Hyla Cass, MD
Often starting with a gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach, anxiety is a natural warning signal, part of our built-in "fight or flight or stress response.
Often starting with a gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach, anxiety is a natural warning signal, part of our built-in "fight or flight" or stress response.
Programmed long ago to set us running (or fighting) at the sight of a predator, the stress response now occurs in traffic jams, final exams, and job interviews-the perceived crises of everyday life. Unable to run away, we are now left with a load of pent up energy and may find ourselves restless and pacing by day or tossing and turning with insomnia at night. Trivial everyday problems may suddenly seem unmanageable or exaggerated beyond all proportion. We may feel tense, moody, and have a rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, or high blood pressure.
Anxiety can also be a physiological response to another threat to our survival-low blood sugar levels. Related to poor diet, irregular eating patterns, or too much sugar and caffeine, the solution is to stabilize blood sugar. Eliminate coffee and sugar and eat a regular schedule of healthy meals with sufficient protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
The conventional medical treatment of anxiety consists of highly addictive prescription drugs, the "benzodiazepines" such as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. While these may work in the short term, you soon develop a tolerance and addiction-you need higher doses for the same effect. There are severe withdrawal effects when you stop taking them. Above all, they don't address the root of the problem.
Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs: These are more compatible than drugs with our body chemistry and have a wide range of benefits and few, if any, side effects.
B Vitamins: Among their countless health benefits, the B vitamins are essential cofactors in producing the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain. Take a combination containing about 25 to 50 mg of each daily.
Magnesium: Often deficient in stressed individuals, magnesium acts on a cellular level to produce relaxation. Take 400 mg daily.
L-theanine: Derived from green tea, the amino acid theanine acts as a non-addictive relaxant by increasing the brain's production of alpha waves, associated with the state of "relaxed alertness" found in meditation. Take 100 to 200 mg one to three times daily.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), taurine, and glutamine: These are amino acids that calm down the nervous system and prevent overload. Glutamine (500 mg) by itself can also be used for nearly instant relief of cravings for sugar or alcohol. Take 100 to 500 mg of each daily.
Hops, lemon balm, and passion flower: These are traditionally relaxing herbs often included in combination in doses of 10 to 30 mg each in anti-anxiety and stress-relieving supplement formulas.
You can purchase all these nutrients individually or in various combination formulas at your health food store.
Add lifestyle enhancers such as meditation, exercise, massage, and other types of self care for a well-rounded anxiety-reduction program.