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Are hormones imbalances driving your anxiety?

Do you ever wonder if there are hormonal imbalances playing a role in your anxiety? I deal with a lot of clients struggling with either gut or autoimmune conditions, and beneath that, underlying toxicities of various sorts. Because toxicities, hidden infections, and even lifestyle and psychological stress drive hormone imbalances, I often see a lot of secondary depression and anxiety. These clients tell me that there are days the mental health imbalances and struggles feel worse than their physical health struggles.


The truth is, chemical imbalances in the body have been connected to anxiety disorders. This invalidates the genetic theory of illness, which says that you have anxiety because your mother had anxiety. I actually had a counselor many years ago tell me that tendency towards anxiety is mostly determined by genetics. As a functional medicine practitioner who is now in the weeds every day with this issue, I can tell you that that is absolute hogwash. So even if you don’t deal with anxiety on an every day basis, just know that if you’re feeling anxious just before your period, you’re not going crazy!


Hormone imbalances really can increase or reduce feelings of anxiety.


Let’s take a deeper look into how our hormones affect anxiety:


Progesterone.

Levels of progesterone rise shortly after ovulation. I commonly see progesterone either really low or sometimes very high on a stress hormone panel. When in excess, this hormone activates the amygdala, the region of your brain that controls your fight-or-flight instincts. Triggering the amygdala can make you feel extremely anxious and even depressed.


Testosterone.

In general, testosterone aids in the regulation of the area of the brain that evaluates others' emotions and responds to social dangers. Healthy testosterone levels support feelings of wellbeing, hair and skin quality, muscle tone, and a healthy libido. Low levels may make it harder for you to understand what's going on in social interactions, leading to anxiety. I commonly see testosterone way too low on a stress hormone panel, especially in my female clients struggling with chronic health issues.


Thyroid hormones.

Thyroid hormones play an important role in anxiety: imbalanced levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (also known as TSH) are linked to the intensity of panic attacks. The health of the thyroid depends on the health of the adrenal glands, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland. Commonly I see signs of a sluggish thyroid in my chronically ill clients, which often goes hand in hand with a TSH level above 2.0.


Oxytocin.

When going through a stressful time, oxytocin can amplify your memory of the experience, making you more likely to feel anxious the next time you're in a similar circumstance. Generally speaking, oxytocin is one of our body’s “love” hormones secreted during times of bonding, such a mother nursing her baby or during sexual intercourse. Within the rest of hormonal soup of the body, however, it can act to amplify either positive or negative memories.


Adrenaline and cortisol.

These are our stress hormones. They increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and shunt blood from the core of the body to the extremities - all of which can cause anxiety when they flood the brain in a stressful situation, which could be anything from a work meeting to a life-threatening situation.


So, knowing the connection between hormonal balance and anxiety, what can we do to optimize our hormones? Decreasing stress is one of the simplest starting points in supporting all your hormones and helping reduce feelings of anxiety.


One way to decrease stress is to focus on reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation can come from physiological or emotional stressors. Research has shown that positive emotions help reduce inflammation within the body.


I encourage you to give the following tips a try in order to create positive emotions more frequently in your life:


Meditate

Meditation (or healing prayer) has been used for millennia to help foster positive emotions. It helps calm your body physically and helps you put things into perspective mentally. Set aside time each day to pray or meditate to build positive emotions and reduce inflammation. I often recommend my clients start with just 5 minutes daily and work up to 20-30 minutes if they can. One of my favorite 20 minute meditation tracks is Turning Your Love Inward by Dr. Joe Dispenza. Listening to this track will also help to build self-esteem and self-love, which I find most of my female clients really need support in.


Set goals

Progressing toward goals is a powerful source of good emotions, including dopamine, which is associated with the reward response. The secret to goal setting is to pick a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented. For example: I want to be able to complete a 5k within 3 months. What are your dreams? Think through the steps you need to get there and turn them into your goals.


Do yoga

Yoga helps release the neurotransmitter GABA, which calms your brain. It can also act as a natural antidepressant and increases gray matter in the brain. Yoga is really a complete system to restoring physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, but just getting started with postures will already get you on that track.


Choose happiness

We often think of happiness as something that happens to us, but we have a choice. Write down three things you're grateful for every day. Give a compliment. Take on a challenge. Make a choice to do the little things that naturally increase your mood.


Eat healthy

There is a lot to understanding which foods may and may not work well for your body. At a bare minimum, try to get as many processed foods out of your diet as you can. Aim for whole, unprocessed foods and cooking and prepping your food in your own kitchen as much as possible. Just imagine what you could do with the extra leftover energy once you're no longer struggling through diet-related inflammation and illness.


Focus on these foods to help reduce inflammation, stress, and anxiety!


Salmon

Salmon is full of brain supporting nutrients such as vitamin D, EPA, and DHA. These nutrients can help support and regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.


Chamomile tea

Chamomile is famous for its stress-busting properties. Chamomile is thought to support various neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA which all can impact feelings of anxiety.


Oats

Oats are an excellent source of tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin. Adequate levels of serotonin can lead to positive emotions. Look for gluten-free oats and try to soak your oats overnight to activate them and make them easier on your digestive system.


Eggs

Eggs are chock full of minerals, amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants that can help make the body more resilient to stress. Choline, a nutrient that’s found in high levels in eggs, has been shown to be particularly helpful in supporting overall brain health.


Shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels, etc)

Shellfish are one of nature’s multivitamins! They are rich in zinc, copper, taurine, selenium, and more which can support neurotransmitters and help to regulate the body’s stress response.


Garlic

Garlic can help support the body’s stress response. It is rich in sulfur compounds that are precursors to glutathione. Glutathione is considered the “master antioxidant” and can help support mitochondria health.



Feel like you need extra support to get your hormones back on track? Schedule a free discovery call with me here: https://p.bttr.to/358sXpb


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