May 1, 2019 - Things to Do

7 things I wish I had known the day of my first panic attack

[Note: Author Jamie Brown and her husband, Jeff Tonidandel, have three children and own Haberdish, Crepe Cellar, Growlers Pourhouse, Reigning Doughnuts — and they are working on another restaurant venture, Supperland]

On Easter Sunday 2018, my husband made duck tacos with homemade tortillas, fresh roasted serrano guacamole and classic “Tommy’s Margaritas.” An hour into the meal, a dark feeling came over me. I had to leave.

I went upstairs to my bedroom and had my first panic attack. At 40, I had never experienced high anxiety (let alone panic). I had no idea what was going on.

For six months following, I suffered from severe anxiety and panic. I started therapy, meditation, breath work, yoga and more rigorous exercise. The attacks kept coming.

Then one night at 2 a.m., I shot out of bed. “My body is trying to expel something,” I thought to myself. Right then, I googled topics like bacteria, panic attacks, food, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and I came across a plethora of information I had never been exposed to.

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. I am not a doctor, dietician or nutritionist, I’m just sharing insights from my journey that might help someone else.

Here are 7 things I wish I had known the day I had my first panic attack:

(1) I have an eight-hour trigger point with food. When I have anxiety, I can pinpoint it back to something I consumed eight hours prior. With this condition, certain foods — from dairy to sugar to “nightshades” (important) — can be as traumatic on the nervous system as an actual traumatic event.

(2) Look at anxiety as an autoimmune condition. I have an identical twin sister who was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic at 31. I’ve been on the lookout for autoimmune symptoms, but anxiety wasn’t what I was expecting.

(3) Anxiety feels like a problem in your brain, but it can originate in your gut. If you focus on the health of your gut, your anxiety can lessen, if not disappear entirely.

(4) Bacteria plays a major role in mental health. From being a primary cause of intestinal permeability (aka “leaky gut”), bacteria in our micro-biome is now believed to be communicating with our brain.

(5) There is a diet that can help you cope and give your body time to heal. The diet is called AIP (Autoimmune Protocol). I’ve been on it for more than 30 weeks.

(6) Watch for early warning signs. Digestive issues, “Shouldn’t I be happier?” feelings, chronic joint pain, irritability, depression and face rashes can all be early signals.

(7) A functional medicine doctor can help. As MDs, these doctors have a specialty in functional medicine to help sort through diet, supplements, exercise programs and medical tests.

With this information above, I could have saved myself six months of anguish and six months of worsening my condition.

Thirty weeks on AIP has been challenging as a restaurant owner. But I’ve learned that by taking this one element (food) out of my life, and plugging it back in a different way, I’ve been able to unlock happiness throughout my life.

It’s been a long disciplined journey, but I’ve found relief and peace on the other side.

If you’re struggling with something similar, here’s some further reading I’ve found helpful: Psychology Today, The Paleo Mom, Smithsonian Magazine, Dr Hyman and Well and Good.


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