Worry, angst, fear, overanalyzing, and panic are all forms of anxiety.
New research shows that anxiety is not “all in your head.” The root cause actually appears to begin in the gut.
A Gut Imbalance?
Anxiety was understood as a mental disorder until the connection was made to the gut. It’s often a shock to hear that anxiety begins within and relates to hormonal imbalances. Many functional medicine doctors have the belief that “all dis-ease begins in the gut.” From there, research began.
Women More Prone Than Men
Compared to men, women have a 31% higher chance of developing anxiety in life. It may be during puberty or menopause, but it often occurs at some point in life. During puberty, development hormones run rampant in girls usually before boys. They are prone to anxiety disorders that can happen before their first periods.
As estrogen and progesterone decline, their body changes faster than ever. A lack of development can also cause anxiety as some girls mature before others.
The Child-Bearing Years
Within the child-bearing years, postpartum anxiety can occur as hormones change after giving birth. Nine months of hormones for building and growing a person come to a screeching halt. The feel-good hormones spiral after birth as the body recuperates and adjusts to the stress of a newborn. A lack of sleep lack, household duties, work, and diet all affect hormone levels as well.
Women in their forties may feel anxious from perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. They start to creep up at different ages, some beginning in the late thirties. As many as 51% of women aged 40–55 years had tension, nervousness, or irritability. Roughly 25% report frequent occurrences of those feelings.
During perimenopause, it all comes down to estrogen levels that prompt mood swings. Estradiol can actually increase dilation changes within blood vessels. This can cause symptoms to overlap between hot flashes and panic attacks. Women prone to panic may not be able to tell the difference.
What’s The Solution?
Women need to experience calming effects on the nervous system during life changes. The neurotransmitter GABA in the brain has sedative effects on the body. There can be an impairment during the transition into menopause. GABA may not always function along the HPA stress axis as it once did. This prolongs the stress response and increases anxiety.
Anxiety is not a choice or a failure of any kind. It’s clear that anxiety in women connects to physiological changes in life. The only treatment up until now is an anti-anxiety medicine. Awareness of the hormonal imbalances women experience at different stages is key to understanding. Balancing your diet and lifestyle will greatly affect hormonal balance. This means taking a functional medicine approach to regain homeostasis.
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