Food as Medicine for Stress & Anxiety

Nature is truly amazing and has provided us with some foods that naturally seem to help reduce cortisol (the stress hormone that can wreak havoc with your health), and also reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Recent studies suggest …

shellfish_stencil

 

Shellfish: People who ate 3-4 ounces daily lowered their risk of anxiety, stress, and depression by 30%. 

 

MGlass of milk on a black backgroundilk: 4+ servings of calcium daily may help lower the risk of anxiety and irritability, and promote the relaxation necessary for proper sleep patterns.

Anxiety is Hazardous to Your Health

If you have anxiety, it’s very likely that you also experience one or more physical health issues. 
 
Did you know that quite a growing number of illnesses and chronic disease conditions are correlated with anxiety disorders?
 
Despite scientific research connecting the dots between anxiety and a growing list of anxiety-related illnesses,anxiety often goes unidentified and is frequently overlooked as a source of other physiological health issues.
 
Physical Illnesses Linked to Anxiety
 
Anxiety has now been implicated in many chronic physical conditions including:
  • gastrointestinal conditions including IBS and Acid Reflux
  • insomnia
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • thyroid problems
  • arthritis
  • migraine headaches
  • chronic respiratory disorders including COPD
Research also shows the impact of anxiety on specific groups of people:
  • People who have panic attacks are more likely to have mitral valve prolapse, hypertension, peptic ulcer, diabetes, chest pain (angina) or thyroid disease.
  • Men with anxiety disorders are at greater risk for cardiac disorders, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory illness, asthma, and back pain. 
  • Women with anxiety disorders are more likely to have a history of cardiac problems, hypertension, metabolic, gastrointestinal, dermatological, respiratory disorders and arthritis.  
These conditions have also been recently correlated with anxiety:
  • fibromyalgia
  • female hormonal imbalance (including PCOS)
  • sexual dysfunction
  • insulin resistance
  • blood sugar issues
  • weight gain
  • Type 2 diabetes
Serious Stuff
 
Six of the leading causes of death have been also linked with anxiety and stress: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and even suicide.
 
When people with any anxiety-related disease also have untreated anxiety, the disease itself can be more difficult to treat.  Physical symptoms often become worse.
 
The problem is becoming so big that the World Health Organization reports that anxiety and depression (which are often interlinked) could be the second leading causes of disability worldwide by 2020.  That’s just 5 years away!
 
The Missing Connection
 
Anxiety often goes unidentified and is frequently overlooked as a source of other physical health issues.
 
Part of the problem is that although anxiety itself starts in the mind, it does create very real physical symptoms.  Those symptoms can look very much like symptoms of other chronic conditions, such as digestive, thyroid and respiratory disorders.  So it can be confusing for you and your health care practitioners too.
 
Typical anxiety symptoms that can also look like other physical illnesses include:
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Numbing & tingling (especially arms and legs)
  • Sweating
  • Chills or flush (hot flash)
  • Trembling
  • Choking
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
It’s NOT All in Your Head!
 
img_4128Many people with anxiety disorders go through life living needlessly with physical health problems that could be eliminated or improved through anxiety treatment.  Unfortunately, they never make the connection that anxiety could be the source of the problem (or be exacerbating the problem).  
 
If you think you might fall into this category — or if you have IBS, asthma, COPD, or heart disease — you may want to come in to see me to be evaluated for anxiety.  The same is true if you have pain, dizziness, insomnia, or other symptoms that persist after physical causes have been ruled out.
 
Please know that all symptoms are real — and treatable! — whether they originate in the body or the mind.  
 
Holistic, Long-Term Solutions for Anxiety
 

I use the 2 most effective long-term solutions for anxiety (and therefore, for any physical problems linked with anxiety):

These are holistic, healthy, non-medication solutions so you can learn new skills and tools to manage and prevent anxiety.  I help people identify and shift thoughts that generate anxiety, as well as learn new skills to react differently to anxiety-provoking situations.
 
Anxiety medications alone are less effective than CBT and Anxiety Counseling/Psychotherapy over the long term; they may also have unpleasant side effects and interact with other medications. Most of my clients work toward eliminating the medication altogether… 
 
Skills not pills can help you reduce anxiety and improve anxiety-related illnesses at the same time.
 

Sources:

  • Harvard Medical School Special Health Reports
  • National Institutes of Health / World Health Organization 
  • The American Institute for Cognitive Therapy
  • WebMD
  • American Medical Association (AMA), Archives of Internal Medicine

Another Natural Treatment for Anxiety Symptoms

While working on the root cause of anxiety is the best long-term solution, we all need some good tools to gain some control over the symptoms.

Here’s a unique holistic tool for managing anxiety symptoms:  Homeopathy.

 

I’m not an expert on homeopathic remedies, but I work closely with someone who is an expert: my colleague Cherri Schleicher, Family Nurse Practitioner.  As we share office space together, we often collaborate in the treatment of our patients.  Cherri has taught me a lot about natural solutions for anxiety symptoms and now I’d like to share some of what I have learned with you.

What is Homepathy?

homeopathy

 

Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself. Homeopathy was founded in the late 1700s in Germany and has been widely practiced throughout Europe. Homeopathic remedies have been regulated in the United States since 1938 and are considered to be safe, with no side effects.

The good news is that homeopathic remedies are quite inexpensive.  They are small pellets dissolved under the tongue, having a very slight sweet taste. They are formulated from plants and mineral, and are completely natural with no chemical additives.

 

Homepathic Medicine for Anxiety

The big benefit of homeopathics for anxiety is that they have no risk of dependence or risk of being habit forming (as many prescription medications do). They have no side effects and can be used to treat children, as well as used in pregnancy. They can also be given to someone who is currently on a medication for anxiety to help in potentially decreasing the dose or permanently weaning off of the medication.

The right homeopathic medication takes into account your specific feelings, anxiety symptoms, and anxiety provoking events.

Therefore, in order for homeopathic remedies to work well on YOUR anxiety, it’s important to get an individualized recommendation from a homeopathy practitioner.  Here are some of the more common homeopathic medicines that my colleague Cherri Schleicher uses to treat anxiety symptoms:

 

Aconite is a homeopathic that is very beneficial for panic attacks and the individual who has a fear of dying. This fear tends to be enhanced at night.

Arsenicum Album is for the anxious individual who tends to wake up between 1-3:00am. They may also experience “feelings of doom.”

Argentum Nitricum is more for the individual who is agitated, experiences anticipatory anxiety, phobias, abdominal pain some dizziness. They also may do frequent “throat clearing.”

Ignatia is helpful after the person experiences emotional shock, also intense grief. They may also experience palpitations.

Gelsenium is helpful for the person who experiences paralyzing fear. They may feel as if their body is trembling and numbness like “their legs are being cut-off.”  Their anxiety can cause headaches around the eyes.

Kali Bromatum is helpful for the individual who becomes physically agitated with their anxiety, fidgeting of the hands and also experiences restless sleep.

Phosphorus is a medicine that helps the person who becomes more anxious in the evening and they have a tendency to feel vulnerable.

Staphysagria is for the person who feels easily humiliated and has a sense of “injustice.”

One Size Does Not Fit All

You are a unique being, and the way your anxiety appears can be unique. Symptoms can change from person to person, and can even change at different times. 

Treatment with homeopathic medicine must be adjusted and an individualized plan of care will be based on your personal history and your specific anxiety reactions. Although homeopathy is safe when used in conjunction with anxiety symptoms, it is important to determine the root cause of the problem and take an integrative approach to returning to wellness.

Feel free to contact Cherri Schleicher, FNPc APNP AHN-BC, to explore how homeopathy might be useful for you!      

You can call her at 414-640-6287 or email her at cholisticfam@wi.rr.com

One last note…if your anxiety is keeping you up at night, there is a homeopathic solution for that too!  

Most Relaxing Song of All Time?

catsleeping-stencilI came upon this song which is touted as the most relaxing, easiest to fall asleep to song ever:

Weightless by Marconi Union

Marconi Union worked with sound therapists to create this soothing tune, which also supposed to help slow breathing and reduce brain activity.  Sound therapy has been used for thousands of years to help people relax and improve health and well-being.

The relaxing nature of this song is said to come from its sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50.

 

Homeopathics for Better Sleep

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a natural system of medicine based on the principle that you can treat ‘like with like’… meaning that a substance which causes symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in small amounts to treat those same symptoms.  Homeopathic remedies are inexpensive, small pellets dissolved under the tongue.

My friend and colleague Cherri Schleicher, APNP is a holistic nurse practitioner with a homeopathic specialty. She recommends the following homeopathic remedies to improve sleep, and my clients report that they really work!

Homeopathics for Better Sleep

  1. woman-sleeping-in-bedCoffea Cruda: This is a homeopathic derived from the coffee bean. It is very useful for the person who has mind racing and cannot quiet down for the evening. The typical dose is 15C 5 pellets under the tongue before bedtime.
  1. Gelsenium: This is a flowering plant that works very well for anxiety. 30C 5 pellets at supper time or before bed is beneficial.
  1. Ignatia: This homeopathic comes from a plant. It is for the individual who is sensitive and has an excitable nature. They have a mild disposition and are usually quick to perceive. The nervous individual who has difficulty falling asleep. 30C 5 pellet’s at dinner or bedtime is typical.

What Does Caffeine Really Do to Your Brain?

Cup of coffeeDo you need a java jolt to get you going in the morning?

Or soda or energy drinks to keep up your energy?

In my eBook “Top 7 Secrets to Break Free from Anxiety…Without Drugs,” I talk about the relationship between caffeine and anxiety. Any amount of caffeine can be too much for people who are prone to anxiety.

What I’ve found is that many people don’t believe (or want to believe) that caffeine is contributing to their stress, tension, anxiety, fatigue or sleep problems.

Ever wonder whether caffeine really does or does not affect you?

Recently Dr. Daniel Amen published an article explaining the mechanism by which caffeine operates in, and negatively impacts, the brain. This article contains excerpts from his report, so if you’re interested in the brain science behind those daily java jolts, read on…

What Caffeine Does in the Brain

Caffeine works in the brain by interfering with a natural process involving a brain chemical called adenosine. When adenosine is produced in the brain, the brain’s blood vessels dilate, causing neurons to slow down, and inducing drowsiness.

When you drink caffeine, the adenosine receptors are fooled into doing just the opposite of what adenosine normally does: it constricts the brain’s blood vessels, speeds up neuron activity, and signals your body to go on high alert by producing adrenalin.

How and Why It Is Addictive?

This gives you that java jolt, which makes your heart beat faster, your breathing become more shallow, and your muscles tense up. (Did you know these all can also be symptoms of anxiety?)

It also boosts dopamine levels, which activates the pleasure centers in your brain. The bad news is that when the effects of the caffeine wear off, you feel sluggish. So you consume more caffeine to re-energize and a habit is formed.

Long Term Negative Impact on the Brain

What happens to the adenosine receptor system when you consume large amounts of caffeine on a regular basis? New research shows that habitually high caffeine intake (about 950mg a day) eventually causes reduced blood flow to the brain.

Dr. Amen says: “After years of studying brain scans, I can assure you that reduced cerebral blood flow leads to brain drain. It lowers cognitive function and can exacerbate emotional and mental health problems. It can also wreak havoc with your sleep system and reduce the amount of deep sleep you get at night, leaving you feeling even more fatigued.”

Take One Step Now

Macro of a can of sodaPlease don’t underestimate the effect of caffeine on your body and your brain.

If you take in caffeine regularly, focus on cutting back and then eliminating it altogether. Because caffeine is an addictive substance, withdrawal can lead to headaches and fatigue, which can be reduced by slowly decreasing your intake week by week. You might consider enlisting the help of a medical or wellness professional to ease the process.

Waiting for the perfect time to cut back? Or to switch to decaf?

The perfect time to start is always in the present moment. Taking one step…any step at all…gets you on your way!

[Acknowledgment for excerpts and content for this article: “Copyright 2008, Amen Clinic Inc., A Medical Corporation. All rights reserved.”]

Earthing for Stress Relief

When I was in the mountains of Peru on my recent vacation, little did I know that my laying around on the grass or meditating while sitting on huge rocks was actually “Earthing.”

Di Philippi - Earthing in PeruMost people intuitively know that spending time in nature is good for you – it feels good, feels relaxing, helps us calm down. Native American and other indigenous cultures (like the Incans in Peru) have known forever that Mother Earth has healing energies and properties.

Now an emerging field of research called “Earthing Science” is showing how direct contact with the Earth can help with stress and anxiety reduction, sleep problems, and lots of physical health problems.

What is Earthing?

The simplest form of Earthing is to walk outside barefoot, or to sit or lay on the Earth. Conductive surfaces include sand, dirt, gravel, grass and concrete. Wood, vinyl, asphalt and painted concrete are not conductive.

Connecting to the Earth can also be achieved through man-made conductive materials. The goal is to allow electromagnetic connection to the Earth’s surface. Earthing tools for consumer use are rapidly being developed.

Earthing concepts are not new. We know that when working with electronics we need to prevent build-up of static electricity. This is often achieved with grounded electrical outlets, or grounded desk mats, shoes or wristbands. In operating rooms, patients are grounded to protect inner electrical workings of the body from outside electrical interference.

We’re Short on Earthing

Earthing researchers believe that lifestyle changes in that past 100 years (and especially since the 1960’s) have disconnected us from the natural healing and calming benefits of the Earth. Earthing researcher Clint Ober notes that “little more than 100 years ago, 90% of homes still had dirt floors.” Now, our rubber and plastic soled shoes, multi-story buildings, and indoor lifestyles keep us separated from the Earth.

Earthing, Stress and Cortisol

Cortisol is a stress hormone involved with chronic stress, anxiety, sleep problems and other health issues. A pilot study in 2004 showed that test subjects who slept on an Earthing mattress for 8 weeks had improvement in cortisol levels and reported better sleep and less stress.

A study last year suggested that Earthing may help balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Most of us in this busy day and age have an imbalance (“sympathetic dominance”) and most stress management treatments involve improving this balance.

Earthing Research

Earthing research is new and is based on the understanding that all life on the planet functions electrically, and that our optimal functioning is dependent on an electrical connection with the ground.

You can check out Earthing research at The Earthing Institute

Better yet, maybe you want to try your own research. ‘Tis the season in Wisconsin for Earthing. You can experiment by connecting with the Earth on a regular basis…then pay attention to how you feel.

Anxiety Relief with Progressive Muscle Relaxation

progressivemusclerelaxation-stencilThis easy to learn relaxation technique can be done anytime but can be especially helpful right before bedtime. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), taught for almost 100 years for stress and anxiety reduction, involves alternately tensing and then relaxing the muscles (one muscle group at a time).

You can do PMR sitting or lying down, with eyes closed. Muscles are tensed (for about 10 seconds) and relaxed (for about 20 seconds) sequentially through various parts of the body. PMR takes as little as 15 minutes once you learn the technique.

Try it tonight with these Progressive Muscle Relaxation Step-by-Step Instructions.

Less Stress Now: Set Yourself Up For A Good Night’s Sleep

woman-sleeping-in-bedWe all know sleep is rejuvenating, but did you know that it’s actually a time when the nervous system helps break down and release excess stress chemicals from your body? That makes sleep one of the best stress-busters.

Preparing yourself for a good night’s sleep starts about 3 hours before bedtime…

    • Dinner. Eat dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime to allow proper digestion. have a bedtime snack only if you’re truly hungry, and avoid sugar (a stimulant) and heavy or spicy foods that may cause heartburn.
    • Exercise. Although physical activity earlier in the day can help you fall asleep faster and sleep longer, avoid it within 3 hours of bedtime. It can get your system revved up instead of relaxed for bedtime.
    • TV. The very thing many people do before bedtime is the very thing to avoid. TV is stimulating to the physical senses and anything scary or violent (especially the news!) can cause stress chemicals to be released into the body.
    • Conscious Relaxation. Remind yourself that it’s time to relax. And make the time for it – it’s a great investment. Find some relaxing options that work for you: soft/relaxing music, warm bath/shower, 10 minutes of quiet time, snuggling with your pet (or your partner or kids!), restorative yoga poses, lavender aromatherapy, etc…

Thinking Yourself Sick?

Do you have any of these physical ailments?

Young woman cannot sleep

  • Digestive problems
  • Acid Reflux
  • Constipation, diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Chronic muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • TMJ or teeth grinding
  • Sleep problems

The traditional medical community is increasingly acknowledging that there is a connection between stress/anxiety and these physical ailments (and more!).

Stress and anxiety can be the root cause, or a big contributor, to physical illness. If you have more than one of these, anxiety may be the common denominator. Learning how to get anxiety under control can help you feel better physically. This is the power of the body-mind connection.

I had one client who dramatically reduced her GERD symptoms and headaches as well, by getting a handle on the underlying anxiety she had experienced for most of her adult life. We worked on practical tools she could use anywhere and anytime to reduce and prevent anxiety symptoms…and we also went deeper and focused on resolving the root cause of her anxiety.

anxiety-magnifying-glass-istock_000013887814xsmallStress = Anxiety

People often ask me” Is this “just” stress or is it anxiety? My answer is YES. Whether you want to call is “stress” or you want to call it “anxiety,” they both cause the same response in the body. To learn more about that, see my April 2014 eZine article “Anxiety FAQ” 

Is it all in your Mind?

Neuroscience and Quantum Physics are demonstrating that the mind is more powerful than we can even imagine. The stress/anxiety response we experience physically in the body (tension, fatigue, racing heart or palpitations, being on edge, tightness, fidgeting, nervousness, dizziness, sweating, tingling, etc.) is the result of a chemical reaction in the body which is kicked off by the brain.

So yes, it’s all in your mind.

And no, it’s not all in your mind.

Anxiety and anxious thoughts can create so much upset in your system that real physical symptoms start appearing. At that point it can be hard to know which came first… the chicken or the egg?

The Mind Influences the Body

The conscious mind can influence the body and adversely affect the body’s natural ability to heal itself, according to Bruce Lipton, PhD, cellular biologist.

A few years ago, he released a fabulous video on this topic (and more!) which I highly recommend. It’s about 30 minutes long and well worth the time. You can sign up for instant access to view it here: Bruce Lipton video.

When we understand that the Mind and Body are integrated and cannot be separated, we can address BOTH the Mind and the Body in order to feel better!