Healing Anxiety – An Integrative Approach

By: Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld ND

 

1 in 4 Canadians will suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Feeling anxiety, or fear, is a normal part of our physiology but it becomes a problem when anxiety interferes with relationships, the ability to go to work or school, and other aspects of daily life.

 

Symptoms of Anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety are diverse, and can sometimes be difficult to recognize. Mental symptoms include excessive worry, insomnia, recurrent thoughts, nervousness and a sense of doom. There are also a myriad of physical symptoms – changes in body temperature, changes in digestion, frequent urination, muscle tension, rapid heart rate, chest pain, excessive sweating and more.

 

Conventional Approach

First line pharmaceutical treatment for anxiety can involve medications to increase levels of “feel-good” neurotransmitters in the body, such as serotonin, or medications that increase the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, to help “chill out”. These can work for some individuals, but medications alone don’t provide a holistic treatment plan. The side effects of weight gain, insomnia or excessive sleepiness and decreased sexual function are often limiting factors in their use.

Naturopathic Approach

Naturopathic Doctors don’t look at mental health as a condition occurring solely in the brain, that doesn’t affect, or have an effect, on the rest of the body. Anyone who has had anxiety before a big test and felt butterflies in their stomach, or felt their heart race, can tell you that anxiety manifests throughout the body.  Below are just some of the ways Naturopathic Doctors can help address your anxiety.

 

Cause: Stress

Stress is a natural response to a perceived threat. During times of stress our body activates the “fight or flight” division of the nervous system. This increases adrenaline and cortisol in the body: creating many of the symptoms listed above – increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased breathing rate, muscle tension and mental worry. It’s easy to see how elevated levels of stress can cause, or contribute, to anxiety.

Solution: Increase the amount of time you spend in the “rest and digest” division of the nervous system. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation and low key exercise all help to decrease high levels of cortisol in the body.

 

Cause: Hypoglycemia

You haven’t eaten anything for a long time, and you have been surviving on coffee for most of the day to reach a deadline. Panic sets in, along with irritability and maybe you even start feeling lightheaded. Irregular eating habits, combined with coffee, and surviving on office baked goods can set the stage for erratic blood sugar levels and major aggravations of anxiety.

Solution: You may not have a huge appetite if you aren’t feeling great, but try to consume some nutrient dense foods throughout the day, even if it’s just a few bites every hour. Having proteins and healthy fats, and avoiding processed carbohydrates will help keep your mood and energy levels stable.  Good examples include a protein smoothie, hearty soups or stews, homemade trail mix, veggies with hummus and boiled egg with veggies.

 

Cause: Lack of Sleep

Not getting enough quality sleep can be a trigger for any number of mental health conditions. Feelings of anxiety can also keep you wide awake at night, creating a vicious anxiety/insomnia cycle.

Solution: Create a calming bedtime ritual – journaling, meditation, yoga poses and baths, are just a few examples of ways we can turn on our parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system. Dim the lights in your house around 9pm to help signal melatonin production and avoid screens for 1 hour before bed to keep melatonin levels elevated

 

Cause: Nutrient Deficiencies

Many vitamins and mineral are important in the formation and function of neurotransmitters and are depleted by medications, stress and poor diet. These include all of the B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron and probiotics. The neurotransmitters are made of amino acids, derived from proteins, so adequate protein levels in the body are important for formation of serotonin, dopamine, GABA and all of the other neurotransmitters. Up to 90% of our serotonin is made in the digestive tract, so you can see how diet is so important in mental well-being.

Solution: Testing nutrient levels is important and often times correcting nutrient deficiencies can have a huge effect on mood. Your ND will sit down with you and make sure your nutrition provides all the correct nutrients, and that your digestion is working optimally to absorb nutrients from food.

 

Cause: Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones are the body’s messengers and will communicate to all cells of the body. The thyroid hormone, which is responsible for our metabolism can also have a huge effect on our mood – levels that are too low can contribute to depression and lethargy, while elevated levels of thyroid hormones can increase anxiety.

For women, it is important to have a balance of estrogen to progesterone. Due to medications, environmental toxins and food choices it is common to see a relative excess of estrogen and deficiency of progesterone. Progesterone is our calming hormone, so it makes sense that low levels would lead to more anxiety and irritability.

Solution: Based on your symptoms and lab tests recommended by your ND to assess your hormone levels, you can address these imbalances to achieve optimal mental and physical wellbeing.

 

Cause: Cognitive Distortions

The way we view a situation can greatly increase anxiety. These mental patterns and habits are established early in life, and create ways of thinking that are not always helpful. These patterns can be a result of trauma, or conditioning early in life.

Solution: Learning to identify behavioural and thought patterns through techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be a way to help change well-established mental schemas. A counsellor or therapist can help establish more positive ways of handling situations and relationships to decrease anxiety.

The Perfect Diet?

-by Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld, ND

There are so many diets out there – vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, paleo, primal, Mediterranean – the list goes on. But which one is the best? Your best friend swears that the paleo diet changed her life – she lost 50 pounds and her skin cleared up, but when you try it – nothing! Well that’s because diets and food choices need to be individualized! Integrated nutrition is all about learning to be more connected with what you eat, and how your body processes food.

eat right

Following a strict diet that you have read in a book may seem easy at first, but I can guarantee it’s not going to be the perfect diet for you. In order to understand how to eat, you have to first learn to listen to what your body is telling you and feed it nutritious foods. These 7 principles lay the foundation of the “perfect diet”

1. Drink More Water
Drink 2 cups of water first thing in the morning when you wake up. This will help to re-hydrate the body and set you on a good track for drinking water throughout the rest of the day. You can try adding freshly squeezed lemon juice, or sliced ginger to warm water, if you typically need some warming up in the morning.

Signs that you need more water include fatigue, sluggish digestion, headaches and frequent food cravings, or even just feeling thirsty!

2. Make your Own Meals
It is virtually impossible to eat well if you are relying on restaurants or take-out food to eat well. There is a lot of added sugar, salt and fat to make the food taste delicious, and portion sizes are often too large. Some of the most nutritious food is easiest to make, such as vegetables, fish and whole grains. You can even make your favourite “take-out” foods at home – swap the Macdonald hamburger and french fries for a homemade burger and roasted yams

3. Experiment with Whole Grains
Carbohydrates have been demonized, but there is a lot of benefit in eating healthy whole grains as part of a balanced diet. Whole grains provide energy, satiety, and a high source of fiber. This doesn’t include white bread or muffins, but start using quinoa, amaranth, and millet. If you have trouble digesting grains, try soaking them overnight in water – this makes the grains easier to digest and also neutralizes phytic acid , which is a component of grains that can block the absorption of other nutrients. How to cook different grains.

4. Include Naturally Sweet Vegetables
Craving sweets is natural, so try including healthy sweet foods instead of turning to preocessed sugar. Naturally sweet foods also contain beneficial nutrients and fiber to help balance your blood sugar. Certain foods become very sweet when cooked, and eating these foods will reduce your cravings for sweets! Carrots, onions, beets, winter squash and sweet potatoes are all great options.

5. Increase Leafy Greens!
Leafy greens are high in vitamins and minerals, fiber, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. They really are the super-hero food, and there are so many delicious ways to consume them. Try sauteing them, making a kale salad, or using a collard green leaf as a “bun” in your sandwich. Greens can also be easily added to your morning smoothie! Start experimenting by rotating your greens: bok choy, napa cabbage, kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, broccoli rabe and dandelion are all great options. Here are some ideas on how to cook, and store, your leafy greens!

6. Include Protein
Protein, and it’s building blocks amino acids, are important for so many functions in the body. Protein is required for enzymes and hormone synthesis, as well as building muscle mass (thereby increasing our metabolism) and developing strong hair and nails. Protein also helps to stabilize blood sugar, reducing cravings and keeping us feel full for longer. Good sources of protein include fish, organic poultry, grass fed meats, lentils and eggs. Aim for a piece of protein the size of your hand, with the rest of your plate being colourful veggies and high quality fats.

7. Don’t Fear Fats
We are thankfully moving away from low fat diets, but people are still hesitant to include fats and oils in their diets. Fats are essential for increasing our feeling of satiety after a meal, improving our absorption of many fat-soluble nutrients and producing healthy hormones. Modern diets have an over-abundance of pro-inflammatory fats (omega 6) and low levels of anti-inflammatory fats (omega 3). Our cell membrane is composed of fat, so including anti-inflammatory fats in our diet, will help to reduce inflammation systemically. If you are cooking with oils, use ones with a high smoke point such as coconut oil, avocado oil or grapeseed oil. Olive oil and flaxseed oil should only be consumed cold, as they burn at a lower temperature. Other good sources of fat include nuts and seeds, fish (and fish oil), hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax and avocado.

Choose one of these principles to include next week. If you are able to stick with it, then try adding another. Make small, sustainable, changes and soon you will see drastic changes in your diet and your health!

Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about your specific symptoms to individualize the best nutrition plan for you.

Questions about this article? Contact [email protected]

Eating with Qi

By Meghan Trompetter, Rhn
Healing Chicken Broth

Ingredients:

4 lbs organic grass fed chicken or beef necks, back, wings (or combination)

4 quarts of pure water, cold

3 celery ribs, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

1 onion, coarsely chopped with skin on

1 head of garlic

1 bouquet garni ( 4 sprigs thyme, 4 sprigs flat or curly parsley, 4 sprigs dill, and 1 bay leaf tied with kitchen string)

2 tablespoons vinegar

PREPARATION:

Recipe image 1

1. After you thoroughly clean the chicken pieces, make sure to cut the neck and wings into several parts (cut the joints of the wings to expose the collagen of the bone).

2. Place chicken pieces and vegetables in a stock pot, cover with pure cold water and vinegar. Let stand for 30 minutes.

3. Bring to a gentle boil, skim scum that rises to the surface and reduce to heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for 6-24 hours.

4. Remove from heat and immerse the bottom of pot in an ice bath until cool.

5. Remove bones and strain broth with a fine mesh colander into wide-mouth mason jars or glass containers. When cool, the stock should gel.

Recipe image 2

recipe from S. Fallon Nourishing Traditions 2001

To Learn more, Visit Meghan here
http://www.meghantrompetterrhn.com

Why do my knees hurt when I run?

 

  By Brooke MacGillavery, MPT, BSc, CAFCI, CSCS

Ever wonder why your knees hurt when you run? Or why you can’t quite achieve a perfect lotus position in yoga?

As a physiotherapist, I will assess your posture and overall mechanics to determine what can be done to eliminate pain and improve your daily life.  Pain and loss of function can develop from a trauma, or something as simple as repetitive postures like sitting at a desk all day.
My goal as a physiotherapist is to help people realize their full physical potential – whether it be training for a marathon, perfecting squat technique, or simply having pain-free neck range of motion.
As a physiotherapist at Qi, I feel my tools are all the more useful when paired with other services such as Pilates for core strengthening, or massage to decrease muscle tension and increase flexibility or range of motion. To start the new-year off right, ask yourself if you have any goals you’re having difficulty achieving due to physical limitations or pain; physiotherapy can help!

The bridge is an excellent exercise to start with:

  • With a neutral pelvis, bend knees

  • Feel the feet, arms and shoulders firm on the floor

  • lift hips and hold

  • Focus your breath into your low abdomen

  • Keep thighs engaged

  • Knees in line with your ankle and large to

  • Hold for 30 seconds

Perform 3 sets ensuring no back or knee pain.

To book in with Brooke call us at Qihealth # 604-742-8383

Spring – the Rise of Yang Qi

We can feel the difference.  There is no need for internal self-motivation to get out for a run on a nice, sunny, warming Monday morning!  Active energy, Yang Qi, is stirring.

Like the dawn of a new day, winter equinox is “Yin within Yin” or “ultimate Yin” heralding in itself the beginning of Yin’s transformation into Yang.  Spring equinox (Yang within Yin) is the time where Yang becomes equal to Yin as it continues to grow relatively to Yin to its peak at the summer equinox duly dubbed “Yang within Yang”.

According to the Five Elements Theory of Traditional Chinese medicine, the season of Spring is dominated by the climate of Wind, the culprit responsible for the contraction of various viruses, bacteria, colds and flues.  In the springtime, we also see an increase of other conditions triggered by Wind invasion such as hay fever and asthma.

Nowadays we are able to understand more precisely what exactly these ‘Wind pathogens’ look like.  We can test for allergies to specific substances to find out if we are allergic to grass pollens, cherry blossoms, cat dander, red alder or any host of others.

External pathogenic Wind is said to invade the body through the pores and specifically through the area of the nape of the neck.  When our Wei Qi (Defensive Energy – aka. Immune system) is robust, the pores close in a brisk wind, disallowing the passage of harmful Wind.  When it becomes weakened, or if it is a particularly strong Wind pathogen, the pores are left open and susceptible to the invasion of Wind.  This is why we contract a cold, begin to wheeze, or get sinus congestion.

Traditional Chinese medicine treatment of a cold includes acupuncture and herbal remedies said to activate the Yang Qi to open the pores, pushing out this Wind pathogen.  For this reason, it is always recommended that one consume these particular herbal formulae at as hot a temperature as possible, careful of course not to scald the mouth!  The goal is to create a slight sweat, indicating that the pores have opened and the pathogen has been released.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with the following concept.  All of the ideas fostered over the winter are beginning to germinate.  Spring is the time to turn inspiration into action, a time to harness the expanding, active Yang energy and, with it, nourish the soil of your goals and dreams.

-Authored by Dr. Peter Wood