This is where the rubber meets the road…
…where push comes to shove, and where $%!# gets serious. $%!# is code for “life” – if you didn’t know. Before you bother reading the rest of this post, please answer the following four questions.
This is called a readiness assessment. How ready are you to make real changes to feeling better?
- Are you willing to change the way you eat to better your health?
- Are you willing to change some very deeply ingrained habits that you believe are beneficial for you even though your health is still not great? – Recall: “The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results.”
Stop. Doing. That.
- Are you able to take supplements? Not a deal breaker but makes recovery harder.
- Are you willing to examine your life situation objectively to identify what drains and depletes you and consider thinking about alternative paths? “Everything” may not be changeable, but “somethings” are…
If you answered yes to at least one thing, continue reading. If you answered no to it all, then thanks for playing, see you next time!
Here is the 5 point plan to managing your anxiety and depression.
➤ Take care of what you put in your body. You are what you eat, so don’t be cheap, easy or fake!
I’m no stranger to the french fry or Carvel sundae. We are in fact, VERY well acquainted. I was actually the maid of honor at the wedding. But I know that when I don’t eat to my health, I feel pretty lousy. And poor eating habits can sneak up on you quickly. Eating what is healthy for YOU or can be healing for YOU is not easy in this day and age. Especially when you’re not cooking your own food thanks to ubiquitous fast food options, 24 hour delivery, frequent restaurant dining and frozen meals. (I don’t Hot Pocket know what you’re talking about… —Ed.) What you put into your body takes thought, planning and care. Encountering something you found at the bottom of your purse and then shoving it down your throat at a stoplight while running errands is not what we call “mindful” eating.
No one said eating well was easy, but with some effort and planning it can be EASIER and definitely delicious.
Anti-Anxiety Eating in four easy(ish) steps. Let food be thy medicine (not your poison.)
- Eat lots of vegetables daily and 1-2 fruits a day — they say “eat the rainbow” because the more varied and colorful, the more you are likely to hit all the antioxidants, prebiotic foods for your beneficial bacteria and vitamins and minerals your body needs to be healthy and robust. *Note the color of a potato is not part of the rainbow. Ketchup is also cheating. (What about Skittles? Taste The Rainbow – “Eat The Rainbow” – sounds the same to me… —Ed.)
- Get rid of DAIRY and GLUTEN. And by association processed foods. If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. I love Justin Bieber. Wait, wrong saying. Ditch the dairy and gluten. It isn’t good for anyone, but if you are having brain issues, it’s a No-Can-Do.
- Here’s a rule that makes me super popular with my patients. If you suffer from anxiety or disrupted sleep you must ditch the following:
- a. Caffeine
- b. Sugar
- c. Alcohol
- d. Cigarettes
- e. Uppers (like ADHD meds, stimulant medications and cocaine)
I don’t care if it’s one cup of coffee or one glass of wine or one cigarette. I. Don’t. Care. It makes a big difference to REMOVE these from your daily habit. This is LIFE CHANGING.
- Balance Your Blood Sugar. Every meal or snack needs to be balanced with a healthy carb, fat and protein. No one is saying you are eating a sleeve of Oreos and a carton of Krispy Kreme donuts on the daily. Wait! ARE you?? Messing up your sugar can happen even by eating an apple by itself as a snack or skinny pop popcorn or a friggin’ sugar bomb granola bar marketed to sound healthy just because there’s a farmhouse scene on the front. These SOLO carbs can lead to blood sugar ups and downs for some people.. When your blood sugar is off, your brain is off. Fixing this can be tricky. You may want to work with a health coach. Here’s an article I wrote about balancing blood sugar that you might find helpful. And this is an article about taming sugar cravings.
Do YOU have blood sugar imbalance problems? Any “yes” is a clue.
- Are you a snacker? A snack is eating anything that is not one of your 3 main meals. 1-3 snacks a day between meals is snacking. “Healthy” snacks is still snacking. A handful of nuts. A handful of popcorn or cereal. A handful of ice cream. You get the idea.
- Do you get “hangry,” irritable or “low blood sugar” if you skip meals or are late for a meal?
- Do you crave carbs like chips, crackers, candy, cake, bread, pasta?
- Do you wake up in the middle of the night, perhaps with hot flashes or night sweats or get up frequently in the middle of the night, sometimes to have a snack?
➤ Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
- Recommendation: 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, do different things. Repetitive strain is not pretty. Switch it up. Stop with the orange theory 5 days a week, or 5 hours of tennis every day. Do. Something. Different. Unless you want to keep your physical therapist in business then continue to run 6 miles everyday. Bu-bye joints!
- A study published in the BMJ shows a clear link between poor fitness and the risk of having symptoms of depression, anxiety, or both. The study, with over 150,000 participants, found that fitness and muscle strength contribute to a greater risk of worse mental health.
- Here’s a study in American Journal of Psychiatry that reports that regular leisure-time exercise of any intensity provides protection against future depression.
- The list goes on, but movement is cheap to do these days, doesn’t even require a gym membership and has no negative side effects unless you like punishing your body in the process. Schedule your exercise time in your calendar as you would any important appointment and don’t regard exercise as an expendable or optional event.
➤ Take care of your gut. Your brain depends on it.
Answer the following questions. A “yes” to one or more suggests your gut needs a tune up. In the last 60 days have you experienced:
- Bloating during the day or after meals?
- Reflux, heartburn, burping?
- Diarrhea or constipation?
- Stomach pain or cramps after you eat?
- Food sensitivities or reactions after eating certain foods?
- Sinus congestion, allergies, eczema or skin rashes?
- Joint aches and pains, migraines or fatigue?
- The need to breathe, urinate or sleep on a daily basis? (just making sure you’re still with me here…)
Here are the best steps to take to heal your gut:
➔ Try an Elimination Diet for three weeks, then slowly add back each food you removed one at a time. Eat the removed food two times a day for two days and see how your body responds. Eliminating one food (like dairy) then another food three weeks later (like gluten) doesn’t work. You may have issues with multiple foods so removing one at a time is not going to help you at all. Bite the bullet and take them all away for 21 days, then methodically add one back at a time to see what’s not working for you. You will be amazed at what happens to you.
“The other day I was working with a patient who was suffering from chronic hives for the past two years. In fact, her allergist said she was allergic to herself and needed to be on daily anti-histamines. Can you imagine? What cockamamie nonsense is THAT? We did an elimination diet and gut work and she was able to get off her daily anti-histamines within two weeks. Two. Weeks. She also found out that gluten, almonds and brussel sprouts were triggering hives when she ate them.”
➔ Try a multi-strain probiotic to see what happens. Not all probiotics will feel good to you. Some will feel great. It’s a bit of a crap shoot, but when it helps, it’s amazing! Use one capsule once or twice a day.
➔ Try a gut repair formula to help heal the gut lining. Use one scoop in water once a day. Also fish oil 1-2 caps a day, Vitamin A one capsule a day and Vitamin D are incredibly gut restorative. Vitamin D should be dosed based on your serum vitamin D levels to be safe and effective.
➔ If you have severe gut issues, doing advanced Functional Medicine testing may be of tremendous value. I like using the GI MAP test for this.
➤ Support Your Brain with the right supplementation.
Here are the heavy hitters needed for brain balance.
I’m asked all the time why you need supplement support if you’re eating a healthy diet. Sadly eating perfectly may fall short of what your body needs. Even the government recognizes that vitamin and mineral fortification (adding vitamins and minerals to processed foods) is necessary to avoid things like rickets and scurvy and pellagra. These are pretty terrible diseases related to severe vitamin deficiencies. But what is fortified in processed foods is “just” enough to avoid those diseases. It’s not enough to create health. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is what is minimally required to not get rickets, for example. That’s certainly not what you need to flourish and thrive.
Reasons why you may need to supplement:
- What if stress levels or illness causes you to burn through your cofactors more quickly?
- What if you have significant established deficiencies and you won’t be able to fill up the tank with maintenance amounts of vitamins and minerals?
- What if you take daily prescription medications that tend to either prevent absorption or consume vitamins and minerals more rapidly?
- What if your gut is not absorbing vitamins and minerals as well because it is inflamed and injured?
- What if your good bacteria are deficient and can’t perform its role with the vitamin production and assimilation?
- What if your digestive enzymes are lacking?
- What if you have genetic variants that increase your basic requirements for vitamin consumption?
Then you’d be screwed wouldn’t you?
VITAMINS, MINERALS and COFACTORS: ideally you would be checked for these in tests outlined in Part 2 of this series.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B3
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Amino Acid precursors
“Sound overwhelming? It certainly is. Consider starting with a Twice Daily Multipack of vitamins to at least get the ball rolling. One pack twice a day gives you a nice supply of B vitamins, folate, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and omega 3’s.”
FEMALE SEX HORMONES: you will need a physician to help you balance these guys.
- Progesterone is very anti-anxiety and helpful with sleep. If you are in your 30s or 40s with PMS, heavy period, and breast tenderness and you notice that you want to kill your spouse starting a week before your period (assuming they are no more annoying than usual), chances are you are low in progesterone.
- Testosterone is another hormone that can lead to depression and irritability if it is lower than ideal. It’s not just a male thing. Are you low libido? Gaining weight despite doing everything right? Poor muscle development? Low energy? Difficulty with orgasm? Poor mood? Your testosterone may be tanked.
- Estrogen is complicated. Like most females. Estrogen can stabilize and improve mood and a sense of well-being. Lowered levels of estrogen have the opposite effect on the body, causing feelings of sadness, listlessness and overall dismal moods. Unbalanced estrogen levels in women can be linked to anxiety. It pays to figure it out and fix it.
ADRENAL HORMONES: ideally you would be tested for this
- Cortisol and DHEA are stress hormones that can impact mood dramatically. Cortisol and anxiety have a cyclical relationship. On the one hand, anxiety is mental stress which can cause the release of cortisol. However excess stress hormone can cause both anxiety and depression, and contribute to the likelihood of an anxiety attack. Getting your adrenal hormones in order is critical to getting anxiety and depression under control.
- Stress hormone release is impacted by sugar insulin issues, infections, trauma, inflammation, food sensitivities, physical, emotional and social stressors (good like getting married and bad like losing your job) and a lot more. Each cause must be addressed.
- If you are a “wired but tired” individual, try using an adrenal support formula like Cortisol manager at bedtime. 1-2 caps a night are amazing.
- If you snooze 12 times in the morning, crawl out of bed in a stupor and can’t be looked at, spoken to or otherwise engaged until your second cup of coffee, you may need a more energizing adrenal formula like HPA axis Daytime Formula. 2 caps in the morning and at lunch may work very well.
- Adrenals love Vitamin C. Who doesn’t? Try 1000mg 1-2 times a day.
➤ Manage your stress
This is the elephant in the room. All the supplements, nutrition change, exercise, hormone balancing, gut restoration in the world won’t improve a crappy marriage, or a job that makes the Gulag look appealing, or a social circle of critical, complaining, annoying “Frienemies” who don’t have your back, if the chips are down.
It’s hard to wrap your head around taking on major life changes. We fall back on the saying “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Is it really?? That saying does us a huge disservice.
“As an example, it has been my experience that every time an employee who I liked in my office left, I dreaded the inevitable searching and training of a new person. Will that new person be terrible? What if they are uber annoying or perpetually smell like they just burped up a hotdog? Well guess what? I now see an employee leaving as an opportunity for bigger and better things. Why mourn the loss of someone who doesn’t want to be part of your team? This makes space for a better person to come along to fill their shoes. I was taught this lesson over the last 20 years of running a practice and it really holds true. It also translates to all other aspects of life…”
Now identifying things you don’t love in your life is one thing. Taking steps to change them is another. Let me introduce you guys to my health coaches. They make life better. They are your partner in change. They can help map out the steps you need to consider to take your life to the next happier, fulfilled, evolved level. Give them a whirl!!
While your better and brighter future is in the works, please check out my article on how to de-stress by bringing in the zen.
That’s all folks!! Stay tuned for Part 4 in my Anxiety and Depression Series where we will discuss alternatives and helpful additions to psychotropic drugs.
Please Share the Health if you liked what you read!!!
For more information about my wellness programs and my practice, check out my website drsadaty.com. Hey Look! You are already here…
Ready for the legal disclaimer? Information offered here is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As with any health recommendations, please contact your doctor to be sure any changes you wish to consider are safe for you!