Updated: Jul 16, 2019
When I first sat down to write this blog I got so overwhelmed! There is SO MUCH to write about, I kept thinking, where do I even start?! I have been studying how to manage my anxiety and depression naturally for over 7 years and have so much to share… seriously where do I even start?
Well... there is no best place to start, I just need to start. So here goes!
I thought back to my biggest pain point in the early days of my anxiety disorder.
My constant anxiety attacks, otherwise known as panic disorder.
If you don’t experience anxiety attacks, stay with me! These 5 suggestions will, if anything, help reduce your anxiety.
In the early days, my anxiety was this feeling as if I was drowning, an intense feeling of being smothered, a racing, pounding heart, constant chest pain and discomfort, nausea and upset stomach, numbness and tingling sensations, and this constant need to pee!
I actually always felt like I had to pee. A pesky symptom that still lingers a bit today!
After 3 years of being on medication for panic disorder (which clearly wasn’t working) I started to explore other options. I had an amazing psychiatrist who suggested looking into nutrition, but couldn’t give me any specific recommendations. This led me to enrol in the Institute of Holistic Nutrition.
One theory presented in one of my textbooks by Dr. Michael Murray seemed a little far fetched to me at the time but I implemented several strategies… and IT WORKED. Not immediately, of course, but over time the 5 action steps I am going to present to you today, really made a difference. I can't remember the last time I had a panic attack.
The theory is that elevated blood lactic acid levels is one of the most significant biochemical factors of anxiety and panic attacks. Anxiety and panic attacks can absolutely be produced psychologically, this is simply one biochemical explanation. Dr. Murray suggests that by preventing the conversion of pyruvic acid to lactic acid and improving the conversion of lactic acid back to pyruvic acid, someone, like me, could decrease or even eliminate their anxiety and panic attacks.
What the heck does that mean?
Here's the science...
Lactic acid is what makes your muscles sore when you exercise. It also makes your arteries dilate, getting more oxygen into your blood and more waste products out.
Muscles use fat for their energy source. When you exercise intensely there isn’t enough oxygen to create energy, so the muscles burn glucose instead of fat. Lactate is the final product in the breakdown of blood sugar (glucose) when there is a lack of oxygen. When oxygen levels in the body are low, carbohydrates break down for energy and make lactic acid. The lack of oxygen creates a build up of lactic acid within the muscle.
Hello soreness and fatigue!
To sum it up...
When you eat carbs, they are broken down into glucose. Glucose then enters the bloodstream. Glucose breaks down to pyruvic acid which is used to create energy. When oxygen levels in the body are low, carbohydrates are converted into lactic acid.
Glucose → pyruvic acid + oxygen = energy
Glucose → pyruvic acid + no oxygen = lactic acid
Now of course there’s a bit more that goes into it, but for simplicity let’s keep it at that.
Something similar happens when you breathe rapidly or hyperventilate. It increases the acid level of your blood and throws off the carbon dioxide balance. This will increase lactic acid levels.
In a review on lactic acid response in panic disorder individuals with anxiety had elevated blood levels of lactate and more lactic acid than pyruvic acid, when compared to those without anxiety. It could also be that individuals with anxiety may be sensitive to lactate, and lactate may be causing their anxiety
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the elevated levels of lactic acid create the anxiety, or did the anxiety create the elevated levels of lactic acid.
We don’t know.
I do know that, during my many years of experimentation, implementing these 5 action steps deduced from studies like this had a massive impact on my panic disorder.
Through nutrition and breathwork you can prevent the conversion of pyruvic acid to lactic acid and improve the conversion of lactic acid back to pyruvic acid.
1. Reduce Caffeine and Sugar
This was a big one for me! Caffeine is a biochemical factor in anxiety and panic attacks. Coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar are all forms of caffeine that can increase heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones. I cut it out for 2 years before slowly reintroducing it and to this day it still affects my anxiety levels and digestion.
2. Eat Foods Rich in B vitamins
B vitamins are your energy vitamins and they help convert lactic acid out of the blood. Dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts and whole grains are all high in B vitamins.
Vitamin B1, for example, helps the body break down glucose properly and plays a very important role in the formation of energy. This decreases lactic acid production and is very important for balancing blood sugar levels. Vitamin B5 supports the adrenal glands which crucial for reducing stress and anxiety levels. Vitamin B12 helps balance out depressive moods.
3. Supplement with Magnesium
Magnesium is essential for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. Deficiency has been linked to anxiety, depression, irritability, fear, insomnia, confusion and memory loss. It is a natural relaxant, reduces high blood pressure and is anti-inflammatory for the brain.
Try Pure Lab Vitamins Magnesium Glycinate.
4. Get That Liver in Tip Top Shape
It's the liver's job to filter all that extra the lactic acid in the blood back to pyruvic acid or glucose, if that’s what the body needs. The liver has over 500 functions in the human body so it’s very important that we give it lots of love. I can, and I will, write an entire blog post all on liver love (stay tuned) !
Starting your day with a glass of warm lemon water and apple cider vinegar to detoxify and cleanse the liver is an amazing place to start!
Breathe! Surprise, surprise I’m going to tell you to breathe. I would be surprised if any of my blog posts don’t include breathwork. And no, I don’t just mean the breathing you do every day, automatically. I mean deep, intentional breathing for as little as 5-10 minutes a day will improve your oxygen intake and massively reduce stress. Increase oxygen, decrease lactic acid!
Implementing these nutrition and lifestyle changes could go a long way in anxiety management. There is no one size fits all approach to health and healing, nor is there a magic pill or one single magical solution. Wouldn't that be nice?! My holistic approach for anxiety management is built on stress management, nutritional protocols, supplementation, breathwork, lifestyle, patience and time.
Healing takes time.
Remember to always, always be patient and kind to yourself.
Reach out for support if you need it 💜