Anxiety, in varying degrees, seems to be everywhere. From low-level stress to full blown panic attacks, modern society is not kind to our parasympathetic nervous system (what is responsible for calming us down).
Anxiety symptoms can be so severe that they cause people to go to an emergency room, convinced they are having a heart attack.
Complex anxiety symptoms can seemingly ‘come from nowhere’ and be not associated with any negative or worrying thought pattern.
Anxiety can be accompanied by an entire range of additional symptoms that are seemingly unrelated. Digestive problems, neurotransmitter issues, toxicity, nutritional deficiencies or a severe allergic reaction can all cause severe anxiety.
Often, patients who are suffering from debilitating anxiety are given advice like ’try to relax more’ or ‘why don’t you do some yoga?' - that kind of advice is fine for mild stress but not for serious anxiety.
For too long anxiety has been regarded as either a mild side effect of a busy lifestyle or a medical condition in which the only treatment is a symptom suppressing pill.
In my experience, many cases of anxiety are biochemical in nature and can be relieved when addressing the root issue.
Typical Treatment of Anxiety Symptoms
Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants are some of the most prescribed drugs in the United States. These medicines work by manipulating your brain chemistry to reduce feelings of anxiety.
It is typical for these medications to work in the short term but their dosage usually needs to be increased over time. They can have severe side effects, and it is also usual for these medications to be difficult to stop taking.
Why Antidepressants Stop Working
Antidepressants are used for the treatment of anxiety and/or depression by conventional medicine practitioners. Most antidepressant medications are 'reuptake inhibitors'; meaning they stop the normal process of recycling brain molecules.
This process artificially manipulates brain chemistry so there is a temporary increase in serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine or other neurotransmitters in the brain to make you feel better.
According, a study in 2012, in the International Journal of General Medicine, all antidepressants over time have the capability of actually causing a decrease in the brain's supply of neurotransmitters.
This means that you could have fewer brain chemicals by taking these medications than when you started.
This newly reduced amount of neurotransmitters explains the need to increase dosage or switch medications, and the difficulty of tapering off. There is indeed an appropriate time for antidepressants, but they should not be viewed as the only viable solution.
Rather than reaching for a symptom suppressing pill first, it is crucial for a doctor to assess potential causes of anxiety. There is always a reason why you have anxiety - and it is not an anxiety medication deficiency.
When dealing with anxiety disorders, you may wish to work with a psychiatrist as well as a primary care physician as it is their specialty and they can use a combination of therapies to support you best.
The cause of anxiety is usually a combination of many factors - biological imbalance, emotional trauma, stress, infection or problems with digestion.
The body cannot be compartmentalized into neat distinctions of ‘biological’ and ‘emotional’ because everything is connected. Each body system is integral to another.
Potential Biochemical Causes of Anxiety:
Viral Load and Neurotoxins
A biological or physical cause of anxiety is common, and it is not necessarily because you are ‘low’ on essential brain chemicals, as the oversimplified explanation goes. The reality of the situation is more complicated.
A potential cause could be a combination of an increased viral load with neurotoxins inflaming and irritating the vagus or phrenic nerves. The vagus nerve starts at the based of the brain and then drops down innervating the heart, lungs and digestive organs.
The vagus nerve is one of the most important nerves in the autonomic nervous system which regulates all the involuntary body functions which keep our body in balance.
If the vagus nerve is inflamed and improperly functioning it can cause anxiety and many other symptoms including IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), depression, digestive upset, heart arrhythmias and much more.
The phrenic nerve starts around the third to fifth cervical vertebrae and then juts down attaching on the diagram. This nerve is in charge of how we use our diaphragm to breathe and when it doesn’t work properly you are going to feel like your in a fight or flight mode all the time.
Neurotoxins can be from either the virus itself or they are from accumulated chemical toxicity or heavy metal toxicity.
Heavy metal toxicity is very common. Heavy metals such as mercury, tin, cadmium, copper, aluminum are often found in blood, hair, and urine samples from patients.
These toxic metals can strengthen a viral load and create toxins that start damaging and irritating the vagus and phrenic nerves.
No amount of anti-anxiety medication will treat your inflamed nerves. The viral infection must be addressed, and your neurotoxins extracted safely for you to feel better.
Potential Biochemical Causes of Anxiety:
Another biochemical cause of anxiety involves your digestive tract and the food you eat. For some people, food allergies or sensitives can cause an increase in histamine and increase gut inflammation.
This can cause symptoms of anxiety because of the gut-brain connection. Another potential cause of irritation lies in your intestinal lining.
One area of the intestines that can often become irritated is your ileocecal valve, where your small intestines transition to your large intestine or colon.
Because its a transition point, it tends to become irritated often. Any food can rub up against your inflamed intestinal lining causing sensitive nerves to be irritated triggering anxiety.
The Importance of Proper Diagnosis and Treatment
As you can see, the causes above about are just a few out of hundreds of possible causes of anxiety symptoms. It is imperative that you work with a doctor who understands the complex interactions that can cause anxiety to manifest.
Functional medicine testing and diagnosis can assess a wide range of possible causes and uses natural yet effective treatments.