Who is Likely to Suffer?
The pace of life and the stresses of modern 21st century living seem to be affecting us more and more in terms of our mental health. Children, adolescents, college students as well as adults young and old, are all in the firing line. Women, unfortunately, are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders as men (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-anxiety). Exams, bullying, physical and emotional abuse, financial worries, health scares, physical and mental trauma can all trigger anxiety. I’m sure you could add more to the list.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety can come in a number of forms, including Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which includes nail biting, skin picking and pulling out your hair, Panic Attacks, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), specific phobias and feeling stressed; even Irritable Bowel Syndrome has been closely linked to stress and anxiety according to Anxiety UK (https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help/anxiety-information/).
That unnerving feeling when you have to face something that makes your heart pound, your sweat pour, your brain freeze, your legs buckle under you, when you feel sick in your stomach and that sense of utter dread overwhelms you… I’ve certainly been there! Sometimes talk therapy will help. Or changing your circumstances. But sometimes you can’t pin down exactly why you keep feeling anxious about situations, or in certain circumstances, or just plain life in general. Here are some underlying causes worth investigating if you want to avoid using drugs and if talk therapy hasn’t resolved things well enough for you.
Underlying Causes - Genetics
Our genetics can put us at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. If a parent has been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, you’re more likely to be diagnosed with it too. If you have an MTHFR gene polymorphism, this will limit how well you use certain nutrients to produce your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and therefore prevent you from functioning optimally.
A genetic condition called pyroluria can also cause anxiety. This is because pyroluria binds zinc and vitamin B6, so that the body is depleted of these very nutrients needed to make the vital neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline and GABA.
You do not have to be at the mercy of your genes or your circumstances. There are ways of alleviating anxiety and improving your stress management through nutrition and lifestyle.
Underlying Causes – Nutrient Deficiencies
Besides our genetics, there are other reasons why having nutrient deficiencies can contribute to anxiety disorders. One of the main ways our anxiety levels can be increased is if there’s a disruption in the production of certain neurotransmitters, namely serotonin production, GABA, dopamine and noradrenaline. This disruption can happen if we don’t have the enough nutrients to make them. Stress typically depletes us of nutrients. Our immune system can switch into high alert, further depleting the necessary ingredients to make those all-important neurotransmitters. Then there’s just plain getting older and poor diet choices, that can put us at risk.
How can ageing affect us? With age we tend to produce less gastric acid, which we need to help us absorb vitamin B12. And guess what one of the main symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency is? Anxiety (along with depression, forgetfulness, and low energy). Gastric acid is also needed to digest proteins. If you’re on proton pump inhibitors, then your production of gastric acid will be suppressed by these drugs. Since gastric acid is also needed to help digest proteins, then you’re going to be limited in the necessary raw materials to make your neurotransmitters.
When it comes to dietary choices, vegans and vegetarians of any age are more at risk of B12 deficiency too, because it’s harder to get enough of this nutrient from such diets without supplementing or getting B12 injections from your GP. Vegans can also find it harder to get enough protein in their diet, particularly if they’re not supplementing with protein powders.
Underlying Causes – Gut-Related Issues
Problems in digesting the proteins from wheat and dairy can cause some people to feel anxious (while others feel calmer paradoxically). This can happen if the gut lining is unable to produce the enzyme needed to complete the digestion of the proteins gluten and casein. Consequently, the partially digested proteins pass into the blood stream and affect the opiate receptors in the brain. Some people with this problem need to avoid wheat and dairy, while others can eat these foods as long as they also take the appropriate enzyme to digest them.
Gut dysbiosis (imbalanced gut flora) can cause anxiety. Neurotoxins from undesirable gut flora can jam up the works or exacerbate our mood problems. How? The non-beneficial gut bacteria Clostridia and the yeast Candida, when invasive, can both contribute significantly to anxiety. Clostridia produces a neurotoxin that inhibits a key enzyme in converting the neurotransmitter dopamine to noradrenaline. When this happens, dopamine levels rise along with agitated anxiety and irritability. Candida produces 79 different toxins that can cross over into the brain, and cause mood problems.
Furthermore, taking certain beneficial gut bacteria has been found to actually improve how you react to stress. I still remember going through a stressful period during my training at university, when I was just bad tempered and negative. Needless to say, people noticed! Then I took some beneficial bacteria (what we used to call ‘probiotics’, in case you’re wondering) and the change in my stress response and mood was amazing.
I have trained with Integrative Psychiatrist Dr James Greenblatt, and I am impressed with what can be done to help with anxiety disorders. You don’t have to suffer. Here’s an outline of my approach using nutrition and lifestyle:
Step 1: Assess diet quality. Seriously, it can make a difference!
Step 2: Test for MTHFR variants, gluten/casein peptides, nutrient deficiencies, etc., as appropriate.
Step 3: Restore gut flora balance (we’ll know from an organic acid test).
Step 4: Supply nutrients to boost neurotransmitter production (the test results will guide us).
Step 5: Consider herbs and botanicals to support relaxation and sleep.
Step 6: Implement an exercise and stress management programme.
Step 7: Address any sleep issues (anxiety often hampers sleep quality).
Some of these steps may be carried out in a different order or they may overlap.
If you’ve never explored some of these options before, we might be able to find solutions to your anxiety issues you never thought possible. I can put together a personalised plan to help you address any nutrition and lifestyle factors that seem to be an issue.
However, it’s a joint effort, because you will probably need to make some changes. To succeed, you’ll need to be committed to follow through on the recommendations.
You can see me on a Pay-As-You-Go basis if you wish. Alternatively I offer an anxiety package.
If you suffer with anxiety, or you’re a parent with an anxious child, and would like someone to explore further what nutrition and lifestyle can do to help you, here’s what I offer:
A 5-consultation package – the first consultation is 1½ hours. This is to give you chance to tell me everything I need to know towards personalising a management plan for you. If this is for your child, you will need someone with you to help keep your child from getting bored during the consultation.
You can use the remaining consultations up at any time within 9 months of the first consultation. Cost: £375, paid in advance by bank transfer. This is generally enough time to start seeing results.
There are some tests worth considering. Before you gasp, you don’t need to do them all. We’ll discuss which would be appropriate for you. If you prefer to spread the costs, we can prioritise the tests and stagger them. If you’ve already had any done this year, you don’t need to do them again. Just bring me the results.
- Organic Acid Test for gut flora, neurotransmitters, nutrient deficiencies (urine) - £185
This gives you a broad overview of what’s happening with the gut flora, neurotransmitter function, any inborn errors of metabolism and some relevant vitamin nutrient deficiencies.
- Gluten/Casein Peptides Test (urine) - £85
This gives you an indication of whether you are digesting the proteins in wheat and dairy poorly or not. If not, this could be affecting your brain and mood.
- B12 & folate profile (blood) - £60
If you have an MTHFR polymorphism, your need for these nutrients will be higher. Since they are also needed to make serotonin, you may not be able to make enough without supplementing your diet, depending on your dietary choices.
- MTHFR (saliva) - £130
This test confirms whether you have either of the two main genetic variants for this enzyme. If you do, we’ll know to what extent you might be affected and how to compensate for their inefficiency.
- Kryptopyrroles (urine) - £36
If you have elevated levels of kryptopyrroles in your urine, this indicates that you have a condition that binds zinc and vitamin B6. Therefore these two nutrients are not available in adequate amounts to make your neurotransmitters.
- Hair Mineral & Toxic Metal Profile - £54 or Plasma Red Cell Elements - £68
The first test indicates indirectly which minerals you may be low in and also which heavy metals might be problematic to your brain. The second test indicates deficiencies in mineral levels.
- Amino Acid Profile – (24-hour urine) - £185
The results of this test will indicate the need for certain nutrients, if there is abnormal gut flora, maldigestion or malabsorption issues, or impaired detoxification. Any of these issues can then be addressed as appropriate.
So there you have the options I offer.
If you’d like to pursue the approach I offer, get in touch via my contact form or call me on 020 8133 2860 and if I’m not available to answer, please leave a message, so I can return your call.