Winter Worry

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by Dr. David Pollack

The days are getting shorter, and the cheeriness of light-filled summer days are all behind us. For many, the decreased light comes with depressed moods, and for others, anxiety. Combined with the unprecedented levels of political disagreements, our state of mind in general is in constant flux; many of my patients are complaining of anxiety over our country and its affairs. This is affecting our health as well. Anxiety is at a high. For so many, feelings of worry, a racing heart, dizziness, fatigue, shakiness, insomnia, and fears begin to creep in and can consume our day and night. Despite the individual reasons that these feelings arise, the actual internal causes are similar.

There are only a few fundamental reasons our bodies create the feeling of anxiety from the viewpoint of our chemistry. First, and most commonly, is an imbalance of the adrenal glands. They are a small but massively important set of glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They release a wide variety of hormones that affect virtually all the body’s functions, and most can have a large impact on our mood. Some of these hormones affect our blood sugar, blood pressure, electrolyte balance, cholesterol level, and the balance of neurotransmitters, among many other functions.

Adrenal weakness or insufficiency is caused by many factors, from chronic low-level stress to huge stressful events, as well as physical traumas and chronic medical conditions. The use and need of certain medications can also weaken these glands.

Second, chronic digestive problems cause anxiety. For many, the feeling of disconcerting discomfort in the chest creates anxiety. Deeper still, the majority of our body’s neurotransmitters are made in the gut (60 percent or more). Digestive problems will often cause a change in the balance and ability to manufacture these neurotransmitters, creating a change in mood. The gut is also home to the majority of the body’s immune system (70 percent or more). Evidence also shows that chronic inflammation of the gut causes overstimulation to our immune system. This creates a cascade of events that can alter our mood and cause anxiety.

Lastly is inflammation itself. Inflammation in our body, be it in our muscles, spine, nerves, etc., causes the release of inflammatory chemicals and an increase in cortisol levels. This chronic inflammation wears down our hormone systems, such as the adrenal glands, and causes mood changes and anxiety. Autoimmune conditions are ripe for this situation. Thyroid problems are most commonly (70 percent in the U.S.) autoimmune in nature, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Anxiety is most often the result of any one or more of these three issues, and it can be treated. Many of my new patients complain that years of medicating their anxiety, while helpful, never got rid of the problem, and robbed them of clarity and full enjoyment of life. It need not be that way.

Source: Dr. David Pollack, of Pollack Wellness Institute (66 Commack Rd., Ste. 204, Commack). For more information, call 631-462-0801 or visit

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