(Health Secrets) According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million American adults have some type of anxiety disorder. Are you one of them? Chronic anxiety can interrupt every aspect of your life, and, eventually lead to depression. While a chemical imbalance caused by stress and trauma is the most common cause of chronic anxiety, there are other causes many medical professionals tend to overlook.
- Food Sensitivities
Many people with chronic anxiety will turn to their favorite “comfort foods” to feel better. While macaroni and cheese, pizza, and bread may temporarily relieve your anxiety by increasing feel-good chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin, they could have a hidden harmful effect.
If you are sensitive or intolerant to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, the food you’re eating to make you feel better may be what’s causing your anxiety in the first place.
According to a study published in Psychology Quarterly, gluten has a negative effect on the neurotransmitters of those who are intolerant to it. The study showed that social phobia and panic disorder were noticeably higher in patients with celiac disease. After a year on a gluten-free diet, patients with celiac disease showed “a significant increase in major serotonin and dopamine metabolite concentrations.” Thus, anxiety was reduced.
Aspartame, food dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and MSG have also been linked to an increase in anxiety and mood disturbances.
- Nutrient Deficiencies
If your diet is poor and/or you have a gastrointestinal disorder that prevents you from properly absorbing the nutrients in food, you may have one or more vitamin and mineral deficiencies contributing to your anxiety.
The most common nutrient deficiencies that result in anxiety are:
- Vitamin D
- B-complex vitamins
- Omega-3 fatty acids
A healthier diet coupled with a food-based multivitamin and a GABA supplement may help decrease feelings of chronic anxiety. Ask your doctor to test you for nutrient deficiencies so you can select the best supplements for you.
Are you drinking enough water? Most of us aren’t. As a matter of fact, most of us are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it. Coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks not only increase your anxiety due to their caffeine content, they also keep you in a perpetual state of dehydration.
- Excessive Social Media and Electronic Exposure
Spending too much time on social media websites may cause or worsen anxiety. According to research, common triggers are graphic photos of animal or child abuse showing up in the news feed, cyber bullying, and comparing ones own life to that of others. Although this is more common for younger people, it can affect anyone at any age. Furthermore, excessive electronic exposure has been shown to interfere with proper sleep by delaying the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.
- Thyroid Disease
Research has shown that both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have been linked to an increase in depression and anxiety.
- Over-the-Counter Drugs
Over-the-Counter drugs that contain caffeine (Excedrin, No-Doz, Anacin) may cause chronic anxiety if taken in excess. Nasal decongestants that come in pill form act as a stimulant and may worsen anxiety as well. Weight-loss supplements are another OTC drug to watch out for, especially if you’re already prone to anxiety.
- Natural Supplements
Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid, and ginseng can all have a stimulating effect on your body and brain. If you are sensitive to them or taking too much, this could be the hidden cause of your anxiety. Also, both chlorella and spirulina have been linked to insomnia, which causes an increase in anxiety.
If you find one or more hidden causes of your chronic anxiety and eliminate them from your life, it will give you back that feeling of control. Over time, you may find your anxiety has lessened to the point where you can reduce or stop taking prescription medications to treat it. Note: Always talk with a qualified medical professional – preferably a naturopathic, holistic and/or integrative one – first before taking this step, as suddenly stopping these medications can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
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