103—I think we can all agree that...

Anxiety sucks
big ones

We have a real problem with people over-reacting to every little thing

While we’ve got a big problem with depression in this country, it turns out that we have an even bigger problem with anxiety!

Anxiety disorders affect almost three times the number of people that depression does1.

Almost every client I see at OOMPH is suffering from anxiety (or stress) to one extent or another. And, like depression, anxiety isn’t simply a made-up ‘thing’ that people can just ‘snap out of’.

Suffering from an anxiety disorder is very real. There are a number of well-founded physiological reasons why a person will experience feelings of (seemingly unexplained) anxiety.

Anxiety is where you suffer from disproportionate levels of distress, worry, or fear in everyday modern life.

Unfortunately there are numerous physiological reasons for manifesting anxiety. And, these causes are each treated differently. This explains why one treatment approach will work for one person, but not another — despite the well-meaning, emphatic endorsement of your friend or work colleague…😉

Thankfully, Naturopaths and Medical Herbalists excel at helping you in this area of health. And, there is a ‘treatment for everyone’ once we’ve determined what the best course of natural treatment for your particular ‘brand’ of anxiety is.

Note: This is also why taking a generic anti-anxiety medication from the doctor might not help either. (While also not correcting the underlying issue.)

In this blog-post I’ll be focusing on the three most prevalent causes of anxiety:

Stressful life experiences2

Metabolic acidosis3, and

Mitochondrial dysfunction4

Note: I’ll also touch on NINE other possible causes of anxiety.

You know how I told you that I suffer from Depression? Well, that's not all!

I also suffer from anxiety, social anxiety, OCD and addiction.

Yup — I do. I just thought I would leave telling you all of this until we got to know each other better 😉

Now, in saying this, I want to point out to you that everything is on a spectrum. And, while I don’t suffer from these to the extent that they ruin my life, I do suffer from them to the extent that they don’t make my life easy.

I have to work hard, on a daily basis, to maintain my equilibrium — as I’m easily put out of balance if I (or DMF) don’t constantly  ‘parent me’. (Get to bed early, eat — and drink — well,  take your supplements, get outside and play in the fresh air, etc, etc, blah, blah. Gah!🤪)

It's all in the numbers...

The 2018 Women’s Health Survey5 spoke to 15,000 women from across Australia and discovered:

66.9% of women
Felt nervous, anxious or on edge on several days or more in the last four weeks.

46.1% of women
Reported that a Doctor or a Psychologist had diagnosed them with depression or anxiety.

34.3% of women
Reported that they didn’t get time to themselves on a weekly basis.

Note: Us Kiwis are usually pretty much on a par with the Aussies.

Check out my previous post on anxiety: Are you stuck in Flight mode?

A shadow of a person with hands pressed up to a clear screen to portray living with anxiety

Don't be riddled with anxiety

When most people think of someone who is suffering from anxiety, they think of someone who is acting nervy/panicky, or just plain weird & inappropriate.

However, anxiety can also manifest as: worry, negativity, forgetfulness, poor concentration, ‘tired but wired’, fear, aggression or defensive behaviour.

Note: When you suffer from anxiety you can also lose your ‘creative spark’ and lack your usual passion or motivation for life.

And, regardless of how this disorder ‘manifests’, people who suffer from anxiety have usually suffered from unrelenting stress — where they’ve had to act tough or ‘put up a front’ for a very long time. Yes — it is just the same for those of us who suffer from depression. And, like depression, anxiety is a symptom not a health condition.

Anxiety often goes under-recognised as it can occur alongside other conditions (such as depression) or other situations (such as substance abuse). Anxiety can also be incorrectly interpreted as stress.6

A clothed female gently descends through the water to the ocean's floor to portray living with anxiety

What causes anxiety

There are many underlying physiological causes for anxiety, but unfortunately, orthodox medicine just prefers to lump everyone under the same banner of: Generalised Anxiety — and essentially fob you off with the same anti-anxiety medication as everyone else.

The three main causes of anxiety are:

  1. Stressful life experiences

    In our brain, we have an area referred to as the ’emotional’ centre. This incorporates the Amygdala and the Hippocampus.

    The job of the Amygdala is to respond to environmental stimuli and initiate the appropriate behavioural response — such as fear, aggression or defensiveness.

    The job of the Hippocampus is to essentially stop the Amygdala from over-reacting by toning its response down.

    These areas of the brain should be in balance. They are supposed to work together to form and retrieve ’emotional’ memories, gained from significant life experiences in order to build experience and to subsequently protect us, and to provide us with emotional resilience.

    Unfortunately, when someone suffers from chronic stress, their brain literally changes shape. Their Amygdala enlarges and their Hippocampus shrinks! This is known as maladaptive neuroplasticity.

    When this happens, the person won’t just react to significant life events, they will unfortunately over-react to every little thing.

    Note: PTSD results from severe stress that causes the chronic activation of the amygdala. This results in traumatic, intrusive, and recurring memories. The sufferers of this condition have effectively lost their emotional resilience. (Thankfully, with psychological counsel, and the correct nutrients to promote positive neuro-plasticity, it is possible to reverse this ‘brain damage’.)

  2. Metabolic Acidosis

    In a bygone era, the only real reason our body would produce significant amounts of acid (lactic acid via anaerobic glycolysis), would be if we were being suffocated or we were drowning. Our body would respond appropriately to this life-threatening event by inducing a panic response in order to save us.

    Note: Nowadays, a person may inadvertently induce a Panic Attack if they have a tendency to hold their breath when undergoing stress.

    In modern times, when we are perpetually in  ‘fight or flight’ mode  due to stress or strong emotions, we tend to ‘shallow breathe’. This type of breathing rapidly increases oxygen to our bodies making it ready for action. However, if we don’t use this extra oxygen by running or fighting, we create a temporary  imbalance in the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide (acid) in our blood. This imbalance can cause you to feel anxious.

    There are also other reasons why your body may be creating too much acid  (such as your diet) — which can lead to anxiety.

    Please see my previous blog-post on this for more information: The whole acid alkaline thing.

  3. Mitochondrial dysfunction

    In brain cells, the Mitochondrion make neuro-steroids.

    Pregnenolone, one of these neuro-steroids, acts to promote GABA in our brain.

    GABA is a neurotransmitter that calms our mind & body. It does this by opposing (or balancing) the neurotransmitter, Glutamate — which acts to excite, or stimulate us.

    When Glutamate is unopposed (due to Mitchondrial dysfunction), we are overstimulated which can lead to neurotoxicity. This can damage our brain, which leads to maladaptive neuroplasticity (see point #1).

There are many other possible medical reasons that you could be suffering from anxiety

Below I outline the rest of the possible underlying physiological reasons that could be creating your ‘brand’ of anxiety.

By doing this, it is my intention that you’ll realise that there is still hope — that just because you’ve tried some ‘things’ in the past that didn’t help, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find something that will work.

Book in to see your Naturopath and/or Medical Herbalist to discuss everything that is going on for you — and to create a treatment plan tailored just to you.

  1. You may be suffering from a medical condition

    Anxiety can be a symptom of many medical conditions, such as those associated to the heart (disease), lungs (COPD), pancreas (Diabetes), Thyroid (Hyperthyroidism), and gut (IBS).

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ would focus on improving the over-riding health condition.

  2. Certain medications you are currently taking

    You may be taking a medication that has anxiety as a side-effect.

    Note: It would pay to investigate this, and to discuss this with your prescribing doctor.

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ may focus on alternative ways to support your health.

  3. Hypoglycemia/low blood-sugar levels

    ‘Hunger’ is a dirty world for the suffers of this, as the amygdala (discussed above) is dependent on an adequate supply of glucose and it essentially gets anxious if not fed sufficiently.

    Note: Fasting and/or prolonged activity would not be your ‘friend’ if you suffer from this.

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ may be to focus on your diet, and how & when to eat.

  4. A sex-hormone imbalance

    By this I mean hormones such as Oestrogen and Progesterone — the hormones that determine your gender — and your given abilities & characteristics.

    If our sex-hormones are out of balance it can significantly impact our sense of wellbeing and our mood.

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ may be to focus on your diet, and liver, bowel, and Thyroid health — to treat the sex-hormone imbalance.

  5. Sleep issues

    Experiencing an ongoing lack of sleep can lead to serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

    Unfortunately, these mental health issues can also impact on your sleep, creating a vicious cycle…

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ would be to focus on improving the quality and quantity of your sleep.

  6. An endocannabinoid deficiency

    The Endocannabinoid system is a homeostatic signalling system within your body (meaning it keeps our nervous, hormonal, and immune systems in balance). If any of these systems are impacted you may experience anxiety as a result.

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ may include the recommendation of certain foods & herbs that supply much needed cannabinoids to the body.

  7. Gut dysfunction and/or an imbalance in bacteria

    The chemical signals that the gut microbiome release can also influence our emotional and mental health. More and more research is emerging that connects the health of our gut microbiome with conditions such as anxiety, depression, Aspergers, Dementia, OCD, and ADD/ADHD.

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ may be to focus on your diet, to correct digestive function, and to introduce probiotic supplementation.

  8. A nutrient deficiency

    You could have low levels of iron, B12, folate, calcium, magnesium, B-group, and/or zinc etc.

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ may be to focus on replenishing any nutrients found to be lacking, either through a thorough case-take, or via blood work.

  9. Substance abuse

    You may drink too much coffee and/or alcohol (for you.) Which may deplete you in necessary nutrients, and/or overstimulate you.

    You may do too much of a recreational drug (for you.) Which may deplete you in necessary nutrients, and/or overstimulate you.

    In this case, your ‘anxiety treatment plan’ may be to focus on either reduction or removal of the offending substance (for a period of time.)

In the great (song) words of rock Queen, Pat Benatar...

Get nervous, get nervous (repeat 5x)
I feel a little shaky, I can’t control my nerves
I know you think I’m fakin’, but can’t you feel the curves?
I swear to you I feel it, it scares me half to death
It gathers in my throat and it gathers up my breath
Anxiety, got me on the run
Anxiety, yeah, I just need someone
Anxiety, can’t get nothin’ done
Anxiety, spoils all the fun

I’m picking up the telephone, there’s no one I can call
I need somebody bad tonight, can’t find no sleep at all
I wish I could relax, I just can’t stop my mind
I wish I could collapse but my body’s not that kind.

Note: She’s not wrong.

Lisa says:

When your brain is chronically stressed-out

You may manifest a mental health condition such as anxiety.


You may manifest two mental health conditions such as OCD and addiction.


You may manifest three mental health conditions such as insomnia, depression, and substance abuse.


I think you know what comes next…

Some folks are just more sensitive to ‘stuff’ than other people. And unfortunately, it may be just one ’cause’ expressing itself in a variety of symptoms, which together signify the loss of emotional resilience.

Let us ease your troubled mind

As you can see from all of the above causes, the therapy or remedy that works for one person suffering from anxiety may not necessarily work for another — as they may have completely different physiological reasons for manifesting their anxiety.

I believe that Naturopaths & Medical Herbalists are far better suited to help you with managing your anxiety. We can help to determine what ‘type’ of anxiety you have, and then provide you with the most effective treatment plan for you.

In regards to the three main causes of anxiety (above), in these cases, we have the ‘ingredients’ that you need to not only protect your brain, but to also promote Neurogenesis — healthy brain growth and correct wiring.

Naturopaths & Medical herbalists have many supplements and medicinal herbs to help calm you — naturally. (We can also help to augment, or rather, make your anti-anxiety medication work better — if you would prefer.)

Here are just some of the tools we have to select from, when working with you, to enable us to choose the most appropriate solution (and dosage):

Medicinal herbs
Zizyphus, Magnolia, Passionflower, Kava, Mexican Valerian, Rhodiola, Chamomile, and even Echinacea.

B-group vitamins, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Taurine, Glutamine, zinc, and CoQ10.

We’ll also offer very specific dietary advice for you.

Note: None of our ‘remedies’ impair your job performance or your ability to operate ‘heavy machinery’. In fact, when you take our ‘stuff’, you’ll probably just feel blissfully unaware of yourself: Expectations of health.

Like depression, anxiety is a symptom not a health condition.

Want to hear more from me on sleep, stress and mood disorders?

You’ll be able to locate the blog-posts that I previously wrote about these topics here:

Make an appointment with Lisa

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a degree qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice – OOMPH in Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand.

Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 16 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.

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