Anxiety and Depression: Using your symptoms to guide you to the root of the problem
This week I sent out a survey on Facebook asking the mothers in my audience some questions about their health, level of support in their lives and what health information they are interested in. In less than 24 hours I had gotten over 40 responses from mothers in various age groups! If you participated, thank you for your time and thoughtful responses. Of those 40 respondents, 70% said they struggled with mood, anxiety or depression issues. While this is not surprising to me, I want to say that I don’t think this should be considered “normal”. “Normal” and “common” are two very different things, I don’t think it should be considered normal that so many people suffer from mental health problems that can be debilitating at times. I also believe that our health problems and symptoms are our guiding light shining the way to our best health. By normalizing these problems, we’re missing the cue from our body that something just isn’t right.
I am generally an anxious person and I’ve had several bouts of depression in my lifetime. 10 years ago, when I first began my whole foods journey, my anxiety was at an all time high. It was affecting my social life. I would avoid going to stores at certain times (well, I still do this but not because of social anxiety, Wegmans is just unbearable sometimes). When I wasn’t feeling anxious, it would often sway over to the depression side of the spectrum. I would feel lethargic, unmotivated and sometimes completely despondent about the state of the world (or my life).
We all have our ups and downs, but these ups and downs left me feeling exhausted and made me think I was going crazy. I didn’t like who I was becoming nor did I like how much I would let these moods dictate my life. Luckily this was the time when I found a practitioner who taught me about whole food and guided me through certain types of detox that my body needed specifically. After a few months, I felt like my body was balancing out on a cellular level. You see, when your body is in a state of chaos at a cellular level, you are never really able to reach homeostasis. You’ll respond to life’s stressors in really strange and dramatic ways. If the little things in life can knock you off center, you’ll never handle the big life stressors with much grace either. When I was feeling more balanced at a cellular level, it was a lot easier to roll with the punches. It is so much easier to greet the trials of life from a homeostatic state.
If you’ve read about my story before, you’ll know that I’ve fallen off the “health train” probably more times than I can count. Mostly because I love bread and sugar and unfortunately I am so sensitive to these foods that it really doesn’t take much for my body to revolt against me. Sometimes it is easy for me to decline those foods when they’re offered and sometimes I indulge. Usually any time I fall off track, my anxiety and depression are quick to come back into my life to remind me exactly why it serves me to eat my best. One of the last times this happened was right after Thanksgiving this past holiday season. I indulged a bit too much and boy oh boy the struggle was real in the following week. However, it was an important reminder for me to think that I used to feel that way all the time and that many other people still feel that way and worse. When Christmas rolled around I was much more mindful about my food choices and my health did not suffer.
When it comes to anxiety and depression there are many factors that can be working for or against you. Whatever the cause is, it will be unique to you and no one else. One common factor that can cause these health problems is your digestion. It could be that you are not digesting your food properly or you may have the wrong balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. It’s said that as much of 99% of our mental health issues start in the gut! I know for myself that healing my own gut was and continues to be a big part of my healing journey.
Another factor that can have a huge factor on your moods is your blood sugar regulation. Have you heard the term “hangry”? It's a mashup of “hungry” and “angry”. If you experience this on the regular, this is a sign from your body that you are not eating the proper balance of macro-nutrients (carbs/fats/protein/water) that is right for your body. Again, there is no one right answer here, it's going to be highly individual, which is why working with a nutritionist (like me!) can help.
There are many factors that will affect your moods and I can’t get into it all in one blog, but the final one I’d like to discuss today is healthy fats. Think about it, our brain is basically a big blob of fat and water. In order for the brain to function properly, we need to nourish it with good quality fats from a variety of sources. You can read more about fats here, but some of the most nourishing fats for the brain are found in fish oils. Not all fish oils are the same though and so if you would like more information about that, don’t hesitate to ask me!
The bottom line here is that anxiety, depression and other mood disorders are common but not necessarily normal. If this is something you are struggling with, you are certainly not alone. I hope that you are able to heed the warning from your body that something is amiss and that you are able to find the modality, practitioner or method of healing that is right for you and your individual needs.