Monday, October 18, 2010
For those of you who are either apprehensive of, or frankly dislike the approach of covering symptoms with that kind of “cure”, and waiting for the inevitable resurfacing of the problem/illness, let’s take a look at common causes of anxiety and some effective approaches to really fixing it.
Interestingly, the American diet is deficient in the mineral, magnesium, and can be a cause of anxiety. Whole grains and green leafy vegetables are common sources of magnesium, but are uncommon parts of the American diet. Magnesium calms and relaxes the body. Muscle tightness, spasming and twitching can be signs of magnesium deficiency. While deficiency can be corrected in some cases by increasing dietary sources of magnesium, or taking epsom salts baths, many individuals need to take magnesium supplements. In my 27 years of practice experience, I have found magnesium glycinate to be the most effective oral form. Simple, safe, rational, and often effective.
Two other deficiencies that lead to anxiety are that of aerobic exercise and stretching. The lack of either can result in anxiety. Of the two, the greatest lack in America is that of stretching. A few of us walk for aerobic exercise, but real stretching is rare. When quizzed, the occasional few who claim to stretch, report that they stretch for 5 minutes, or “throughout the day”; these are not real stretching. As a part of the treatment of anxiety, 30 minutes of walking and 30 minutes of serious stretching (yoga-like) per day are called for.
Most people who experience anxiety, fear, or worry (and that’s most of us), feel it in our gut, or sometimes in our chest. This is a clue. Everyone with anxiety needs a thorough evaluation of their digestive tract, with particular attention to associated conditions such as constipation, loose stools, intestinal gas, indigestion, reflux, or irritable bowel. Evaluation must include a skilled palpatory examination of the abdomen to rule out focal or generalized tenderness. Food allergies are an extremely common cause of gut irritation, and are therefore a common cause of anxiety.
A critical thing to understand is that anxiety about an event or circumstance can cause gut discomfort or dysfunction, and the reverse is true; gut discomfort or dysfunction can cause anxiety.
My final warning on the gut-anxiety connection is that an absence of gut symptoms does not mean that anxiety is not arising from the gut. The internal organs of our chest, abdomen and pelvis are profoundly insensitive to irritation or damage that occurs gradually. Remember that it is common for large tumors to develop in the abdomen with no early signs. So, don’t trust symptoms. If you experience anxiety, have your digestive tract evaluated by a knowledgeable health care provider.
Note: Q: What kind of health care provider should one see for digestive tract evaluation of anxiety?
A: A provider that understands the connection between the gut and anxiety. Don’t assume that a gastroenterologist would necessarily be the best. A chiropractor, an MD, a naturopath, or an acupuncturist can be excellent guides if they understand the connection.