Is worry your constant companion? Worrisome thought patterns can become a habit, and that’s bad news for your bone health. Also, excessive and chronic worrying has been shown to have a significant negative impact on other body systems.
In today’s post, we’re going to delve into this topic, including the latest scientific research on what you can do about it.
Let’s get started!
Why Worry Matters
It’s easy to think that worrying really doesn’t do any harm. After all, we’re keeping it to ourselves, right?
That may be true for a brief episode of understandable worry, such as the day before a job interview or a presentation. But that’s not the kind of worry we’re talking about. The kind of worry that does bodily damage is the sort that goes on for long periods, and becomes irrational and chronic.
Chronic worry becomes the “lens” through which you view life events, and can lead to panic and anxiety. If these elements come together to bring about panic attacks, then worry becomes a constant consideration that dictates where you go, whether or not you leave the house, how you perceive life, and, ultimately, it manifests as physical symptoms that can greatly impact your health, including your bone health.
How Worry Triggers Physical Symptoms
Your body has a built-in stress response. It comes in handy in situations where you need to make quick decisions and avoid danger. This response is intended to occur infrequently, since it triggers a surge of intense hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. But when your stress response is triggered every day, as in the case of chronic worry, anxiety, or panic, then your adrenal glands become exhausted and your cortisol levels stay high.
You’re probably aware of how deleterious cortisol is to bones. But you may not know the science behind how this process works.
When you are under high stress, which occurs when you are continually anxious and worried, a biological process called gluconeogenesis, also known as endogenous glucose production (EGP), kicks in. Gluconeogenesis occurs mainly in the liver, and is the breakdown of non-carbohydrate substrates to form glucose for energy. One of the catalysts of this metabolic pathway is cortisol, which acts on the periosteum, the outer layer of bone, inhibiting osteoblast formation and proliferation.
As part of gluconeogenesis, cortisol causes a decrease in proline incorporation. Proline is an amino acid that gets incorporated into the bone matrix during normal remodeling, but in the presence of cortisol, this process is greatly reduced. So that’s why constant high cortisol levels wear away at bone, lowering density and increasing fracture risk.
Worry has an effect on your overall health, too. High levels of stress and cortisol disrupt the communication among the cells of your immune system, thus leaving you more susceptible to illness.1 In addition, excessive worry can give rise to the following symptoms:
- Poor memory
- Muscle tension
- Digestive problems
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
Given the negative effects of worry on your health and bones, you’re probably wondering…
What You Can Do To Free Yourself From Worry
It can be difficult to overcome at first, but it gets easier once you realize that your worry is not doing anyone any good. Chronic worry does not show you “care,” it doesn’t aid your decision-making process, and it doesn’t help you prepare for the worst-case scenario. It’s easier to let go once you recognize that excessive worry is doing nothing but damaging your health and possibly even your relationships.
So now that you’re ready to give up worrying, try these nine tips.
1. Cross-Examine Your Anxious Thoughts
One of the key things that distinguishes anxious thoughts from peaceful ones is rationality. When you start having a flood of worried ideas and thoughts, stop for a moment and demand “proof” from your thoughts.
First, pin it down – identify the fearful thought, and think about what aspect of it makes you worried. Ask yourself if it’s really true, and if there is another, more positive way of looking at the issue. Think of these worrisome thoughts not as facts, but as possibilities that deserve scrutiny. Question those anxious thoughts, and you’ll find that more often than not, they’re simply not substantiated.
2. Don’t “Catastrophize”
As the term implies, catastrophizing refers to seeing only the worst-case scenario, and assuming that because it’s so awful, it’s more likely to happen. But if you hold this kind of thought to the scrutiny described in #1 above, you’ll see that it’s irrational. The nature of a possibility – in this case, the catastrophic factor – does not make that possibility more likely to happen.
Here’s an example. You develop a bad cough, and it goes on a bit longer than average. Instead of considering allergies, a respiratory infection, or some other simple cause, the anxious, worried mind constructs a scenario where you have lung cancer and only have a few weeks to live. But you don’t have any facts to back that fearful thought up, so it just doesn’t make any sense.
Instead, think of the more practical, positive possibilities first, and don’t allow yourself to get into the worry cycle.
3. Don’t Be So Quick To Attribute Success To “Luck”
A worried mind is by its nature a pessimistic one. If you do well at something and assume you just got lucky that time, then you give yourself no credit. This diminishes your accomplishment or achievement, and disengages any foundation-building for the next time.
For instance, if you’re nervous about giving a speech but it ends up going really well, you might attribute that to luck rather than competence and skill. Then the next time you are asked to make a speech, you’ve denied yourself the supportive experience of recognized past success.
The same could be said of bone health. If you are following the Osteoporosis Reversal Program and your density scores go up, your energy levels increase, and your overall health improves, go ahead and take credit! You did it thanks to your dedication to following the Program. Don’t attribute it to luck or happenstance.
4. Let Go Of The Need To Control
It may not seem like it at first, but worrying is actually a control tactic. If you worry over something and try to prepare for the worst-case scenario, it feeds the illusion that you won’t be taken by surprise. You’ve already got things “covered” and won’t be taken unaware.
The problem is, your worry has absolutely nothing to do with what actually happens! Worry does not influence the outcome of any situation. It only makes your role more challenging and difficult, and of course, it ruins your health.
One of the best things you can do to quell worry is to let go of the need to control. Accept the certainty of uncertainty, and the reality that some outcomes just take time.
5. Be Aware Of The Moment
The past and the future can seem as real as the present, but the fact remains that you can do nothing about either. Worry robs you of enjoyment of the present moment, so take back your mindfulness of the here and now, and refuse to mainly focus on thoughts about the past and/or the future. After all, you can’t take part in your past or your future, but you can take action now.
6. Stay Away From “Toxic” People
It’s worth a few minutes’ time to sit down and consider which relationships in your life are contributing to your worry. Is there someone who makes you more anxious, sees things negatively, and/or is just a general “downer”? You may need to spend less time with that person (or those people) in order to let the worry go and regain or protect your health. In addition, you may need to set limits and boundaries on the topics you discuss with toxic people, especially if you can’t avoid them (such as co-workers).
7. Allow Yourself To Worry For A Limited Time
It may sound contradictory, but actually setting aside a brief time when you allow yourself to worry gives you some control over the whole worrying process. Instead of it controlling you, now you can tell the worry to wait because it’s not “time.” What this does is create a sort of pathway in your mind so that you teach yourself to stop worrying. It starts out as temporary – “not now” – but has the potential to develop into “not ever” as you learn techniques for putting worry off.
8. Pray And/Or Meditate
Find what brings you peace, inspiration, and calmness. It might be inspirational words, calming thoughts of nature (or actually being in nature), meditation, centered thought or prayers. It’s amazing what this “re-wiring” of the brain can do to ease worry and put things in perspective.
This kind of mindful thought does not allow for self-condemnation or denial (“I shouldn’t be having these anxious thoughts!”). Rather, taking time to pray or meditate almost removes you from the anxiety – you become more of an objective observer than a participant.
9. Get Plenty Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There is ample evidence-based data as to the positive effects of Omega-3 fatty acids on brain health. Now, new research is shedding light on the mechanism behind this connection between Omega-3 fatty acids, brain function, and anxiety.
In a fascinating study by doctors Rhonda Patrick and Bruce Ames, the missing link appears to be the brain chemical serotonin. Their research reveals the connection between serotonin, Vitamin D, and Omega-3s.
The following is noted by Dr. Patrick:
“In this paper we explain how serotonin is a critical modulator of executive function, impulse control, sensory gating, and pro-social behavior.”2
So serotonin appears to be the link that facilitates the function of Vitamin D and Omega-3s.
The paper points out that serotonin production is dependent on Vitamin D and Omega-3s, with certain Omega-3s playing a role in the serotonin uptake pathway. Low levels of Vitamin D and Omega-3s then disrupt this pathway, negatively affecting brain development, cognition, and the ability to make decisions.
The authors conclude that:
“…optimizing vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acid intake may help prevent and modulate the severity of brain dysfunction,”2
More Research Links Omega-3s To Anxiety Relief
Here’s another study, where a research team gave six groups of medical students either an Omega-3 supplement or a placebo. Medical students, the researchers note, undergo a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety during exam periods.
While the test schedule underwent some unexpected changes during the study, the researchers conducted blood tests and observed a reduction in inflammatory cytokines, specifically interleukin-6 (IL-6), among the Omega-3 group. More importantly, researchers were surprised to see the significant reduction in anxiety (20%) among the students who took the Omega-3s.3
This remarkable improvement in anxiety among young people taking Omega-3s provides great hope for older adults who are at greater risk for certain diseases and cognitive decline.
Therefore, adding Omega-3s to your diet is a good idea if you’re trying to reduce the harmful effects of anxiety and worry.
Omega-3s Are Also Relevant To Bone Health
If you’re following the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, then you know the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids with regard to bone health. In fact, this topic is covered in detail in Chapter 12. Here is a quote directly from the Program (page 139):
“…omega-3s increase calcium absorption, help reduce bone loss, maintain mineral bone density, and balance bone turnover. According to a 1997 study in the journal Progress in Lipid Research, essential fatty acids ‘have now been shown to increase calcium absorption from the gut, in part by enhancing the effects of vitamin D, to reduce urinary excretion of calcium, to increase calcium deposition in bone and improve bone strength and to enhance the synthesis of bone collagen.’”
In addition, Omega-3s have been shown to work better than the popular osteoporosis drug Prolia by regulating a group of immune system proteins known as RANK-L. These proteins activate immune cells and convert them into cells that tear down bone (osteoclasts) as part of normal bone remodeling. By working with your bone remodeling process, Omega-3 supplements naturally moderate RANK-L and prevent excessive bone removal.
What Are The Best Sources Of Omega-3s?
The above research specifically studied Omega-3s from fish oil, which is found in fatty fish, such as herring, salmon, mackerel and sardines, to name a few. (I understand that vegans and some vegetarians may therefore choose to forego supplementation in this form.)
It’s worth pointing out that in the study on anxiety referred to above, the medical students received a supplement that contained four to five times the amount of fish oil found in a single serving of fatty fish.
I am often asked if I recommend a particular Omega-3 supplement, and I can now say that yes, I do have a recommendation: Nature City’s TrueOmega3™.
TrueOmega3™ Has All The Healthful Qualities Of A Quality Fish Oil
Nature City’s TrueOmega3™ addresses the three common problems with fish oil supplements: the presence of toxins, potential oxidation during processing, and insufficient EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) content. EPAs and DHAs are components of Omega-3s, and were studied specifically in the research noted above.
TrueOmega3™ is rigorously analyzed in order to be certified toxin-free, and steps to prevent oxidation are taken throughout processing. In addition, each serving (2 soft gels) provides 818 milligrams of EPA and DHA. And TrueOmega3™ is highly concentrated, so the gels are small and easy to swallow.
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Now your worries can be alleviated on many levels – not only can you include Omega-3 supplementation in your anxiety-fighting arsenal, but you also need not worry about the purity, potency, or fatty acid content of your supplement.
Till next time,
1 Segerstrom, Suzanne C. and Miller, Gregory E. “Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.” Psychol Bull. Jul 2004; 130(4): 601–630. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.601. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
2 Patrick, R.P. and Ames, B.N. “Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior.” FASEB J.. June 2015. 29(6): 2207-22. DOI: 10.1096/fj.14-268342. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25713056
3 Janice, K., et al. “Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. November 2011. Volume 25, Issue 8, pages 1725-1734.