ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS – THEIR CAUSES AND CORRECTION
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© September 2012, The Center For Development
Anxiety may be defined a very uncomfortable feeling of nervousness, irritability or foreboding about the future. At times, it is attached to a particular event or situation or person. At other times, there is no obvious cause for it. This is called free-floating anxiety.
Panic attacks, also called anxiety attacks, are sudden drastic increases in anxiety to the point where one may have trouble breathing, muscles tighten, the pulse rate increases, one may collapse, or even urinate or defecate without control.
Anxiety and panic attacks are among the most common symptoms in doctor’s offices. However, I find they are almost always easy to stop or at least reduce significantly using nutritional balancing science. Drugs are almost never needed, even in severe cases. This article discusses some causes for anxiety and panic attacks that few people know about, and the correction of these sometimes very debilitating symptoms.
CAUSES FOR ANXIETY
Basic causes of anxiety are:
- Biochemical imbalances. These are extremely important, but not known by most medical and psychological professionals. The reasons for this, in my view, are that this approach to mental health is not taught in universities. Also, the medical and psychological professions rarely use hair mineral testing, which allows one to see the imbalances found in people with anxiety. The next section of this article discusses these imbalances.
- Improper ways of thinking. The brain functions much like a computer. If the thoughts and feelings that go in are mainly negative, the brain will process this and often will draw fearful and anxious conclusions. For this reason, a cause of anxiety and panic attacks is dwelling on fear, foreboding, negative self-images, horror, grief or despair. Other negative thinking habits include always second-guessing yourself, always questioning your motives, and/or doubting yourself continuously. Others are not listening carefully or not learning well, so that you acquire wrong information that leads to poor-quality decisions that, in turn, cause more trouble and problems.
Counseling, reading certain books, support groups, meditation and relaxation are methods that can help to change the way you use the mind.
- Improper diet and/or lifestyle. This is a major cause of anxiety and panic feelings in some people. How to correct this problem is discussed later in this article.
- Stress. The effects of stress on the body are well known. Any stressful situation tends to cause a fight-or-flight reaction in the body with activation of the sympathetic nervous system.This tends to increase the heart rate and the blood pressure, increase the blood sugar level, and has other effects that can all contribute to feelings of anxiety. For example, Americans are quickly losing control over their health care system recently, and this may cause a lot more anxiety in the future. Government systems just pay for drugs, and this does not get to the root causes of anxiety, at all.
Improving the diet and overall health will help anyone handle much more stress without anxiety. This is one reason why some people handle stress much better than others.
- Other. At times, chiropractic misalignments, electromagnetic stress from overusing cell phones or computers, or other factors will cause anxiety and panic attacks.
BIOCHEMICAL IMBALANCES ASSOCIATED WITH ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS
Among the most important biochemical reasons for anxiety are:
Fatigue and adrenal burnout. Fatigue alone will cause anxiety. The feeling arises because the body does not have the energy to cope with stress. This is a common, and often overlooked, cause of anxiety. If fatigue alone is the situation, a few night’s of great sleep will solve it. If one is has adrenal exhaustion or “burnout” (so called because vital minerals are literally gone or burned out of the body), then a more intense nutritional balancing program is required to correct it. The anxious and panicky feelings disappear as one is able to handle stress of all kinds.
An alarm stage of stress. This is a state of the body’s autonomic nervous system in which the body is constantly geared up in preparation to fight or run away. It is like being in “emergency” mode all of the time. The nervous system is hypersensitive, and reacts to the smallest stimulation, often over-reacting and causing anxiety and possibly a panic attack.
In terms of body chemistry, the tissue calcium and magnesium levels decrease, as does zinc. Calcium, magnesium, and zinc are called “the sedativeminerals”. With lower levels of these three minerals in the tissues, the body becomes very prone to feelings of anxiety.
Some people live this way much of the time. It may be due to chronic or acute stress, or due to nutritional deficiencies, or an improper diet or lifestyle. Regardless of the reason, this state of body chemistry strongly predisposes one to feelings of anxiety and to panic attacks.
A very sluggish metabolic rate. This would seem to be the opposite of the condition above. However, it is also anxiety-producing, often in the extreme. Reasons this occurs include:
1) A deficiency of biologically available calcium and magnesium. This can cause the same symptoms as a calcium and/or magnesium deficiency.
2) Excess copper in the tissues, which occurs with a slow oxidation rate.
3) Very low energy and thus difficulty coping with stress. The person may not even be aware of how little energy he or she has. However, life becomes difficult, and the slightest stress can throw one into feelings of anxiety and panic.
4) High levels of toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium, nickel or lead. These begin to accumulate when the metabolic or oxidation rate is slow because the body cannot properly eliminate them. They further inflame the nervous system and alter it in ways that often contribute to feelings of anxiety.
Copper imbalance. This is the most common cause of panic attacks, in my experience. Copper excess in the tissues enhances the production of stimulatory neurotransmitters and appears to stimulate the activity of the diencephalon. This is also called the “animal brain” or the “emotional brain”. This causes generally enhanced emotions, one of which is often anxiety and feelings of panic.
The presence of specific toxic metals in excess. This is a very common, but greatly overlooked cause of feelings of anxiety. While well understood by toxicologists, this knowledge has not filtered down to the medical and psychological professions to any great extent. Yet millions of people have too much lead, cadmium, mercury, nickel, and toxic forms of iron and manganese in their bodies. These settle in various parts of the brain, irritate the nervous system, and definitely can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks. They also can replace the sedative minerals, calcium, magnesium and zinc, upsetting the normal ways our bodies relax.
Hypoglycemia. Episodes of low or fluctuating blood sugar is another common cause of anxiety today. When the blood sugar level becomes too low, the brain literally begins to starve for fuel. Many people have experienced the anxiety that can accompany low blood sugar. One usually becomes very hungry, almost desperate for food. One can easily become shaky, weak, confused and panicky in this condition. If this is the cause of your anxiety, it will go away in a few minutes just by eating something sweet. At least half the American population experiences low blood sugar, often due to an improper diet and/or lifestyle. Cutting out all sweet foods and eating protein and perhaps some fat every three or four hours can help prevent this cause of anxiety. Removing underlying causes, which are mineral imbalances involving zinc, chromium and manganese, takes more effort.
Nutrient deficiencies. Our nervous system requires several dozen minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and amino acids to function at all properly. Deficiencies of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, D3 and E are rampant, especially if one eats any refined foods. Poor eating habits, such as eating on the run, also interferes with nutrient absorption and leads to nutrient deficiencies.
Inflammation. Anxiety and panic attacks are inflamed states of the mind that can be related to having an inflamed body chemistry. This is often due to excessive iron, manganese or aluminum, low zinc, a high sodium/potassium ratio or other a few other more complex biochemical imbalances.
Taking the wrong vitamins and minerals. Certain vitamins such as B-complex are stimulatory and will cause anxiety and even panic attacks in some people. Minerals such as copper, manganese and others are also stimulatory. Certain herbs such as ginseng and elutheroare also somewhat stimulatory and can cause anxiety. Be careful with supplements, as they are not all benign.
Reactions to foods or toxic chemicals in foods or in the environment. Sensitivity, intolerance or an allergic reaction to a food or something else in the environment can cause severe anxiety. Common problems are wheat sensitivity or a an allergy to pasteurized and homogenized dairy products. In other cases, the allergy or sensitivity may be respiratory or due to contact with the skin.
Some Infections. For example, a common digestive infection that can cause feelings of anxiety and panic, in some cases, is a chronic candida albicans or yeast infection. It produces chemicals such as acetaldehyde and alcohol that irritate the nervous system. Just following acandida diet may not be enough to stop it.
I do not recommend the medical drugs for this condition, as they are rarely needed. Nutritional balancing usually solves the yeast condition, which is always related to a copper imbalance.
HOW PANIC ATTACKS OR ANXIETY ATTACKS OCCUR
A panic attack occurs when anxiety feeds back on itself creating a vicious cycle that quickly escalates out of control. Essentially, a negative thought or emotion causes a bodily or physical fight-or-flight reaction. This, in turn, makes one more panicky. This, in turn, feeds back and worsens the stress response of the body. The process escalates in a minute or less, until it overwhelms the nervous system.
If one deeply understands this simple process, it may be possible to stop the attacks by breaking the vicious cycle that creates them before the full-blown attack episode occurs. Ways to do this are:
- Reduce excessive sensitivity of the entire central nervous system through biochemical balancing of the body.
- Reduce or better yet, remove triggers that start the attack.
- Interrupt the vicious cycle or positive feedback loop in some way such as by breathing deeply and slowly, or thinking very positive, calming thoughts.
CORRECTING ANXIETY AND PANIC FEELINGS
Solutions for anxiety and panic attacks follow directly from understanding their deeper causes:
- Follow a nutritional balancing program. This is a very sophisticated kind of nutrition program that will correct a dozen or more biochemical imbalances that predispose a person to feelings of anxiety and panic. In addition, it will help your thinking become much clearer, which makes it easier to correct the faulty use of the mind.
In fact, changes in perception and thinking often occur all by themselves as one’s brain chemistry and therefore perception improves. The program is calming to the nervous system and helps one handle stress much better, as well. You can read more about it in many articles on this website such as Introduction To Nutritional Balancing.
- Correct your thinking. Learning to observe your thoughts and change them, substituting more realistic ideas and more positive emotions, helps some people overcome or minimize anxiety. Sometimes a trauma holds a person in a negative thinking pattern. Counseling and a nutritional balancing program can often break through traumas and release them gently and with minimal emotional pain.
- Improve your diet. Avoid sugar, in particular, in any form including fruit and juices. I know this advice is contrary to that of many health authorities, but I have found it to be important for some people. Fruit and all sugars act as adrenal stimulants, upset blood sugar, lower calcium and magnesium, and can easily contribute to anxiety or even panic attacks. Also, eat plenty of vegetables, but cook them, rather than eat salads. Most people do not absorb enough minerals from raw vegetables, no matter what is claimed for them. You will absorb many more nutrients from cooked vegetables than from raw ones. The few that are destroyed during cooking are not that important, as they are found in other foods.
Other offensive items to avoid are caffeine found in coffee, tea and soda pop, and irritating foods such as wheat. Also, stay away from Aspartame and other food additives and chemicals, as some of these also irritate the nervous system.
- Improve your lifestyle. Be sure to go to bed early and get at least 8 or 9 hours of sleep each and every night. In addition, if needed take a nap every day. Walk around, at least 15 minutes each day, rather than just sit all day long at a job. Do some slow, deep breathing for at least 15 minutes a day. Rub your feet firmly all over for 10 minutes a day, or more. This is called foot reflexology and is a wonderful way to reduce stress in the nervous system. Try to get some sunshine each day for 20 minutes or so, as this is very helpful for most people. Wear a hat if you like, but do not wear sun screen, most of which is quite toxic.
Also, stay away from all alcohol and recreational drugs, as these derange the nervous system in all cases. Even the use of medical drugs and somewhat toxic over-the-counter products such as hair spray, hair dyes and many others are not wise. Any use of stimulants can also be bad, such as loud music, too much sex, no exercise or too much exercise, and perhaps other habits that enervate or damage the body in some way.
Other simple methods that may help range from and relaxation procedures to various body therapies such as Rolfing, structural integration and therapeutic massage. The use of tranquilizer drugs, I find, is very rarely needed if one balances the body chemistry and uses the simple methods listed here.
- Reduce stress. This may sound hard, but anyone can do it. Correcting your diet and lifestyle are important ways to reduce stress. Also, make an effort to simplify your life. Keep a sane schedule, and do not overbook yourself. You may go to fewer parties or events, and you may make less money, but your health will improve drastically in some cases. Praying daily can help reduce some stress. Also, be sure to laugh at times, and each day avail yourself of uplifting and inspiring books, and other inspiring or spiritual material.
- Natural remedies that may work. One of the best is a strong cup of chamomile tea.Others are valerian, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. In some cases, methyl donors are very relaxing. These include choline inositol, methionine and niacinamide.
- The use of drugs. Physicians use tranquilizers, muscle relaxants and anti-depressants to control anxiety and panic attacks. These can work okay, although they are all quite toxic and have side effects such as fatigue, loss of sexual function, liver and kidney toxicity, and others. So they should be used only when needed, and when natural methods are not working.
ANXIETY DURING A NUTRITIONAL BALANCING PROGRAM
At times, during a nutritional balancing program a person develops anxiety. Possible reasons for this include:
- Elimination of a toxic metal such as excessive copper, mercury, cadmium or another can cause temporary anxiety.
- Retracing an old trauma or memory. This can be very anxiety-producing, especially if one was unaware of the trauma or if it was of a serious nature.
- A need for a new nutritional balancing program. For example, if one’s oxidation rate speeds up and one is still taking a slow oxidizer supplement program, one can easily develop anxiety that can become quite severe. A new program will usually take care of it quickly.
- A so-called spiritual healing crisis. This occurs when the mind begins to work better and mental clarity improves. A person may then become aware of his or her reality in a new way, and usually this is accompanied by a need to make changes in one life. For example, one may realize that one really does not like one’s job, or that a relationship is not working well, although one may have thought it was okay. Perhaps one gets in touch with intense anger, fear, guilt or some other strong emotion one was not aware of. This can provoke a deep healing crisis that is often quite anxiety-provoking.
Handling anxiety healing reactions. Handling anxiety healing reactions depends on the cause. At times, a new program will help. In other cases, a supplement that helps reduce copper or mercury may ameliorate the anxiety. At other times, a simple natural remedy or perhaps a drug for a while is needed, or one must slow down the intensity of the nutritional balancing program.
Remedies or drugs as a form of “anesthesia” to help one handle intense anxiety. Normally, we do not like to slow down or stop healing reactions, as it is best to get through them. However, At times, healing reactions can be so intense that a natural symptomatic remedy such as chamomile or a drug can act like a form of mild anesthesia. It serves to dull the intensity or pain of the reaction, and does not slow the reaction down. In fact, it may actually allow the healing reaction to move through faster.