Anxiety is a generalized feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, most often about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It is normal and helpful to be concerned and alert but when care turns to worry that is excessive, persistent, distracting and interferes with normal living it is considered anxiety. Anxieties are different from phobias, which are fears of a specific thing (spiders) or situation (crowds). Though people of all ages can be anxious, as we age many of us gradually become more anxious. Anxiety is not just a mental or emotional phenomenon but has associated physical attributes of muscle aches, body pains, jumpiness, an ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, impaired ability to concentrate, stomach problems, nausea and diarrhea.
There are many self-help techniques for addressing anxiety, all of which have proven beneficial to some:
- Mentally challenging the object of anxiety - reminding yourself the odds of the elevator failing is millions to one.
- Exercise - burning built up physical energy.
- Relaxation techniques - yoga, deep breathing, meditation.
- Adjusting sensory information - touching pets, doing a puzzle, breathing aromatic oils, dimming lights and lighting candles or listening to relaxing music
When these do not work professional assistance includes
- Psychological or psychiatric intervention or prescription medication.
- Medical intervention - prescription anxiety or antidepressant drugs.
For people suffering from chronic anxiety the methods above are not solutions but coping mechanisms which have to be repeatedly employed in order to repeatedly address the anxiety. Anxiety would be resolved when a person on longer has to repeatedly employ these coping mechanisms to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, although we might continue the practices as part of our health maintenance program.
Our education and experience leads us to the conclusion that chronic anxiety is evidence of functional starvation, or the inability to benefit nutritionally from food eaten. We come to this conclusion based first on experience of the symptoms we've individually experienced when we've gone way too long without eating, They include all the physical symptoms of anxiety listed above - a lack of energy, jumpiness, inability to concentrate, stomach pains, inability to fall asleep, etc. When we'are really, really hungry it's difficult to think of anything but the need to eat - the body has its ways of reminding us it has needs.This conclusion is also confirmed in our clinical experience. When a client's nutritional needs are addressed, their anxiety frequently dissipates (they report being calmer, less tense) even when the circumstances that previously triggered or they associated with anxiety remain unchanged. We're also aware that just as our eyes have a tendency to weaken over time, impairing our eyesight, so too our digestive system has a tendency to weaken in its capacity as we age and our susceptibility to anxiety increases as we age. Fortunately, just as we can employ glasses to improve our sight we can utilize digestive enzymes to improve our digestion and ease anxiety.
So, how is it we could be oblivious to the fact we're hungry and instead become increasingly fearful our job is going to be terminated and we'll be left homeless? We think physiology explains this phenomenon. Though we think we're independent and self-willed human beings, a great deal of our behavior is by communications issued by our physiology. Consider what happens if you eat too salty a meal. Your body sets up the conditions of thirst, prompting you to drink water the body needs to remove the excess salt from your system. Your body sends signals telling you it is tired, prompting you to go to sleep. If you sprain your ankle, your body issues pain when you step on it, motivating you to change your behavior until it heals. We we are hungry our body sends messages (changes of behavior) telling us to turn our attention to feeding it.
If we were starving as a result of the simple lack of food, it is unlikely we'd miss the fact our lack of food was the source of our worry, our body pains,gas and bloating. However, it is the case when a person suffers from functional starvation they are eating regularly but are not benefiting nutritionally from the food eaten. The body doesn't get the message we ate because it doesn't get the nutrition from the meal we ate, so it continues to send the messages to us which should prompt us to eat. We just ate, so when we get the messages, we may enter into a conversation with ourselves that goes something like this: "Why am I so anxious? I just ate so I'm not hungry. What's wrong - what's making me so anxious? Something must be wrong.... what is it? Ah, could it be.....?" And then we start worrying about whatever we find. If we're creatures of habit, in the same places at the same time after our meals, we might find ourselves repeatedly venting anxiety on the same target. If we have less habitual world, we might find ourselves anxious about different things every day.
It's a simple enough theory to be tested by anyone who finds themselves anxious. Make the changes necessary to restore the digestive process and observe if the anxiety continues or dissipates.