Panic … It’s NOT All in Your Head


DO NOT PANIC. Anxiety attacks and associated maladies like dizziness, nausea, hyperventilation, skin rashes, hives and incontinence, while perfectly understandable, are not at all helpful.” Pseudonymous Bosh, This Isn’t What It Looks Like.


 

Pseudonymous Bosh is right, nervous maladies are not at all helpful as some of you pointed out after reading the last blog post.  That entry brought up some fantastic questions about anxiety, tension and worry and if they are symptoms that are just part of your personality and the way you use your brain … or if something else is going on.

 

Absolutely, there are some basic physiologic reasons for anxiety attacks and associated maladies. Panic is definitely not all in your head.

 

1.     For instance, Blood Sugar Handling has an immense potential to cause symptoms of angst and anxiety attacks … here is how and why:

 

Our body closely monitors blood sugar levels, because too much or too little blood sugar can damage our cells.  The cells in our body function optimally when blood glucose levels stay within a consistent range of 85-100 mg/dL.

 

So our miraculous bodies have a sophisticated method to regulate the amount of sugar in our blood stream. This method is orchestrated by 3 organs: the adrenals, liver and pancreas.  

 

After you eat a meal, the pancreas releases insulin to open your cells to accept glucose.  This lowers total blood glucose levels.  In between meals, and when we are sleeping, the adrenal glands and the pancreas release hormones that stimulate the liver to release glycogen, the stored form of glucose.  This raises total blood glucose levels.

 

It becomes difficult for the body to maintain optimal blood glucose levels when we eat large amounts of carbohydrates and sugars, or when the body is subjected to constant high levels of stress.  In these situations insulin is released, blood glucose begins to drop but the amount of insulin that is released causes the blood sugar to drop below normal fasting level. As the blood sugar drops, the adrenals release glucocorticoid hormones and the liver releases glycogen. Pretty soon the blood glucose levels are too high again and the pancreas releases more insulin. 

 

Can you see what is happening as the blood sugar begins to bounce back and forth between being too high and then too low?  This fluctuation in extremes wears out your organs!

 

As the body’s cells become exposed to more and more insulin they become resistant to its action. This causes the blood glucose to rise and then the body cannot lower it! This is the process that leads to adrenal fatigue, biliary congestion, insulin resistance and eventually Type II diabetes.

 

When it comes to anxiety attacks and associated maladies, adrenal fatigue is the phenomenon of interest.  Remember those hormones that the adrenals release to keep blood sugar levels stable.  The chief hormone for this job is cortisol.  I’m sure you have heard about it.  Ever since high levels of cortisol were linked with belly fat the media has been flooded with the topic.

 

Anyhow, this is how it works.  Blood sugar drops, the adrenals release cortisol to raise blood sugar.  But the adrenals also use cortisol for other applications.  Cortisol raises blood pressure, moderates immune function, and activates anti-stress and anti-inflammatory pathways.  That’s right … cortisol prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation!

 

The modern low fat / high grain diet is extremely inflammatory.  And modern lifestyles tend to be highly stressful.  Our body’s stores of cortisol can actually get used up dealing with stress and inflammation, and then there is nothing left over for the very important task of blood sugar balance.

 

So the body resorts to the next best thing: adrenaline.

 

Now, when you get a shot of adrenaline … YOU KNOW IT.  It doesn’t just raise your blood sugar; it also causes palpitations, tachycardia, arrhythmia, hyperventilation and subsequent shortness of breath, tremors, headaches, sweating, dizziness and anxiety … in short it creates the pathophysiology of a panic attack.

And the crazy thing is, these types of panic attacks seem to be completely unprovoked … in fact, it is very common for them to happen in the middle of the night around 3am when the blood sugar naturally begins to drop during our long fast between dinner and breakfast.

 

If you want to avoid repeated, persistent, unprovoked anxiety attacks and associated maladies, it is crucial to balance blood sugar and alleviate adrenal stressors.

 

To learn more about adrenal fatigue and blood sugar regulation strategies I recommend reading some of the Remède Physique Newsletters on Adrenals, Allergies and Hormones and the book Adrenal Fatigue: 21st Century Stress Syndrome.

 

 

2.     Years of wonky imbalanced blood sugar handling, adrenal fatigue, insufficient digestive enzymes, an irritated digestive tract or essential fatty acid deficiency can lead to Neurotransmitter Imbalance.  And this is where we see physiologic, biochemical impact “in your head.”

 

So, what are neurotransmitters?  They are chemicals that are used to relay, amplify and modulate signals from one brain cell to another.  Our bodies make neurotransmitters out of amino acids.  Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

 

It is easy to see that if you are unable to digest protein thoroughly, or assimilate it properly, eventually you can end up with a neurotransmitter insufficiency or deficiency because your body does not have the raw material to build neurotransmitters with.

 

Additionally, any antigens that react against gut–associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) will trigger a self-perpetuating cycle of inflammation, pain and oxidative stress.  Oxidative stress of any kind induces neurodegenerative changes and inflammation in the brain.  This happens because the GALT response produces inflammatory cytokines (cell messengers) that travel to all regions of the body, including the brain, to initiate a global alarm reaction.

 

Clues that inflammation has spread to the brain include ‘brain fog,’ depression and ‘senior moments.’

 

There are many neurotransmitters and the ones we focus on that effect mood so tremendously are Acetylcholine, Dopamine, GABA and Serotonin.

 

Acetylcholine: absent-minded, early Alzhemier’s

Dopamine: go out, interact socially and feel good, but come home and feel depressed

GABA: nervous, anxious, guilty worrier (like Piglet)

Serotonin: lack of joy, guilty depression (like Eore)

 

Obviously, GABA is the neurotransmitter that is associated with anxiety attacks and associated maladies.  This is because GABA, as the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter of the nervous system, is linked with relaxation, calmness and anticonvulsive effects.  It also supports the healthy release of human growth hormone.

 

Low levels of GABA are related to anxiety, insomnia and depression.  The subjective feelings are of anxiousness or panic for no reason, feelings of dread, knots in your stomach, feeling overwhelmed for no reason, guilt about decisions, restless mind, hard to turn the mind off when you want to relax, disorganized attention, worry about things you never had though of before and feelings of inner tension and inner excitability.

 

Gluten sensitivity has a profound effect on GABA levels because gluten immune reactions cross-react with the GAD 65 enzyme.  GAD 65 is a key enzyme in the synthesis of GABA.  GAD 65 and gluten have enough similarity in protein structure to have mistaken identity, the body will attack GAD 65 while on the warpath against gluten.

 

I could really expand upon the physiology and biochemistry involved in the synthesis of GABA and other neurotransmitters, and touch on topics like Catabolism, and Receptors … and that might be best left for an expanded newsletter on neurotransmitters.  For now, if you want to really delve into world of brain health, I recommend the book: Why Isn’t My Brain Working by Dr. Datis Kharrazian.  It is an excellent review of how modern diets, stressful lifestyles and environmental toxins effect brain function.

 

If you suspect you have been experiencing a neurotransmitter imbalance, please get in touch with me. I do have some excellent tools for pinpointing the imbalances and nutritional therapies for dealing with them.

 

3.     Now, it is true that many of the physiologic causes of anxiety can be worsened by the habitual way in which you use your brain.  And in fact, the way you use your mind actually has a physiologic effect on the body.  There is no separation between mind and matter when it comes to the human body. 

 

Training your mind to focus on uplifting thoughts is not just for New Agers.  This is basic mental hygiene that is as important as bathing and brushing your teeth regularly to prevent disease. We humans have been employing thought management techniques to optimize mood and brain function for thousands of years.

 

Practices such as positive affirmation, thinking noble thoughts, contemplative prayer and meditation are some of the most popular forms of emotional, spiritual and intellectual sanitation.

 

Meditation has garnered a lot of attention in recent years because there have been so many scientific studies performed that quantify the positive effects of meditation on the body and mind.  This is fantastic; skeptics and realists cannot refute tangible results.  Just hop on over to PubMed.gov and do a search for meditation.  You will end up with over 150 pages of scientific studies on the effects of mind-body practices.

 

There are many forms of meditation: mindfulness, Zen, transcendental, Kundalini, Kriya, qi gong, heart rhythm, breath awareness, visualization, dynamic … and the list goes on and on.  Whatever your personality and preferences, there will be a form of meditation that resonates with you.

 

One of the easiest ways to get started with meditation is to begin with dynamic meditation … this is a form of guided meditation wherein your brain is given tasks to complete, like progressively relaxing the body part-by-part.  The Silva Method is excellent.  It provides step-by-step instructions, binaural tones for brain wave entrainment and excellent guided meditations like “The Long Relax.”  You can receive a free introduction to the basic program by signing up here: Silva Life System.

 

(As you may remember from reading the last blog post, binaural tones cause your brain waves to slow down to the alpha state.  This is the brain wave frequency associated with being awake, fully aware and also extremely relaxed.)

 

Other ways to slow down the mind and promote uplifting thoughts include all types of bodywork.  All bodywork lowers cortisol and slows the rate of thoughts flowing through the mind. 

 

And, if you really want to enhance the process of accessing brain waves then Hypnossage is the way to go.  The hypnotherapy part of hypnossage is really more like being in a state of daydreaming … you tune out most of the external stimuli around you, and focus intently upon the subject of the therapy session.  You literally tune your mind, like a radio station.  You change the station from ‘uneasiness’ to ‘ease’ from ‘discomfort’ to ‘comfort.’  Pretty cool, isn’t it!

 

Another inspiring and empowering tool for retraining the brain is to start reading uplifting literature.  If you don’t have time to read, check out Brian Johnson’s Philosophers Notes.  Brian collected hundreds of the best self-development books and created quick powerful summaries of the Big Ideas presented by each teacher.

 

Here is a YouTube video of Brian talking about Dale Carengie’s classic: How To Stop Worrying and Start Living.  That is a FANTASTIC title, isn’t it!

 

In closing, make a conscious choice to have No Worries and to not panic because “anxiety attacks and associated maladies are not at all helpful.” And, if you do find yourself in the midst of experiencing anxiousness and nervousness, know that everything will be alright because you can take proactive action to quell the physiological symptoms of panic attacks.  And if you are feeling overwhelmed, take the pressure off of yourself by asking for assistance.  I’m here to help.

 

As always, 

Many Blessings and Cheers!

Vanessa Hendley

 

 I’d love to hear about your biggest “aha!” moment from today’s blog, and how you’re going to implement its wisdom into your life.  Just drop a comment via email.

© RemPhys 2022