FREEDOM: Anxiety No More!

FREEDOM. I’ve tasted it. And it is GOOD. Let me tell you about it; maybe you can taste freedom from your anxiety too!

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A few years ago a  friend, someone I’ve looked up to since I met her told me that gluten and other food sensitivities heightened her anxiety. She has been gluten-free for years and has been on an incredible health journey working with a holistic doctor/chiropractor/nutritionist. So, she’s certainly done her due diligence and I trusted her knowledge a lot, but not enough. She was the health-conscious super-mom I wished I could be. She encouraged me with all of her health knowledge to consider food sensitivities and think about giving up gluten and other inflammatory foods to help ease my anxiety. I wanted to, I really did, but I just couldn’t find the strength or motivation to follow-through with it.

I’d manage a strict “diet” for a week or two, just to cave in to the cravings and indulge in waaaaaay too much comfort ice cream. I tried over and over again for a couple of years. Even when my new baby was facing a lot of food allergies and I had to radically adjust his diet, I still couldn’t manage to stick to it myself. Looking back, I think part of the problem was that I didn’t actually believe it would help. I thought I just didn’t have the strength, but how can anyone muster up strength for something they don’t believe in?

I had actually researched all the reasons that going gluten free and eating paleo was terribly unhealthy long before my friend suggested this lifestyle change. I had always been a big advocate for the food pyramid being law. I’d spent years believing that the paleo diet was just a fad. I wanted to believe my friend and her nutritionist, but there was a war in my mind; a war partially fueled by my intense cravings for all things wheat and sugar.

Let me tell you—when your heart isn’t in something, when you don’t believe it can help—you’re going to have a really hard time following through. Something needs to motivate you and you need to trust that the decision you made is worth following through with. I didn’t, and now I wish I would have genuinely trusted my friend sooner. I wish I would have seen her testimony of improved health as reason enough to really try.

The “something” that finally made me a believer in the paleo lifestyle was desperation to find freedom from some major health problems—not my anxiety.

See, over the course of a couple of years my health had tanked. I suddenly found myself plagued with pain—nerve pain, joint pain, bladder pain. I developed symptoms that resembled multiple sclerosis, but the MRI came back clear. My brain fog was so severe I began being late on most of my bills and I frequently forgot appointments that I had scheduled. I had a constant intense thirst that could not be quenched. I had intense bladder urgency and felt like I had a UTI at all times. I was nauseous daily, my head hurt more often than not, I developed cubital tunnel syndrome, I started choking on food a lot, and I began feeling so shaky at times that I thought I might pass out. My joints started freezing up, I fell down the stairs 5 times in 3 months, and my anxiety was THROUGH THE ROOF. I. WAS. A. MESS. 

Doctor’s couldn’t come to a diagnosis. Most of them suggested that my anxiety was causing these symptoms and wanted to put me on an anti-depressant. I was told I had Lymes disease, then told it may be a false positive. They said I may have interstitial cystitis, rheumatoid arthritis, myofascial pain, small nerve fiber neuropathy, fibromyalgia, etc. There were lots of “maybe’s” but nothing conclusive. They threw out a lot of things but nothing seemed to fit perfectly—until I began seeing a functional medicine doctor. He figured out that I had Hashimotos, Lyme’s disease, a lazy pituitary gland, systemic inflammation, low stomach acidity, severe reactive hypoglycemia, and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial over-growth). I know that sounds like a lot, but that’s because western medicine doesn’t talk about many of these issues so we go on living with them and never realize they exist.

Did you know that many of these issues like low stomach acidtity, systemic inflammation, and reactive hypoglycemia are actually very common? And that they can have a big impact on brain health and the chemicals/hormones in your body that control your moods?

Once I was through with the many blood tests, I got started on treatments to bring my body back into balance and to treat the SIBO and the Lyme’s disease. What I used to think was a “fad,” the paleo diet, has now given me my life and my HOPE back. After just THREE WEEKS of eating AIP paleo combined with a low fodmap diet (low fodmap only recommended if you have SIBO or IBS) most of my symptoms stopped completely. The constant thirst, the shaking, the brain fog, the dizziness, the intense nerve pain, the weird multiple-sclerosis type symptoms: THEY STOPPED. The bladder pain and urgency didn’t completely go away, but it lessened significantly. But here’s where it gets really cool—NO MORE ANXIETY! 

I could finally function again. I went from laying on the couch in pain every day and having to ask for help just to care for my family to getting back on my feet and taking care of my home and family myself. On top of that, because of my unexpected relief from the anxiety and depression that plagued me for years, I was able to follow through with a lot of goals I couldn't manage to complete before. I didn't actually realize how much anxiety and depression held me back until the weight was lifted. 

IT. WAS. INCREDIBLE.

AND IT WAS GOD!

So, my friend wasn’t crazy after all when she suggested diet and food sensitivities being linked to anxiety and depression.

Anxiety wasn’t even an issue I asked my functional medicine doctor to help. I thought it was just a part of who I was. I thought it ran in my family and therefore I’d just need to find a way to cope. I had no idea that anxiety for me was a symptom of a deeper issue. Then, after starting this diet and taking some high-quality supplements to get my body back in balance the anxiety just faded away. I started to see a noticeable decline in my anxiety, depression, and mood swings, but I was scared to tell anyone, worried maybe I was imagining it—until my husband told me I was like a “whole new woman.” He had seen it too. Then some friends told me they noticed my moods changing. It wasn’t in my head—this lifestyle change was giving me freedom from a struggle I’ve had for YEARS! And I hadn’t even expected it.

IT. WAS. AMAZING!!!

I started this lifestyle change in October so it’s been a few months now. It wasn’t an overnight change like I always wanted it to be. When I tried the diet in the past and didn’t see results in a few short days, I quit. I didn’t believe it would work.

Now I’m a believer though! And I want to shout it from the rooftops to all other people dealing with anxiety and depression themselves. When I started seeing this doctor my body was in a constant state of fight-or-flight. My sympathetic nervous system was in overdrive and my brain was inflamed. Did you know that’s a thing—brain inflammation? And it wreaks havoc on your emotional state. But, when we bring the body back into balance and reduce the inflammation often we can reduce or sometimes even eliminate the symptoms, two of which anxiety and depression. Wouldn’t that be nice if everyone could see a reduction in their anxiety symptoms?!

So—call to action here—I challenge you to try for yourself! Take your health into your own hands and consider whether anxiety and depression could be a symptom of a deeper problem. Consider seeing a functional medicine doctor or holistic nutritionist to learn your food sensitivities and get a supplement plan tailored specifically to you in order to bring your body into balance and reduce inflammation. Or, if you don’t have the means to do that yet, try AIP paleo for a month and see how you feel!

Every person is different so what your body needs may be different from mine, but one thing that is for certain is that eating with true nutrition in mind can never hurt! I can’t guarantee that you will for sure see improvement in your anxiety, as I am not a doctor and I don’t know your full story—but I do know you have nothing to lose by trying!

And if you think I only had the strength to pursue this lifestyle change because of the health issues I was having—that’s not the biggest reason I have been able to follow-through. The two biggest things that have helped me succeed have been BELIEVING in the power of the food that God gave us and ACCOUNTABILITY. Having a doctor and nutritionist checking in on me has really kept me accountable. But it doesn’t need to be a doctor! It could be a friend, a partner, a relative—anyone who can check in, see how you are doing, and encourage and pray for you.

And know I’ll be praying for you whether you decide to try a diet and lifestyle change or not. Living with anxiety and depression is no easy task. Even with high-functioning anxiety or depression it can feel daunting and hopeless. I want freedom for you. I’ve tasted it after a long journey, and I pray that with the Lord and some lifestyle changes maybe you can taste it too, if you want to try.

Some people may think I’m crazy—but I say “what do you have to lose?” When my friend told me that gluten heightened her anxiety, it challenged what I had always believed and that held me back. Now my only regret is not believing and finding accountability to follow through three years ago. Don’t wait till your health is as bad as mine was to make a change. Let me just leave you with this “cliché”—“There is no better time than NOW!”

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or psychologist. I’m just a girl who has dealt with depression and anxiety since high school. I’m just a wife and mom who has been called “crazy” and “emotional” so many times that just hearing the words make me cringe and want to cry. I’m just a woman who has been blown away with God’s ability to heal MY brain and mind through good nutrition. And after seeing it help my friend and now me, I want everyone to give it a shot. That is all. Just a whole lot of believing and hope over here.

Prayers for you, and God bless.

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