnesium, and copper. Sauerkraut contains many helpful micro-organisms that help restore your balance of healthy gut bacteria (microbiome).
- Eggplant- Eggplant contains an anthocyanin which has been shown to reduce neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s Disease by improving mitochondrial function.
- Flaxseed Oil –Flaxseed oil prevents oxidative stress in the brain and improves memory and cognitive function.
- Chia Seeds – Chia seeds contain high levels of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that protect brain cells and chia seeds also help prevent spikes in blood sugar after meals. In addition, they absorb up to 12 times more water than their weight and form a gel like coating which helps people feel full.
- Pumpkin Seeds – Raw Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc which plays important roles in our brain function. Zinc deficiencies can contribute to learning disabilities, schizophrenia, and other brain disorders.
- Hemp – Though hemp and marijuana are both from the cannabis plant, hemp is not psychoactive. Hemp contains amino acids, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help ward off diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Quinoa – Quinoa is the only plant food that contains all nine essential amino acids. It’s rich in antioxidants like vitamin E, which protects and improves brain function. Amino acids are required to make neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
- Apples –Apples contain flavonoids such as quercetin and vitamin C, which prevent oxidative damage of brain cells.
- Berries –Berries are low-glycemic fruit and recommended in diabetes and for their of their high antioxidant content. Berries may also improve neuron communication and memory.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – an essential nutrient for brain health that improves cognitive function and protects brain cell membranes.
Next, consider including natural supplements to your diet. Supplements such as L-theanine, methyl vitamin B12, vitamin D/K, or even cannabidiol, which can help reduce anxiety and can be remarkable additions to a healthy diet. You can align yourself with a holistic doctor who specializes in brain chemistry imbalances and he/she can help you determine through lab testing, which supplements would benefit you.
2. Advance and Balance your spiritual health by managing your stress:
Prioritize your personal and professional lifestyle choices! Stress affects memory and emotions by reducing activity in our hippocampus or ‘memory center’ of the brain while increasing the ‘fear center’, called the amygdala. When this happens our stress hormones like cortisol halts the production of new brain cells, which leads to early onset of dementia. Stress also reduces the production of serotonin and dopamine – leading to depression! Don’t forget that serotonin plays a huge role in our mood, learning, appetite control and sleep. It’s deficiency can lead to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and ADHD. Dopamine also plays an important role in our pleasure and reward centers of our brain and too little dopamine can lead to lethargy, decreased memory recall, anxiety, brain fog, lack of motivation, depression and ADHD.
And if that’s not motivation enough for you to make the necessary changes to eliminate unnecessary stress from your daily life then read on….Chronic stress shrinks your brain: The prefrontal cortex which controls decision-making, working memory, and control of impulsive behavior shrinks with long term stress. The Hippocampus also shrinks with chronic stress, effecting learning, memory, and emotional regulation.
In addition, stress also affects the gut barrier leading to leaky gut as well as the blood-brain barrier which protects your brain from harmful substances and can lead to the barrier becoming permeable – AKA ‘Leaky Brain’ which leaves you at risk for infections, auto immunity, and brain damage.
Prioritizing your health and leaning into your own journey of spirituality is the soul of who we choose to be. It is an important factor in creating and maintaining holistic health lifestyle. Your spirituality is the connective cell between your values, beliefs, and faith systems and learning to speak and live your truth. Many of people practice being spiritual daily but aren’t aware of what they’re doing. Every time we question our actions, believe something, meditate, or relax, we’re practicing spirituality.
Only through an awareness of this day-to-day practice together with being in-tuned with our spirituality, we can move even more towards a deeper understanding of who we are. In the process of personal discovery, we can often find the reasons for our anxieties if they are externally derived, and from this new awareness we can then take action to eliminate or address any external concerns. Internal causes, as mentioned above, can sometimes be complex and require an expert in the field of holistic approaches to anxiety and depression to help you navigate your road to recovery.
3. Practice mindfulness:
Mindfulness is the process where we appreciate the current moment; focusing on the positive features in ourselves and also our environment. Some outstanding approaches to honing this skill include meditation, yoga, and journaling. The latter of which can be used prior to bed every night, where you can make a note of everything you felt.
Meditation and yoga are important practices in holistic living and practiced by almost 500 million people worldwide. And with a lot of health benefits, it’s not surprising that we have seen such a strong upward trend in recent years. Meditation can be done anywhere, anytime, and is one of the most common ways to practice mindfulness. By stopping all activities, relaxing your body, and focusing on what’s around you, an immediate physiological shift happens in the body resulting in an anti-anxiety effect can be felt almost immediately.
4. Move your body:
An inactive lifestyle does as much damage to your mind as it does your body. With work, family, hobbies, pets, and other daily responsibilities, it may appear overwhelming to fit exercise into our schedules. But researchers suggest that even just starting with a walk as short as 10 mins can significantly lower anxiety. So, in simply a few short walks a day we can get all the suggested daily exercise we need. Keep in mind; if you cannot find time to be healthy, you will make time to be sick. You will either pay for your wellness or you will pay for your sickness!
Your body NEEDS movement and not just walking from your car to the house or up and down your stairs at home. Your body needs actual exercise. The many chemical reactions that need to happen in your body for proper brain chemistry production and many other body functions ALL rely on exercise! Let’s review some of the benefits together:
- Exercise directly reduces insulin resistance, reduces inflammation, and stimulates the release of growth factors or chemicals in the brain that simulate new brain cells and survival of existing ones.
- Aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain used in verbal memory and learning.
- Exercise improves sleep and mood and reduces anxiety and stress, which are contributors of overall cognitive decline.
5. Get involved in a routine with your sleep:
One of the most overlooked principles of health and the ability to heal is rest. If you don’t give your body time to recover from exercise, stress, daily activities, you’re going to get sick or keep getting sicker. Sleep is critical for mental and physical health.
When you’re awake during the day, your brain and body are undergoing inflammatory reactions. The glial cells in our brain and gut become inflamed and fluid filled. These same cells drain and detox while you sleep. Lack of sleep allows for build up of inflammation which then affects the body and the brain function. In fact, lack of sleep can lead to serious neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and it can affect whether or not someone can recover from Alzheimer’s. Lack of Melatonin from a lack of sleep plays a major role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Melatonin is a major ‘protector’ of the brain and nervous system and is one of the most powerful antioxidants that our body produces – and it’s only made and used while you sleep.
The body starts producing melatonin when the sun sets so you want to get as much sleep BEFORE midnight as possible.