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Anxiety is Normal But Also a Hindrance to Optimal Health

By |2021-05-19T19:20:42-04:00May 19th, 2021|Categories: Brain Health|Tags: , , , |2 Comments

At some point in our lives, most of us can expect to experience some form of anxiety. It might occur as the result of a life challenge, whether that be a relationship, health issue, work conflict, finance, or traumatic event. Such anxieties are normal and seldom anticipated.

Having said that, I believe it’s important to avoid downplaying the impact that stress has on our lives. It can ruin a person’s health and yet it’s so often treated superficially or worse — it’s blown off by the medical provider.

However, if you are going through a period of acute stress, or you remain in a state of chronic stress and now find yourself feeling fatigued, unmotivated, or irritable, you may be experiencing the negative health impacts of stress. And that stress might possibly be diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Anxiety is Normal but Not Optimal.

In our culture — curated as it is by conventional medicine — anxiety is often seen as a disorder and, in such fashion, labeled GAD. However, anxiety is also a normal part of life. It’s a normal part of physiology and in many cases it’s not a disorder. When anxiety becomes a disorder, it is far more obvious to recognize in ourselves and those around us and there is a greater likelihood a diagnosis of GAD will be provided by a psychologist or similar health care professional.

Whether you actually have GAD or just suffer mild to moderate anxiety, it can feel as if you’re being treated for anxiety or depression abstractly, and even with such treatment your health can decline because the underlying issues have not been resolved.

I have observed many patients seeking out functional medicine or holistic medicine who are struggling with a low to moderate anxiety level that doesn’t fit the formal diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Some men and women can be reluctant in acknowledging their anxiety, while others freely discuss their concerns. It is also common for people to dismiss anxiety or lower the value it has on their health outcomes.  In some ways I think we have the wrong understanding of what anxiety is and how it blocks us from reaching our optimal health.

Breaking anxiety down, I like to classify it as follows:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder — advanced anxiety often benefitting from prescription medication
  2. Moderate/ mild anxiety — successfully treated without the use of prescription medication

Conditions and Symptoms Associated with GAD and Moderate to Mild Anxiety

Anxiety can create or exacerbate many conditions including:

  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Cortisol Imbalances
  • Hormone Imbalance, altered libido or painful cycles
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) — Constipation or Diarrhea
  • Insomnia or restless sleep
  • Neurological Symptoms
  • Restless Legs
  • Weight Gain or Loss

Besides the commonly known symptoms of anxiety, which cause worry, upset and inability to relax, there are others, including: Continue reading…

The Hippo In Your Brain – Are you literally losing your mind?

I often ask patients the following question. Have you notice a decline in your memory or cognition over the last three to five years? Too often, regardless of age, the answer is flat out “yes” or a more unsure “I think so.” The next question is how are you sleeping?, which is inevitably followed by a resounding not well!

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), data indicates that 35 percent of Americans over the age of 18 are not receiving enough sleep. Twenty percent of senior citizens over the age of 65 are experiencing Mild Cognitive Impairment. As you will see in this article, Mild Cognitive Impairment is associated with sleep and cortisol function. Poor sleep at any age is a limiting factor for performance in all areas of life.   

Hippocampus, Sleep and Your Memory

If one area of the brain (mesial temporal lobe) starts to shrink, early cognitive decline may result. Each area of the brain provides a window into various disease states, some are more widely known to impact dementia. The mesial temporal lobe contains a number of important structures, one of those being the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for short term memory, converting short term memory to long term memory. The hippocampus can degenerate in response to excessive cortisol secretion, head trauma, hypoxia (lack of oxygen), chronic infections, and long standing chronic stress.

The circadian rhythm or what is referred to as your biological clock helps you fall asleep, stay asleep and feel alert and energetic throughout the day.

Your sleep/wake cycle is regulated by the hormones cortisol and melatonin. A lifetime of stress, poor relationships, work related problems, financial troubles, poor eating, and exposure to toxins all cause disruptions in cortisol secretion. Years of working night shift or poor sleeping patterns are great ways to cause changes in melatonin and cortisol balance.

For years I have indicated to patients that one of the first signs that we are losing health is the loss of good sleep.

If you wake up at 3AM wondering what you are doing up, this is one warning sign that your cortisol balance is compromised and could be your first sign of hippocampal or brain degeneration.

A day does not go by that I see patients who are having trouble sleeping. Here are some of the common sleep related complaints:  Continue reading…