What Is The Link?
Women are more susceptible to anxiety; In fact, twice as likely to suffer from it than men, and even more so in Europe and the USA.
Everyone feels anxious at times; it’s part of our bodies natural stress response, enabling us to deal with danger, so we stay alive. But when anxiety turns into excessive fear, panic and worry, it can have a devastating effect on home and work life, both physically and emotionally.
Many women find they become more anxious during peri-menopause and menopause, even if they have never had anxiety in the past. This can be due to falling levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, as well as increased cortisol.
Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling of nervousness, apprehension and fear that something bad is happening, or about to happen. You may experience physical symptoms like sweating and feeling shaky, palpitations, nausea, diarrhea, shaking or panic attacks.
What are the causes?
1. Increased stress levels stimulate constant cortisol release, which can interfere with your brain neurotransmitters and increase anxiety if this is out of balance.
To help balance your cortisol levels, schedule in daily stress management practices, such as meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, reading or massage.
2. Sex hormones; oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, have a big role to play in how your brain works and how you feel. Fluctuations after 40 can increase anxiety, depression and general brain function.
Include plant oestrogens to regulate your levels, such as, flaxseeds, lentils, and some organic soy. If you’re considering HRT, it’s useful to get your hormones tested by a specialist health practitioner.
3. A high sugar/refined carb/ processed diet can increase your insulin levels, which can cause inflammation in the brain, altering neurotransmitters and mood.
Maintain a low GL diet with plenty of protein, healthy fats, colourful vegetables and complex carbs. Reduce alcohol and eliminate snacking to keep your blood sugar stable and reduce inflammation.
4. Low thyroid hormones mean a lower supply of energy to the brain, which can disrupt normal mood and function and increase anxiety.
Get your thyroid properly tested, asking for TSH, T4, T3 levels and antibodies to be checked. Increase your intake of foods rich in thyroid supporting nutrients such as iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iodine.
5. There is a direct link between your gut and your brain, so if your gut isn’t happy, it may contribute to low mood and/or anxiety.
Try eliminating foods that you might be sensitive to (eg. gluten or dairy), for a few weeks to notice how you feel. Increase your intake of foods which are rich in probiotics, such as live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha to rebalance your gut bacteria.
6. You may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals which are crucial for brain health. These include Magnesium (nature’s tranquiliser!), Vitamin D (sunshine), B12, B6 (helps to make neurotransmitters like serotonin), Folate (helps B12 and iron), Iron (carries oxygen to brain cells), Omega 3 fats and Zinc.
Get your levels checked and begin supplementing, if needed. Check with your Dr if you’re on medication.
7. Anxiety might not be anything to do with your physical body, it can come from emotional issues which affect your self esteem and confidence.
You may need to get specialist help with this. Chat to your GP and get a referral to seek counselling and take up some relaxation practices, including breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, visualisation, meditation, mindfulness, and gentle physical activities such as yoga and Tai Chi.