Dr. M de Klerk
In functional medicine we would rather try to identify the root cause of anxiety and then treating this body system/s. It’s like having a thorn in your foot—do you remove the thorn or just take the painkillers to shut the body up?
Healing anxiety with functional medicine means figuring out why you have the symptoms in the first place, while also offering you some relief and tools to manage the anxiety in the day to day.
3 Common causes of anxiety-
1. HPA dysfunction and adrenal weakness
2. Compromised GUT health
3. Nutrient deficiencies
1. HPA Dysfunction & Adrenal weakness
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) is what controls our response to stress and is why we fight, take flight or freeze when threatened with danger. This is a very good system and will save your life when threatened, but in our daily lives where our lives seems to be threatened constantly, our ancestral brain cannot understand this and it freaks out.... causing anxiety.
What happens when there is chronic stimulation of the stress system?
We see a change in the production of cortisol, DHEA, pregnenolone and even progesterone. This in turn alters our neurotransmitters, brain hormones. When unbalanced, some of these hormones causes panic, and the ones that are supposed to keep us calm is deficient.
But it isn’t just mental or emotional stress that can unbalance the HPA axis…
Inflammation stemming from chronic disease, hormone imbalances, infections etc can cause a disruption in the HPA axis. And as the system becomes more and more imbalanced, inflammation increases, creating a vicious cycle that can keep you in a state of panic.
Common Hidden Causes of Inflammation:
• Autoimmune disease
• Gut infections
• Chronic viral infections
• Blood sugar imbalances
• Oestrogen dominance
• Insomnia and sleep disruption
How to Heal the HPA Axis
1.Work with an Expert
If you’ve got serious HPA dysfunction then you’re going to need to partner with an expert to treat the root and rebalance the system.
You do not need to practice yoga or even have a mat. Just close your eyes for 5-10 minutes daily and focus on your breath. Feel yourself inhaling and exhaling completely. Relax in your chair and let yourself spend a few minutes away from whatever is bringing you stress.
Take a moment to look around you and without judgement, take it all in. This is the practice of mindfulness. Being present in moment can help decrease anxiety, stress and depression. Try to spend at least 5 minutes a day just observing the life that surrounds you.
Move Your Body.
Even if it is a walk around the office. Movement will allow you to release tension from the body, increase oxygen to your brain and counter what that nasty stress hormone, cortisol, is doing to your body.
Reinforce Circadian Rhythm
This is the natural sleep/ wake cycle that your adrenals and mood love. Do this every day!
1. Expose yourself to natural light upon waking.
2. Wear amber glasses 2 hours before bed. This will drop cortisol and raise melatonin…what your body should be doing at this time.
3. Sleep in a completely dark room. No light. No exceptions cellphones or charger lights.
In my next article we will talk about Gut health and how it impacts on your mood.
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