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The Tranquil Way | What causes anxiety disorder?

Published:Tuesday | June 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM

We all get anxious at times. This usually happens when we are in an evolving situation in which the outcome is possibly going to be negative.

There are some persons, though, who have anxiety disorder and may have feelings of anxiety for no apparent reason.

Anxiety disorder is an illness which causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, racing of the heart, dizziness, feelings of fear/dread, muscle tension and sweaty palms.

These symptoms may or may not be brought on by stress. This condition can interfere with personal and professional relationships.

The traditional teaching is that there is no known cause for this condition, but recent research is giving some clues about what factors may contribute to its development.

It is well known that stress and genetic inheritance play major roles, but it is now strongly suspected that the intestinal microbiome (the large community of bacteria which live in our intestines) also play a critical role.

These bacteria actually function as part of the body as they produce substances that our bodies use.

The brain and the gut seem to have a strong connection referred to as the gut/brain axis, and they have strong influences on each other. It is now know that the bacteria in our intestines actually produce substances that are also used by the brain in passing information. There are more than 1,000 species of bacteria which live in the gut, but there needs to be a proper balance in terms of the numbers.

An improper balance can affect the impact these bacteria have on brain function. Among many other disorders, anxiety disorder has been found to be associated with an imbalance of these bacteria.


Works both ways


The influence goes both ways, though. For example, if the individual is going through a lot of stress, this can, in fact, bring about a shift in the balance of the intestinal microbiome, which may then bring on anxiety disorder, among other conditions. There are other factors which can trigger the shift in balance such as diet, use of antibiotics and adequacy of rest.

So, can this information be used to improve the outcomes in the treatment of these conditions?

Studies show that it can as probiotics, which have been shown to improve the balance of the intestinal microbiome, do help in the treatment of anxiety and other conditions. Probiotics can be obtained from certain foods and supplements.