Hormones and anxiety

In England women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders as men.* Also, general anxiety disorders are more common in people from the ages of 35 to 59. So we can see then that this age bracket also correlates with the natural hormonal changes that all women go through during this time.

So why are we feeling this way?

There can be many causes of anxiety and it can range from a low level hum to accute panic attacks. If we view it from a hormone perspective, we see that oestrogen, which is in flux during this time can exacerbate common anxiety symptoms, such as, a faster heart rate, flushing in the face and neck, intense heat, a feeling of overwhelm that comes on suddenly.

On a personal note

Speaking from my own personal experience, my hormones - anxiety link can cause sudden heart palpitations. When I first experienced the palpitations, I didn’t know the cause, and this worry only made the symptoms worse, but if we look at one of oestrogen’s many roles, we see that it is involved with modulating heart beat and blood pressure. Now I know if these symptoms crop up I can experience them without letting it build into a full anxious episode. I have the right nutrition and targeted supplementation in my toolbox and I adjust lifestyle choices too. Obviously if you are feeling things aren’t right, go to the GP and get a check up, I did and in that way I ruled out lots of things that were worrying me.

If you are feeling these feelings, what can you do?

  1. Talk to someone - this in itself can sign-post you to the support you need. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone with these feelings, and you are really are not alone, can help. There are many women who feel the same as you and want to know how to manage these symptoms.

  2. Get a full health check at the GP - Women can blame themselves for their symptoms, eg, you feel this way because you don’t get enough sleep, or you take on to much in the day etc.. however, a lot of the time, there are underlying causes to feeling this way. For example, your stress hormone cortisol could be raised, your thyroid could be underactive, you blood pressure might be elevated. So can can see there might be other things coming into play to keep you feeling anxious.

  3. Check your cup - With this I mean, what’s in your cup? Are you relying on tea and coffee and not drinking enough water. Caffeine alone will raise your cortisol and if you’re mildly dehydrated this too can impact on cortisol input. So if you can up your water intake, limit caffeine to 1 a day and take it before midday.

  4. Check your plate - So how much green leafy veg do you get a day? Green leafy veg = magnesium. Magnesium is needed to maintain healthy GABA levels. GABA, is a neurotransmitter that can help your mind and body to relax, Magnesium has been shown to improve sleep and anxious feelings.

Feeling anxious is not to be dismissed or unacknowledged. Speaking form personal experience, it can feel debilitating and isolating. There is not one magic pill to ‘cure’ it. Anxiety is a sum of lots of parts. But there is a way through it , firstly by acknowledging it, calling it out for what it is, you feel anxiety but you are not defined by it. Get checked over to see if there’s underlying issues, then start to look at your current lifestyle and nutrition to really address the root cause and can help you to add in some tools that will really support and work for you.

I will be hosting a workshop on this subject with practical tips on how to incorporate nutrition into your everyday to address these feelings. Tickets here: https://tinyurl.com/yxg8yhxv

*Martin-Merino, E., Ruigomez, A., Wallander, M., Johansson, S. and GarciaRodriguez, L. (2009). Prevalence, incidence, morbidity and treatment patterns in a cohort of patients diagnosed with anxiety in UK primary care. Family Practice, 27(1), pp.9-16.

Why I eat broccoli everyday

Broccoli helps your hormones.

Really? Yes, indeed!

Broccoli is from the Brassica family. Brassica’s contain something called Diindolylmethane or DIM for short. DIM is one of the liver’s best friends, it supports Phase 1 metabolism in the liver. This is where your oestrogen gets dismantled, this is a really important part of regulating your hormone health, how well your liver sorts out used up oestrogen, really helps to manage the common hormone symptoms you might be experiencing. Liver detox support is key in hormone issues, the indoles found in broccoli and other brassicas help to detoxify that excess oestrogen. So you can see why these veggies need to be on your plate everyday.

Why else is brocolli so good?

Fibre - Everyday fibre is really important, We can’t escape all the toxins. However, if you can get good fibre into your diet then it’s going to keep you on the regular, which is so important as it helps to get things moving, it can address any defective digestion (ahem, think constipation) and improve toxin excretion.

Prebiotics - Now you might have heard of Pro-biotics but what about Pre-biotics? Pre-biotics are your good gut bacteria’s favourite food and fuel. One good example of a pre-biotic are broccoli stalks (you know that bit that usually gets thrown in the bin with the little elastic band that ties it up), they are actually really good for us, so don’t chuck it! Those not so preety veggie stalks play an important role in gut health by giving your good bacteria cellulose fibres (fav food). I usually slice the stalk into discs and throw it in along with the broccoli in the steamer.

Things to keep in mind

Try to keep it organic. Broccoli features on Environmental Working Groups Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list, access a copy here. This list helps you avoid the Dirty Dozen, the non-organic fruits and vegetables that are highest in pesticide residues. Buying organic everything is expensive and I’m a realist, so if you can prioritise buying the dirty dozen organic it will go along way to keeping toxin exposure down. However the great news is is that brocolli is on the Clean 15 list!

How to include it into dishes

My go-to is usually steamed for a few minutes only, keep those nutrients in, then mix through salad greens like rocket and watercress, this takes minutes and then serve with protein of choice and a delicious dressing.

Or oven roast some broccoli in olive oil and Tamari and either have as part of a roast or keep them in the fridge to add to lunch on the go like a pasta salad.

Or, how about a pesto? Raw broccoli whizzed with lots of luscious herbs and a little linseed oil, garlic, lemon juice and pine nuts.

My 3 detox tools I use everyday

As a general rule, I try to help support my liver as best I can. It’s the hardest working endocrine and exocrine organ around. I’m not a believer in hard and fast detoxes. Usually, I see clients with over burdened systems and attempting a forceful detox just pulls out stored toxins from the system and makes you feel worse rather than better. I like to support the liver everyday by putting some easy to use methods in place:

Detox tool number 1

Dry brushing. You’ve probably got an old loofah or even a scratchy hand mitt as part of a Boots Christmas pack lurking in the back of your bathroom cabinets. Now is the time to dig it out and start using it. Not only does dry brushing exfoliate dead skin cells it most importantly, encourages good lymphatic flow (the lymphatics are the “clean up vessels” of the body and travel closely to the surface of the skin).The lymphatic system is a fantastic detox highway, but it needs to be stimulated to be efficient, dry brushing can help.

Detox tool number 2

Apologies in advance for this next one, but I do recommend using a ‘poo stool’ or more commonly known as the squatty potty. Some say the colon doesn’t fully relax in a normal toilet sitting position. Squatting, or raising the legs on a stool, aligns the colon and peristalsis (movement) is improved. Our pooping methods are one of the most important detox tools we have, we have to be going everyday, so prioritising this ritual is important. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you can try elevating your feet on a couple of loo rolls and see how you get on. If it works for you, look into getting a stool that works for your height, you don’t want your legs to high or it can get uncomfortable!

Detox tool number 3

Let’s talk about bad breath. This can be a sign that your detox system is not at it’s best. Any kind of wrong-ish aroma has to be looked a as it might be a build up of bacteria in our mouth. To get around this I recommend tongue scraping. Almost half of our oral bacteria live on and in the deep crevices of our tongue; the scraping action of a tongue scraper collects these toxic tongue coatings (which can range in colour from clear, white, yellow, or green) and removes them from the body. This is the one I use: http://tinyurl.com/yy4y3hl2

Vitamin C - the best loved Antioxidant

Are you feeling stressed or going through a stressful and/or emotional time in your life? Chances are this is depleting your Vitamin C levels. This is because the adrenal glands contain a lot of Vitamin C and during times of stress Vit C is released into the blood stream, leaving you low on supplies. 

Vitamin C is important because it keeps the immune system functioning, supporting the body to fight infections and viruses. It is also an important co-factor in many biological mechanisms in your body. Take your Thyroid for example, it helps with the synthesis of Thyroxin. Vitamin C is needed for optimal iron absorption.  Vitamin C also converts Tryptophan to Serotonin (your happy hormone). It also helps the Mitochondria (your energy batteries inside each and every one of your cells) to make energy. 

If you are low in Vitamin C, you might feel symptoms such as:

  • Bleeding gums
  • loose teeth
  • pin point haemorrages/broken capillaries
  • lots of colds and/or infections

What to look out for

If  you are a smoker, 25mg of Vitamin C is lost with every cigarette. So up-ing your Vitamin C is crucial in getting those much needed antioxidants in the system. Or better still, stop smoking! Vitamin C supplementation is very popular, with 100’s of different types and varieties. Yes, antioxidant supplementation definitely has a place, but with all vitamins and minerals, supplementation needs to be monitored as Vitamin C can turn Pro-oxidant at high levels. Pro-oxidant is the opposite of antioxidant, causing more oxidative damage, which puts more burden on your system.  As a Nutritional Therapist, I look to the best supplement you can buy - Food!

How can I find vitamin C in my foods

Berries, strawberries are good but Elderberry and Acerola cherry are especially Rich in Vitamin C. Don’t forget your greens! Kale has 3x as much vitamin C compared to oranges. Brussel sprouts and broccoli too are great sources of Vitamin C.

Vitamin D - the sunshine vitamin and your immune system

Vitamin D has been in the press a lot. Partly because Osteoporosis is on the rise. Vitamin D plays a role in Osteoporosis because of its interplay with calcium. calcium is essential for bone health, however, you must have adequate vitamin D levels to absorb the calcium. Therefore GP's now prescribe  Vitamin D. 

Vitamin D is a crucial factor in promoting a good immune system. Vitamin D makes macrophages, one  type of white blood cell that digest viruses or bacteria that enter your body. 

How do you feel if you are low in vitamin D?

  • Low immunity  - you either get alot of coughs and colds or you find it difficult to shift a virus
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness and anxiety

The demand for vitamin D increases in a variety of ways, for example, if you you drink alcohol, are a diabetic, a vegetarian, have crohn's disease or treating cancer.

What do I need to eat to get more of it?

This is the tricky part. Yes, there are traces of vitamin D in some foods like egg yolk and sprouted seeds but not enough for your daily requirements. You need the sun. Sunshine on your skin gets made into vItamin D in your body. This is hard to obtain during the long UK winters, that's why supplementation is recommended from October-April. However, It is very important to get your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor before supplementing.