It is estimated that one in two people frequently experience anxiety with symptoms including headaches, muscle tension, stomach problems, dry mouth, excessive perspiration, rapid breathing, racing heart, shortness of breath, irritability, insomnia and fatigue. Chronic anxiety and stress damages your body, as it is constantly put into a state of emergency where the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol are pumped through the body.
Adrenalin would normally be produced when your brain detects a threat to your survival. It throws the body into the “fight or flight” response where blood pressure is increased, blood is pumped away from the digestive system into the muscles, respiration increases and more blood is pumped into the brain. All of this is fine when an emergency, life threatening situation needs to be dealt with and your body makes good use of the stress hormones. However, your brain has no way of evaluating your anxious thoughts, it perceives any anxiety as a danger signal and so releases adrenalin.
Chronic Anxiety and worrying compromises your health. Your immune system may become suppressed and your body is unable to carry out it’s normal “rest and repair” functions, so you may experience tiredness, generalised unwell feelings and still more anxiety as you wonder what is wrong with you.
Sometimes, people turn to alcohol and “recreational” drugs such as cannabis to help them relax and let go of their anxiety. These drugs promote GABA, which the body uses to help reduce excess cortisol and adrenalin and calm you down. The problem with alcohol and cannabis is that although these substances temporarily raise GABA levels, they have the effect of lowering them over time, so that after a session of drinking, GABA levels become very low and you wake up feeling mentally tired, grumpy and irritable. The net effect is that in the long run, alcohol makes you more anxious not less. The same is essentially true for cannabis, which if habitually smoked reduces drive and motivation
Doctors may prescribe tranquillisers such as Valium, Librium and Ativan to help control anxiety. Unfortunately, these drugs are highly addictive and the more often you take them, the more often you need them to get the same effect and without them you can get rebound anxiety and insomnia.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Vitamin B complex||Supports the nervous system||25-100mg daily|
|5-HTP||Helps to raise serotonin levels which lifts the mood and is also calming.||50-100mg 3 times daily.|
|Magnesium||Works with calcium to ensure proper nerve impulse transmission.||200-600mg daily|
|Omega 3||Needed for proper brain function and nerve impulse transmission.||2-10gm daily|
|Glycine||May be beneficial to calm nerve impulses.||500-2000mg daily on an empty stomach|
|Chamomile||Traditional remedy for calming restlessness.||500mg 3times daily|
|Hops||Sedative and nerve soothing, combines well with valerian and passiflora.||500mg 3 times daily|
|Passiflora||Calming and relaxing, mild pain relieving.||500mg 3 times daily|
|Valerian||Useful for restlessness, insomnia, nervousness and hysteria.||500mg 3 times daily|
|St John’s Wort||A natural anti-depressant.||500mg 3 times daily|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Avoid all sources of caffeine. Drinks such as tea, coffee and cola drinks, chocolate, guarana and thermogenic supplements for weight loss. Caffeine stimulates the production of adrenalin and is best avoided. In addition the problem with stimulants such as coffee is that they are addictive and the more that you drink the more the body needs to feel normal. This contributes to even higher levels of anxiety in the long run.
In order to ensure that your brain gets a steady supply of glucose it is important to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and processed breakfast cereals as these cause a sudden surge in blood sugar levels. The surge in energy is followed by a drop as the body attempts to rebalance.
Keep blood sugar levels stable by eating wholefoods such as wholegrains, lentils, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables and combine protein foods with carbohydrates by eating cereals and fruit with nuts and seeds and ensuring you eat starch foods (potato, bread, pasta or rice) with fish, lentils, beans or tofu.
Include oats, bananas, lettuce and oily fish in your diet.
Learn stress management techniques including relaxation and breathing.
Exercise regularly to promote the production of serotonin and try yoga or tai chi.
Read Stress Free Forever for more information and self-help tools to help you let go of stress and anxiety.
Acupuncture has also been shown to be effective in treating anxiety.
Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)
Suggested Further Reading: