Anxiety

Woman experiencing anxiety and stress

Anxiety

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

Anxiety is a phenomenon that everyone may experience at some point in their life. However, some people can be affected more severely than others.  These disorders can be extremely distressing for the person and are considered to be a mental illness.

Anxiety Defined

Anxiety can be defined as a collection of symptoms that create discomfort that may be interpreted as panic or fear. These symptoms may include heart palpitations, heart racing, sweating, chest tightness, shortness of breath, fear, difficulty concentrating, shaking or trembling, worry, or a feeling of impending doom. The sense of fear can feel paralyzing both physically and mentally. Other physical symptoms may include digestive disorders like nausea or diarrhea and insomnia. Anxiety is often also associated with depression.
Some common anxiety disorder diagnoses are social anxiety, panic disorders, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). If any of these are interfering with your life, our naturopathic doctors can help.

Address the Underlying Anxiety Causes

Anxiety can often be helped by investigating a few key areas such as:

  • Diet – (though I’m sure you’ve already guessed this one!). The gut is also called the “mini-brain” and as such, there is a link between it and your other brain, again highlighting the importance of a good diet. Did you know that your gut makes more serotonin, your feel-good neurotransmitter, than your brain does?
  • Sleep – are you getting enough sleep and are you waking feeling refreshed? If not, there are natural treatments for insomnia that may help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
  • Stress – we all know the effect that stress can have on our mood.  Stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and psychotherapy can help.
  • Acupuncture – can help treat the cause of the problem. In Chinese Medicine, anxiety, especially if it’s associated with insomnia, can be caused by excess “Heat in the Heart”.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be used to help clear this excess heat.
  • Psychotherapy – talking about how you are feeling may be the last thing you want to do, and that’s ok. Just know that when you’re ready, talking to someone else may help.
  • Naturopathic Medicine – your naturopathic doctor will work with you to help manage your symptoms and help you treat the cause through scientifically proven diet, herbs, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. 

    What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

    From a naturopathic perspective, factors that either initiate, cause or aggravate anxiety and that can be fixed naturally include:

    1. Hormone imbalance, especially if the problem occurs or worsens around puberty, ovulation, menopause or premenstrually.
    2. Neurotransmitter imbalance – neurotransmitters are chemicals in your brain that influence how your brain works.  Dopamine, GABA and serotonin are key calming neurotransmitters. Providing the proper nutrients, we can help rebalance your neurotransmitters.
    3. Adrenal gland function.  The adrenal glands are your coping glands, if they’re not working well you don’t deal with stress as easily as you should. Chronic stress depletes the adrenal glands of key nutrients that they need to function normally, such as vitamins B5, B6, C, and the minerals zinc and magnesium.  We can counsel you on how best to replenish these nutrients and which herbs to use to help your adrenal glands.

Natural Therapies to help anxiety:

  1. Diet modifications
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Vitamins, minerals, enzymes
  4. Botanicals
  5. Exercise
  6. Good quality sleep

Natural Treatment for Anxiety Disorders Research:

Melatonin:

Hansen M, Halladin N, Rosenberg J, Gogenur I, Moller A. Melatonin for pre- and postoperative anxiety in
adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews . 2015;
DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD009861.pub2.
● This systematic review of 12 RCTs (774 patients total) comparing melatonin or placebo and/or
midazolam. When compared to placebo, melatonin (tablet or sublingual) reduced preoperative
anxiety. Melatonin may also be equally as effective as midazolam (standard treatment) in
reducing preoperative anxiety.

Lavender and Orange Aromatherapy:

Lehrner J, Marwinski G, Johren P, Deecke L. Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and
improve mood in a dental office. Physiol Behav . 2005; 86(1-2):92-5.

Gingko Biloba:

Woelk H, Arnoldt KH, Kieser M, Hoerr R. Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety
disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind,
placebo-controlled trial. J Psychiatr Res . 2007; 41(6): 472-80.
● After 4 weeks of treatment, a reduction in anxiety score of at least 50% was observed in 44% of
patients taking the highest dose (480 mg/day) – there is a dose-response relationship observed

Acupuncture:

4 weekly treatments of acupuncture were found to significantly lower anxiety levels in women undergoing in vitro fertilization.

–Source: Acupunct Med, 2012 April 12

Omega-3 fatty acids:

Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was found to lower inflammation and anxiety.

–Source: Brain Behav Immun, 2011 July 19

L-theanine:

Supplementation with L-theanine was found to reduce anxiety in adults.

–Source: J Physiol Anthropol. 2012 Oct 29;31(1):28. [Epub ahead of print.]

Antioxidants:

High serum levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamins A, C and E, were found to decrease anxiety and depression scores in patients.

–Source: Indian Journal of Psychiatry, July 2012