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Help for Anxiety – Naturally
Anxiety is certainly part of the human condition. We are, after all, animals with very few physical defences, so we need an alarm system to keep us safe. The physical responses to fear make us ready to run from predators, fight back, or in some cases freeze and “play dead”. When that normal fear response becomes a regular pattern of anxiety, it can be overwhelming. In my practice, I regularly talk with patients who are experiencing a level of anxiety that is distressing to them. Once people experience anxiety, they often become afraid of experiencing it again, and go to great lengths to avoid trigger situations. The good news is that there are very effective tools for breaking free of the cycle of anxiety without having to limit your life.
As a physician, my first inclination is to rule out physical causes of anxiety, such as certain medications or health conditions. The most obvious physical trigger is caffeine intake. People who are prone to anxiety are wise to avoid caffeine as its effect on the body magnifies nervous tension. Another very common trigger, especially in young people, is low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Skipping meals or eating refined flour and sugars can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar. When that happens, the brain tells the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which causes rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety. Thyroid conditions, both hyper and hypo, can contribute to anxiety. Patients love that I am able to run up to six blood tests to rule out thyroid conditions as opposed to the one test that is generally covered by MSP. Blood tests can also help to identify anemia, B vitamin or vitamin D deficiencies, all of which can affect brain chemistry profoundly. I often hear from patients that the hormone balancing work we do helps their mood and anxiety levels.
Relaxation techniques are an important part of learning to deal with anxiety. Meditation is simply learning to observe your mind and make choices about where it is focusing. Mindfullness Based Stress Reduction is a program that has been rigorously studied to show superior benefits to anxiety over medication. Adding an element of self- compassion into your daily self-talk practice takes the process deeper and is very effective. Dr. Kirsten Neff’s Ted Talk is a good place to start to explore the practice of self-compassion.
Learning strategies for dealing with life stresses such as relationship issues, future uncertainties, past trauma, addiction and more can help to reduce anxiety. Counselling and personal development work isn’t just for people with mental illness, it’s for anyone who wants to live life more fully and be the best they can be. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a set of incredibly practical life skills for anyone wanting to be more clear and calm in their lives. The website anxietybc.com is one of the best on the subject.
As a naturopathic physician, I also offer my patients natural medicines that help to heal the nervous system, balance brain chemistry, and normalize the adrenal stress response. These herbs, vitamins and amino acids can be the leg up that people need to get a handle on stress.
Often a person with anxiety can feel overwhelmed by how their mind and body reacts to stress, and with help, they can develop confidence in their ability to be resilient in the face of life challenges.
Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician who has practiced in downtown Courtenay for 20 years. www.getwellhere.com 250 897-0235.
Candida and Intestinal “Good Bacteria” (candida)
Intestinal Flora Imbalances
Candida albicans, a yeast that normally lives within your body can make many people feel sick if it is in excess. Yeast can cause many health disorders such as fatigue, headache, depression, premenstrual tension, hyperactivity, skin disorders, digestive problems and more.
Everyone has candida, a form of yeast (Candida albicans) normally confined to the lower bowels, the vagina, and the skin. In healthy individuals with strong, functioning immune systems, it is harmless and kept in check by “good” bacteria, called probiotics like acidophilus and bifidobacteria. But if the balance of the intestinal environment is altered by a compromised immune system or other factors, then opportunistic candida grows in the intestine or can infect other body tissues. The candida becomes pathogenic, transforming from a simple yeast into an aggressive (mycelial) fungus that can compromise one’s health. This condition is known as candidiasis.
Candidiasis can affect areas of the body far removed from candida colonizations in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina. Its symptoms cover a broad spectrum and the condition can cause a number of diseases ranging from allergies, vaginitis and thrush (a whitish fungus in the mouth or vagina), to an invasion of the genital-urinary tract, eyes, liver, heart, or central nervous system. Common symptoms of candidiasis include digestive problems such as bloating, cramping; wheezing, earaches, generalized fatigue, poor concentration and loss of libido.
The likely candidate for candida overgrowth is someone whose medical history includes: prolonged or repeated use of antibiotics which are frequently given for urinary and ear infections, sinusitis, bronchitis, and other infections; steroid hormone medication such as cortisone or corticosteroids, often prescribed for skin conditions such as rashes, eczema, or psoriasis; acid blocking medication (such as Nexium and Cimitidine); stress, high sugar intake and oral contraceptives. Certain illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and AIDS can also increase susceptibility to candida overgrowth. High carbohydrate diets can also upset the intestinal flora balance.
Antibiotics, life-saving cures for many diseases, may be the single greatest cause of candidiasis, because antibiotic treatment for infections is nondiscriminatory, killing the “good” intestinal chemistry-balancing bacteria, as well as the “bad” infection-causing bacteria.
The good bacteria strains are called acidophilous and bifidobacteria. They produce natural antifungal substances (as well as antibacterial materials) as part of their control mechanism over yeast. One of the activities of “good” bacteria is the manufacture of a B vitamin, biotin, which exerts control over yeast. When biotin is lacking, as a result of damage by antibiotics to the good bacteria, yeast has a chance to change from its simple yeast form into a different organism, and encroaching mycelial (vegetative) fungus.
LEAKY GUT / INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY
Antibiotics can cause the altered imbalanced intestinal environment that candida requires to change into its fungal form. Candida then puts down tiny rootlets which penetrate the tissues on which the yeast is growing. When this happens to be the inner wall of the intestine, it breaks down the barrier which exists between the closed world of the bowel and the body. Toxic debris, yeast waste products, and partially digested proteins are allowed into the bloodstream, resulting in allergic and toxic reactions. Healthy bifidobacteria and acidophilus intestinal colonies can usually withstand one or two short episodes of antibiotics without serious harm. If, however, use of antibiotics is frequent or prolonged (as with a course for acne treatment or/and infections), then the spread of candida becomes inevitable.
DIET AND CHRONIC CANDIDIASIS
A number of dietary factors appear to promote the overgrowth of candida. The most important factor is a high intake of sugar and carbohydrates, foods containing a high content of yeast or mold.
DIAGNOSIS OF THE YEAST SYNDROME
The best method for diagnosing chronic candidiasis is clinical evaluation by a physician knowledgeable about yeast-related illness. More than likely, the manner in which the doctor will diagnose the yeast syndrome will be based on clinical judgement from a detailed medical history. Vega testing is an additional tool that has proven to be an effective method of assessing candida overgrowth and monitoring the program of a candida elimination program.
Successful treatment of candidiasis first requires the reduction of factors which predispose a patient to candida overgrowth. Secondly, the patient’s immune function must be strengthened. Diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, and yeast killers are some of the choices physicians use to accomplish these ends. A program will be tailored to your individual health needs.
SYMPTOMS OF CANDIDIASIS
There is a wide array of candidiasis symptoms depending on an individual’s age, sex, environmental exposure, and immune systems. These include (but are not limited to):
fatigue, especially after eating
depression &/or mood swings
memory loss, poor concentration
recurrent fungal infections such as “jock itch,” athlete’s foot, or ringworm
recurrent infections: vaginal, urinary, ear, etc.
premenstrual syndrome and hormonal problems
sensitivity to chemicals, perfumes, smoke, or other odors
a feeling of being lightheaded or drunk after minimal wine, beer, or certain foods
Sinus congestion and infections
50% of people with chronic sinus problems have fungal overgrowth harbouring in the sinuses.
These symptoms may worsen in moldy places (such as basements) or in damp climates, and after eating or drinking foods containing sugar.
10 Keys to High Energy Living
by Dr. Deidre Macdonald, ND
We all want abundant energy. Without it, we can’t enjoy all life has to offer. Lack of energy is the number one complaint I hear from my patients. Here are the top 10 strategies I use to help my patients reach their potential for energy and vitality.
1) Rule out physical causes of fatigue:
While fatigue is an extremely common complaint, it can be the first symptom of disease. Cardiovascular disease and cancer are two conditions in which fatigue is often overlooked as an early warning sign. It is important to pay attention to drops in your energy and to consult your naturopathic or conventional doctor for a complete physical and thorough blood work to see if other signs and symptoms of disease are present.
2) Exercise and movement:
There is no better way to jump start your engine than getting your body moving! Our bodies require movement like they require food and sleep. If the thought of “exercise” brings back bad memories of gym class, think of incorporating “movement” into your life. Yoga, dance, walks, stretching and many more creative activities definitely will enhance your energy.
3) Optimize digestion:
In my practice, I have treated literally thousands of people whose energy increased upon improving their digestion. I have observed that when digestive problems are left untreated, (or are simply treated with drugs that temporarily suppress symptoms) people are robbed of their vitality. For instance, chronic indigestion, acid reflux and Irritable Bowel Syndrome can often be eliminated without the use of drugs through diet changes and natural medicine. Improved digestion means the body can absorb more nutrients and eliminate more waste. This naturally results in more energy and improved functioning of many systems in the body.
4) Eat the right diet for you:
There are so many different diet plans out there these days. High carb – low fat, low carb – high fat, how are you to know which plan is best for you? In coaching my patients, my first priority is to encourage them to eat nutritious foods and to avoid processed and addictive foods like sugar, flour products, caffeine and alcohol. My next priority is to assess their individual food sensitivities. A high proportion of my patients who come in complaining of low energy are then able to identify key foods that trigger their fatigue and cause other symptoms. Knowing which foods to avoid enables them to unleash their full energy. What a gift! If blood sugar imbalances are occurring, patients often report feeling “wired but tired”. Low blood sugar causes an energy crash but also an adrenaline rush that can add to a feeling of stress and anxiety. With proper coaching, blood sugar can come into balance and people can get off that roller coaster of energy ups and downs.
5) Balance the hormones:
The hormonal system is intricate and delicate. Proper functioning of the adrenals, thyroid, ovaries, testes, and pituitary glands are essential to achieving a good metabolism and healthy vitality. Many factors can cause imbalances in one or many of the hormonal glands. Excess stress not only affects the adrenal glands, but also the thyroid gland. Excess toxins in the body can affect the liver’s ability to balance estrogen and progesterone resulting in PMS and other gynecological problems. Naturopathic doctors seek to balance the hormones by removing any underlying causes of dysfunction and using natural medicine to support the proper functioning of the glands.
6) Take stock of stress:
Stress is part of life, but too much stress can take its toll on our bodies. We need to take stock of the amount of stress in our lives and also how we are handling it. Maybe it is time to ask some friends or colleagues for their feedback on how you are handling stress. Stress reduction techniques are an essential life tool that must be learned and practiced through out life. In the absence of constructive stress management skills, many people turn to destructive means of reducing stress like cigarettes, alcohol, excessive t.v., etc.
7) Take basic supplements:
There is abundant scientific research demonstrating that nutritional supplements are an important part of optimizing health. Nutritional deficiencies can definitely cause fatigue. For instance iron and B12 deficiencies both cause anemia and result in fatigue. A naturopathic physician can help you cut through the hype and design a basic supplement program that is right for your needs.
8) Drink water not caffeine:
Caffeine may give you a short term buzz, but it creates a long term depletion of your energy stores. Caffeine makes our bodies wired and stressed, not truly energized. Getting off stimulants is one of the keys to rebuilding your body to allow your true vitality to shine through. If you don’t think you can get going in the morning without your cup of Joe, consider the next recommendation.
9) Take a dip in Comox Lake:
A great tip for increasing your energy is to finish your shower with a cold blast. Focusing the flow of water on your thyroid gland in the front of your neck, and the adrenal glands in your mid back area will really get the metabolism and energy going.
10) Take responsibility for creating joy in your life:
What are you passionate about? What brings you joy in your life? Who do you love? If these questions are difficult to answer, then it is time to do some soul searching. Without passion, joy and love in your life, it is hard to get excited and energized for your day. Do work you enjoy. Find ways to be of service. Develop an “attitude of gratitude” by taking time to focus on the good things in your life. Practice setting boundaries with negative people and surround yourself with people who are uplifting.
When it comes to energy, the old adage of “you reap what you sow” couldn’t be more true. Investing in your health gives you the vitality to live the life you want.
Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician with a medical practice in downtown Courtenay. Her office can be reached at (250) 897-0235 or via this website.
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The Macdonald Centre for Natural Medicine
448 10th Street Courtenay, B.C.