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The Wellness Blog

Chiropractic, Nutrition & Anxiety

Dr. Cynthia Durakis

I take care of A LOT of people with anxiety. Some formally diagnosed, some self-diagnosed, some medicated, some with panic attacks and others with a low-grade, all day un-ease. None of them came to me to treat the disorder, they came for other reasons, but in many cases, they have found that their anxiety has improved as well.

Four Reasons Why

1. Appropriate stimulation to the nervous system. Chiropractic care, as well as other forms of body work, have been repeatedly proven to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and improve the body’s response to stress.

Spinal manipulation will reduce blood pressure, heart rate and help release dopamine – a neurotransmitter that evokes a feeling of calm. Chiropractic care stimulates the parasympathetic portion of the nervous system and mitigates our “fight-or-flight” response.

Specific adjustments that normalize function of the upper cervical spine also stimulate vagal nerve pathways. Vagal parasympathetic stimulation is considered an effective therapy for depression and anxiety as it releases neurotrophic chemicals (soluble proteins that regulate survival, growth and synthesis of neurons) that impact mood. This is a long winded explanation as to why you feel more relaxed after an adjustment.

Research: (1) (2) (3)

2. Pain management. It’s no surprise that pain causes stress, anxiety and depression. When patients come in for care, my primary goal is to help them find a way back to a functional and happy life. With an acute patient, simply reassuring them that they will get better and reminding them to breathe does a world of good even before the first treatment (please refer to my last blog post on breathing!).

After reviewing health history and performing an exam (sometimes X-Rays or MRI) I provide a clear care plan that typically includes a series of spinal adjustments and mandatory at home rehab. Very often, having a plan in place is a comfort to someone who’s been struggling with pain for a long time.

Reducing pain and getting back to the simple elements of normal life…walking the dog, driving in a car or airplane, gardening and just rolling over in bed, provide a huge relief both emotionally and physically.

3. Nutritional support. In addition to chiropractic care, I also provide nutritional counseling to many of my patients. Again, they aren’t usually seeking my help for anxiety, more often for weight loss, fatigue and hormonal challenges. But as their nutritional profile improves, anxiety frequently improves as well.

Digestive health is primary, as the gut produces more serotonin than the brain. Proper absorption, digestion and elimination must be addressed even BEFORE we consider supplementation.

All of our hormones and neurotransmitters are dependent upon specific nutrients and chemical catalysts for their production. These include B-complex vitamins, vitamin D3, trace minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium and selenium and essential fatty-acids. When we introduce adequate amounts of these substances, the brain and endocrine organs will respond by increasing production of the chemicals that decrease stress and increase well-being.

Herbal support can be helpful as well. I often suggest a patient use valerian root, kava or CBD to help with anxiety and sleep. (St. John’s Wort has been studied extensively for use to treat depression, but should be not be used with SSRI medication).

4. Exercise. As I mentioned above, ALL of my patients are encouraged to exercise within the limits of their condition. For some people who haven’t been able to move around much because of pain, the exercise piece alone can be huge. There is significant evidence suggesting that a fitness regimen can be as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression, and it should always be suggested (along with counseling) before medication is prescribed. Just do it!

Please call The Healing Tree or email Dr. Cindy directly if you’d like a complimentary 15 minute consultation. (Please reference the Well Ray blog!) 703.706.9500 or [email protected]