Anxiety is crippling. You know what I mean by this if you have ever lived through dealing with anxiety. It grabs a hold of you, paralyzes you. Puts pressure on your chest, prevents you from grasping a cool, clean breath of fresh air. Your mind may race… “Am I going to die?”, you ask yourself. It’s unlikely that you are going to die, but at that moment that is exactly what you feel and no one can change your mind, because it just FEELS too REAL. Too dangerous to be abnormal.
An example from my life of what anxiety can do…
On a recent trip to Florida, my family and I were having the time of our lives (minus our daughter who just got her first real job so she couldn’t escape). Suddenly, on the daily news we start hearing about the impending doom of a category 5 hurricane headed straight toward us.
We start investigating, Googling, watching different news outlets… Little by little, I start feeling more uncomfortable in my body.
I text all my friends that live in Florida or were traveling there. All is well, they either have a central house or were already back home safe. They wish me safe travels, and to those living in Florida, I say ‘stay safe’.
My body begins to feel off, unraveled. We go to get extra groceries, just in case. I buy way, way, WAY too many olives and stock up on cans of sardines and smoked oysters because I don’t want to starve.
And then we go to get water, the ultimate life-giving substance. Keep in mind, now we have already been to five other stores, and forgot to check on water. When we get to the water aisle…
The reality, urgency, fear, looming disaster, and unraveled sense, smacks us straight in the face and says,
There is no water. Just one small case that a couple is fighting over. I grab my husband’s hand and urge for us to go. We need this more than anything and there is none left.
My stomach feels as though it’s in my throat. I clench his hand tightly. I’m pretty sure he can see the fear on my face.
He knows I can see some on his, too. We pay.
We get to our car, and try more stores. We find water. There is a limit of three bottles per person.
I can’t be picky and get my Mountain Valley Spring glass bottle variety. I get what I get, because this is better than nothing.
External vs. Internal Forces that Create Anxiety
I pray for those affected by any hurricane because it is a horrifying reality to live with, and for me it proved to be the perfect example of a fear of my family’s NEEDS not being met.
This real life natural disaster is an example of all the outside forces that can create anxiety within us.
Certain things, we have absolutely NO control of…
So our only choice is to just let it go.
The things that are in our control…
Take control. Act as needed, be present, and always have a Plan B.
The problem with anxiety is that on top of this, it can also be a matter of:
- The chicken laid the egg first, OR;
- The egg cracked into a chicken first
We can’t always distinguish whether it was a life event that threatened our feeling of safety, or something internal that is unraveling our senses.
So we ask ourselves this. “Why do I live with this?”
Anxiety is common in our day and age. With all the demands placed upon us, to perform, to be perfect, to do everything. Who can live or even keep up to those standards?
Plus, it propagates itself. A little anxiety can turn into a full-blown anxiety attack in no time. Many times, without any warning at all. By that point, there is no turning back. It is like the tropical storm that suddenly becomes a category 5 hurricane. It is completely debilitating, destroying everything in its path.
I’ve been there, more times than is comfortable and I’ve seen my patients suffer with it in my clinic, grossly affecting the quality of their lives and those of their present and future families.
Small Amounts of Anxiety Are Normal
There is nothing more heartbreaking than when you feel like your body, mind and soul are working against you.
An unknown philosopher once said,
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
So granted, you are a forward thinker. The fear of the unknown gets to you.
In fact, if the impending doom of the threat of a landing hurricane doesn’t cause you to become unraveled, to be cautious, safe-guarded and ready to act with your Plan B, I’m not sure that you are human. This is a normal and healthy reaction to stressful external factors. It is when these feelings and sensations spiral out of your control that it becomes an issue.
I know there is also those that have more to lose than others, those that have nothing. But in reality, our world shouldn’t be about losing, but about living better.
A Mind that Won’t Shut Off
And so you feel your mind is the home to a hamster of the future, wearing his Star Trek spandex uniform and travelling at warp speed on a wheel in your brain, which no matter how hard you try counting sheep in bow ties springing through freshly cut grass in a field of bright, shining, unstinting glory, you simply can’t quiet down.
You’ve tried meditation, fish oils, eating well, breathing exercises… yet it feel like none of it ever works. Or if it works, it works until the placebo effect wears off and you’ve lost faith that you can ever overcome this prison that you’ve been placed in against your will.
And all you want to do is sleep…
You know that you think too much, you need to quiet your mind, be more in the present, in the here and the now and as everyone around you says, “Just breathe”.
But common’, seriously, have ever tried to do that when you are in the grips of hyperventilating and your hands are cramped up due to your out of whack electrolytes flowing through your body because you are just TRYING TO BREATHE?
Deep breathing makes you feel more anxious, and meditating gives you these weird tingling sensations that scare you even more… just catapulting you into aggravation, like nails on the chalkboard of your anxiety. So while these words of advice may be sage to those living outside the world of anxiety, in it, they feel like the worst advice in the world ever. Hands down and a high five on that one!
FYI, anxiety pretty much makes it impossible to take those sage words of advice and do something about it.
So, if there is no way to respond to it while in the killer claws of tetany and anxiety, what is one to do?
The Gift Within Your Grind
Prevention is key, get ON TOP of it. Get ahead of it, and train yourself to be able to do the things you need to do before it happens, and most importantly, learn to work with your gift.
Right about now you’re probably saying, “Whoa. How can you sit there and tell me that this anxiety, this jail cell in my mind, is a gift? How dare you. Stop lying.”
Look, I, like you, have lived it, and I’ve been fortunate enough to turn it around with the right know-how and tools. Am I perfect? No way, far from it! Have I never suffered from it again? Not even close to the truth! Now, however, I know how to prevent it and I’ve trained myself with the right tools that when it begins to loom over me, I deal with it before it goes too far, before the pressure starts to set in, like the buildup of air in your ear canals as you are beginning to descend in an airplane.
You swallow and think, “Shit, I gotta go to the bathroom.” Perfect timing, as always.
Like a hurricane on the edge of the Florida Peninsula, we sit on the edges of our seats unsure of what will happen in the next five days, weeks or months. You need to prepare yourself with your Plan B. In reality, what I have found is that anxiety is actually a gift. It’s like a super spider-sense, a radar that gives you the feeling that things just aren’t right. That something is wrong, and you absolutely have to fix it to move on. Or leave it and start new.
Common Unknown Triggers of Anxiety
So before we get to how to fix it (I’m going to share my step by step plan), I want to share with you some common triggers that had me in a state of panic for the greater part of my life. These weren’t by any means the only ones, but when I addressed these aspects that most doctors won’t even look at, they were life-changing for me.
Now I’m sure you know all the common triggers of anxiety:
- Genetics (“My mom had it, too!”)
- A health condition
- Unhealthy food
But did you know there are other unlikely and overlooked reasons that could be causing the problem?
Here are the most unknown yet common reasons for anxiety outside of what you normally hear. The reason I know these so well is that these were my triggers from an early age that sent me catapulting into a vicious cycle of anxiety.
Believe it or not, constipation can be one of the most unknown common causes of anxiety. The potential roots of constipation are plentiful, but let’s just consider the why. Here, it is going to blow your mind, like a hurricane blows the roof off a house (bad analogy here, I apologize).
Stools are the byproducts or ‘trash’ that your body needs to eliminate out. If they are not eliminated, the same thing happens as when you leave the trash from your house composting in your garage after missing garbage day.
The stink builds up, those brain-numbing, barf-producing gases of decomposition, the growth of maggots and bugs attracted to the putrid smells. It isn’t a pretty sight and you can imagine seeing this would make you anxious too. Now imagine if this was happening INSIDE your body.
Ughh… Bad, bad tummy ache…..
So pooping is paramount. It was in this vital aspect of my life that three of my roadblocks were found.
Three Common Causes of Constipation That Lead to Anxiety
1. Food Sensitivities
A large portion of my life, I lived with constipation so bad that it took over my life. Little did I know that a large part of this was caused by food sensitivities. These irritate the body so badly that it becomes constipated. Dairy is one of the most common causes of childhood constipation. I was extremely sensitive without knowing it and was consuming dairy daily. To my surprise, I also learned that healthy foods could be sensitivities because absolutely everyone is unique and can be sensitive to foods that are typically touted as superfoods. For me, it ended up being broccoli, almonds, and rice!
2. Electromagnetic Frequencies
It turns out years later I started learning how these invisible fields disrupt (in certain people more than others) natural body rhythms, much like lights, but worse. I am definitely one of these people. Our digestive tract is intimately distracted by these invading waves and can seize up, leaving you with a load too many. Behind my house growing up there was an electrical substation that spanned as far as the eye could see, which fed all the Northern Ontario mines their electricity.
3. Hormonal Havoc
I have dealt with hormonal derangement like a lot of us have. A little too much hair here, not enough there. Too many curves here, not enough there. Basic-bi*tch here, Debbie-downer there. I was diagnosed with PCOS and estrogen dominance. My periods were controlled through birth control and chemicals. Not sure if you know it, but when this pattern of high estrogen, high androgens, and low thyroid occurs, there is often a reduction in progesterone, which is the anti-anxiety hormone.
The Big Changes In My Life
As I began to realize that all of these things were affecting me and further perpetrating my anxiety, I made some massive changes in my life. For years, I was doing everything ‘right’. Taking the right supplements, seeing a naturopathic doctor, exercising, eating the right foods (or so I thought!)…
So what I didn’t need was even more supplements. I needed to support the foundation of my health, to make what I was already investing in work even better.
I had heard about castor oil packs for about 15 years at this time. I had been told to do them more times than I can count on my hand or care to tally-up because I am just plain old embarrassed.
You see, if had I started this practice years before, I wouldn’t have dealt with this crap, this bullsh*t, this paralyzation for so long.
My Castor Oil Pack Revelation
Alas, now is the time. So I thought to myself, what was wrong and why I didn’t want to do castor oil packs in the first place?
- Too many steps
- The unknown about how they really work – like do I have to wear that piece of cloth with it?
- Is this just another snake oil? Will it overpromise and underdeliver?
- I really don’t believe that this sh*t works… how could it?
- Can’t I just rub the oil on my belly instead of this complicated DIY process? (NOO!)
So there I was, doing everything ‘right’ but I was still struggling with my health. I became so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed for a week. I hit my lowest point and I was desperate to get out of bed and live again. So I did it.
I took an organic cotton non-bleached bag I had gotten at a trade show, cut the straps then sewed them on differently, added in an organic cotton hand towel and made my very first castor oil pack.
These packs did one major thing that led to supporting the 5 pillars of the foundation of my health.
They gave me back the FAITH in my body, that it could heal.
That I could be free of the imaginary – yet very real to me – cage in my body. It was like I’d found my way to the eye of a hurricane, feeling at peace, with the energy of the winds rolling around me, empowering me.
As I learned more about the mechanism of action of castor oil packs, to my amazement, the scientific research showed that it supported these 5 fundamental pillars of health:
F: Function of the Digestive Tract – Studies have shown that castor oil packs help to relieve constipation1 and improve the smooth muscle function2 of the digestive tract, in turn supporting better absorption and elimination.
A: Antioxidant Support – Castor oil has been shown to effectively preserve glutathione levels3, which is our body’s master detoxifying agent responsible for moving out toxic substances and heavy metals. It is also a source of topical nutrients like vitamin E, Omega 6 and 94 and nitric oxide5.
I: Inflammation Regulation – Castor oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory6, making it excellent for reducing core inflammation, supporting the digestive process and reducing pain and discomfort. Inflammation is known as the ‘silent killer’ and it’s important to do everything we can to reduce it in the body.
T: Tension and Stress Reduction – This is where the organic cotton compress part of the castor oil pack practice comes into play. The soft compression of the pack on the skin stimulates sensory receptors that help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, our ‘rest and digest’ state. The compress promotes production of our feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine7, as well as our love and connection hormone, oxytocin8.
H: Host Microbiome Balance – In our bodies and on our skin are trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. The good bacteria you probably know as probiotics, and the bad bacteria I like to call conbiotics™. When conbiotics™ run rampant in our systems (like con artists) they can create a protective layer called biofilm that is very difficult to break down, and makes it nearly impossible to kill them and get them out of our bodies. Castor oil is one of the only natural substances that can break down this biofilm9 10 11, ultimately helping to restore a healthy microbiome balance.
Out of all these wonderful benefits that castor oil packs support, in my opinion ’T’ is the most important. Tension and stress inhibit our bodies’ natural ability to cleanse, calm and poop. All these things affect everything else.
And for this to happen you the need the castor oil pack, you can’t get this effect alone with just the oil. It does not work that way.
The pack is like the foundation of your house, built out of cement and secured to the ground. Not perfect, in times of hurricanes, but supportive enough to get you through and keep you safe and resilient in the long run. You know they got your back.
I am admitting, I forgot to bring my castor oil pack on this holiday in Florida. It’s usually the first thing I pack! I was only able to get a pack on the very last day of my trip, when I visited our Queen of the Thrones™ warehouse.
My body had felt the anxiety of the impending hurricane, and sure enough by the middle of our trip, my nights were restless, full of tossing and turning. I simply felt awkward in every position I laid, unsure, did I have to pee, or was I just a wee bit irritated? Who knows. Toward the end of our trip, my anxiety was building like the incoming hurricane, from tropical storm to a dangerous category 5.
And you know what relieved it? Pooping, shortly after I put my castor oil pack on.
In your future plan, meditation, mindfulness, positive stimulus, supplementation, dietetics, exercise and yoga will all be included. But enough is enough. You can only do one thing at a time and when an unexpected hurricane hits, prevention tactics like your castor oil pack will be your best friend.
It’s time to start here, with the foundation. Have FAITH in your body’s incredible ability to heal.
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1 Arslan GG, Eşer I. An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 Feb;17(1):58-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.04.004. Epub 2010 May 18.
2 Sorin Tunaru,a Till F. Althoff,a Rolf M. Nüsing,b Martin Diener,c and Stefan Offermannsa,d,1 Castor oil induces laxation and uterus contraction via ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptorsProc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jun 5; 109(23): 9179–9184.Published online 2012 May 21. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201627109PMID: 22615395
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7 Rolls ET et all. Representations of pleasant and painful touch in the human orbitofrontal and cingulate cortices. Cereb Cortex. 2003 Mar;13(3):308-17.
8 Walker SC1, Trotter PD2, Swaney WT2, Marshall A3, Mcglone FP4. C-tactile afferents: Cutaneous mediators of oxytocin release during affiliative tactile interactions? Neuropeptides. 2017 Aug;64:27-38. doi: 10.1016/j.npep.2017.01.001. Epub 2017 Jan 19.
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