Anxiety and panic attacks are common symptoms when it comes to thyroid disease. I experienced this myself when I was struggling with Hashimoto’s disease, so I understand how frustrating and scary it can be. Through my own personal experience and nutritional therapy training I’ve learned various ways to use diet and lifestyle to reduce anxiety naturally, so let’s dive in.
Oftentimes, when someone has thyroid disease, anxiety and panic attacks that occur are most often rooted in adrenal imbalance and/or amino acid deficiency*.
The adrenal glands are the body’s emergency system. When the body is under chronic stress, the adrenals will send out cortisol into the bloodstream. Over time, chronic cortisol output will weaken the endocrine system, digestive system, liver, and brain, create thyroid hormone imbalance and symptoms such as anxiety and panic attacks.
So, if you want to reduce your symptoms of anxiety, I recommend you start with supporting your adrenal glands.
Other symptoms of having adrenal imbalance are:
Craving sugar in the afternoons
Blood sugar unbalance
Extra weight gain around the waist
Getting a second wind at the end of the day
Waking up in the middle of the night
PCOS and infertility
Cravings for salty food
Unable to relax and take time off
Thyroid hormone imbalance
Being deficient in specific amino acids can also have a huge impact on your mood, and create anxiety, depression and a wealth of other negative symptoms.
Here are some various symptoms of low amino acids in the body:
Low in Seratonin
Often worried and anxious
Irritable and impatient
Anxiety or panic attacks
Hate hot weather
Dislike dark weather, or have clear-cut fall/winter depression
Shy or fearful
Fear of heights, flying, enclosed spaces
Low in Catecholamines
Often feel depressed
Low on physical or mental energy
Put on weight too easily
You feel a need for caffeine, sugar or sodas to keep you going
Low in GABA/Cortisol
Feel overworked, pressured or deadlines
Your body feels stiff and uptight
Feel overwhelmed as if you can’t get it all done
Sensitive to bright light, noise, or chemical fumes
You need to wear dark sunglasses
Easy upset, frustrated or snappy under stress
Low in Endorphins
You tear up easy or cry
Tend to avoid dealing with painful issues
You’ve been through a great deal of physical or emotional pain
You crave pleasure, comfort, enjoyment from foods, wine, or coffees
Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, goes into great detail about this in her book, which is a must-read if you’re dealing with any kind of anxiety, depression, stress, etc. It will probably be the best $10 ever spent!
Here are some steps you can take to reduce anxiety naturally:
1. Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up. If you wait any longer than this, it can cause your blood sugar levels to decrease too much and put extra strain on your adrenals which can cause anxiety.
2. Have lunch about 4 hours after eating breakfast and include some protein, carbs and fat in your meal. I know this is a simple step, but skipping meals will put strain on your adrenals and can increase your symptoms.
3. Only do low-impact exercise like walking, pilates, gentle yoga or stretching. High impact exercise puts strain on the adrenals, especially when the adrenals are already fatigued. If you’re having trouble losing weight, I know this can seem counter-productive, but I’ve seen clients lose weight by resting and following the steps I’m listing here.
4. Sit down to eat each meal and eat slowly. Don’t eat on-the-go, when you’re stressed, driving, etc. because this will inhibit your body from using the nutrients in your food that it needs to help reduce your symptoms. Here’s an article to help you understand the importance of eating in a slow and relaxed state.
5. Diffuse essential oils throughout the day to help you feel more relaxed. If you can’t diffuse oils, put a drop or two on the soles of your feet twice a day to help lower stress levels. This study found that inhaling lavender essential oil can decrease cortisol levels. That’s good news for the adrenals!
Make sure you only use a completely pure essential oil so you aren’t adding any synthetic chemicals to your body — that could stress your system further. Some of my personal favorites are Lavender, Balance, Serenity, Ylang Ylang and Lemon.
6. Eat dinner no later than 6 or 7pm and make sure to sit down while you eat. Dinner should be your largest meal of the day. This will help keep cortisol levels down at the end of the day, and help you sleep and also reduce anxiety.
7.. Take an epsom salt bath a few times a week (or each evening, if you can). When you’re stressed, the first mineral your body burns through is magnesium (this is why so many people are magnesium deficient!). Soaking in a bath with 1 cup of epsom salts and a few drops of your favorite essential oil will help you relax and replenish your magnesium stores, calm your body and support your adrenals to reduce anxiety.
8. Go to bed by 9pm each night. The best way to heal your adrenals, and in turn help balance your thyroid and reduce anxiety, is with sleep.
9. Take the right kind of B Vitamins – I recommend Cataplex B from Standard Process.
10. Try adaptogenic herbs – Ashwaganda from MediHerb can be a helpful herbal remedy to calm the nervous system. It contains ashwaganda, licorice root and rhodiola. It’s immensely helpful for calming the nervous system.
11. Drink plenty of filtered water each day. Drinking 1/2 your weight in ounces is a good goal; a 160-pound person should drink about 80 ounces of water per day. Hydration is really important for the endocrine system. Without the right amount of water, the body can’t transport the necessary nutrients and hormones to the cells properly. So, please make sure you’re getting enough water.
12. Include protein at each meal – get these proteins from foods such as pastured meat, poultry, wild seafood, eggs, etc. Amino acids from pastured animal foods are very important to help reduce anxiety and depression.
13. Eliminate all caffeine and alcohol. I know this is a hard one, but caffeine and alcohol are liquid stress for your adrenals and will only cause continued anxiety and panic attacks. Here’s a post about how I kicked the coffee habit — with step-by-step instructions for you.
14. Eat pastured animal fats – Our bodies produce cannabinoids from animal fats in our diet. When well-regulated, these endocannabinoids are “feel-good chemicals” that ensure production of the proper amount of dopamine and limit the overproduction of cortisol.
15. Take one day of rest each week. While it’s popular to “hustle”, that kind of daily mentality can lead to all sorts of health issues and will strain the adrenals and cause negative symptoms throughout the body. Take a day each week to rest. Turn off your phone, get outside, or just sleep all day if that’s what your body needs. It’s ok. God set the example by taking a day to rest, so I order my week that way too!
If you’d like more education about adrenal balance and are looking for a proven protocol to follow, I recommend checking out my Adrenal Balance Program.
*Please note: I am not saying there isn’t a place for medications, or that everyone can eliminate all anxiety and panic attacks naturally. This article is written simply to give you some extra tools to use alongside whatever instruction your doctor has given.