Anxiety Part 2 – Nutrition and Homeopathy by Beth Landau-Halpern

From my observation, anxiety is a widely prevalent mental symptom – just about every client I see suffers with some sort of anxiety.  This runs the gamut from mild, transient, occasional anxiety, to crippling, overwhelming, truly debilitating anxiety.

Anxiety is what homeopaths often refer to as a “delusional state” – the emotion is generally not based on any rational fear or threat, but the perception and reaction is as real as if there were an actual threat or danger. The anxiety I hear about can be “situational anxiety” – nervousness about giving a talk, performing in public, attending a party full of strangers, driving on the highway, having a confrontational conversation, flying on an airplane, etc.  “Anticipatory anxiety” describes the nervous state before an event, particularly thinking about the event in advance of its happening. Other kinds of anxiety my clients experience are a free-floating sort of anxiety that is not associated with any situation, but washes over the mind – leaving the sense that something bad is going to happen to you, your children, someone you love. Anxiety can wake people out of their sleep for no apparent reason, or make it difficult to fall asleep in the first place. Some people suffer with panic attacks — severe anxiety that comes on suddenly, overwhelmingly, causing a totally debilitating state of terror.

There are many safe and effective natural cures that you can try for addressing your anxiety. Severe and/or chronic anxiety should be treated by a professional, but the cures listed below are useful for those suffering with common, everyday worry and anxiety.

DIET
The food you eat has an enormous impact on your entire function. It’s pretty simple: eating well will make you feel well, eating poorly will make you feel badly. However, it is actually more complicated than this. There is a brain-gut link that directly affects emotional function. In addition to the cerebral brain, there is an “enteric” brain in the gut; the two brains are

connected by way of the vagus nerve. 95% of the body’s serotonin (the feel-good hormone) is housed in the gut. Think about how your gut feels when you experience fear, anxiety, anger – the response is immediate and real. Given the intricate link between these two nervous systems, it makes perfect sense that the food you eat impacts the well-being of your gut as well as your emotional well-being.

 

Finding balance and equanimity is necessary for reducing anxiety – any foods that upset that balance must be avoided if you are seeking inner calm.

 

Foods to avoid if you are experiencing anxiety include the foods you should probably avoid in all cases – processed foods, fried foods, those with additives and preservatives, highly refined carbohydrates, sugar, and unhealthy fats. For purpose of being concise, let’s call these junk foods. Junk foods offer virtually no nutritional value and disturb your digestive system, your liver, and your endocrine system — in turn impacting your mood and increasing anxiety. Sugar and other highly process carbohydrates may give you a temporary high, but the crash that follows a peak in insulin and blood glucose releases stress hormones. Anxious people do not need extra stress hormones! You may think that a “treat” will make you feel better, but the long-term side-effects of eating this sort of food makes it not worth the indulgence.

Caffeine

Caffeine, in all forms, must be avoided entirely if you are suffering with anxiety. Whether it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks or carbonated sodas (both of which you should avoid as they are junk foods), caffeine is one of the major factors for increasing anxiety. You do not want to increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, or create a sense of restlessness and speed if you are already prone to being jittery with anxiety. The false sense of energy you get from caffeine (false because it’s transient and causes a plunge of energy soon after the high) creates a need to burn the energy off – NOW!  The effects of caffeine on your central nervous system linger long after the energy boost has worn off.

Alcohol

It is common for people suffering with anxiety to turn to alcohol to provide a gentle, socially acceptable sedative state. Again, while this may provide temporary relief, it will exacerbate your anxiety in the long run.  Alcohol is is a depressant, and can bring about depressive states, especially for those already emotionally challenged. But, even more importantly, alcohol will effect the quality of your sleep, making you more tired and anxious in the morning, and more likely to suffer from insomnia as well as increasing the likelihood of waking with anxiety during the night.

 

Foods Beneficial for Helping with Anxiety

A diet for anxiety should be a clean and optimally nutritious. There are some foods that are particularly beneficial for inducing calm.

Eat lots of tryptophan-rich foods. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter than makes you feel calm and happy. Foods that are rich in tryptophan include turkey (and chicken to a lesser degree), bananas, nuts, oats, milk, sesame seeds. A warm glass of milk before bed gained its sleep/calm-inducing reputation for a reason. Tryptophan is the reason you want to sleep after Thanksgiving dinner – that turkey is making you feel nice and relaxed.

Eating fermented foods(miso, tempeh, fermented vegetables, Kombucha,) is the best possible way to provide beneficial bacteria to your gut. Given the importance of gut health for addressing anxiety, it is essential that you provide your gut with these sorts of foods for optimizing its flora. Unsweetened, natural yogurt makes a nod in this direction, but fermented foods are much more efficient in supplying a generous dose of beneficial bacteria.

Magnesium is the great “calming” mineral. I discuss supplemental magnesium below, but foods rich in magnesium are the best way to optimize this mineral. The hulls of seeds (e.g. wheat bran, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds), nuts (especially brazil nuts, but also almonds, cashews, pine nuts), molasses and edamame are great sources of magnesium. Dark chocolate is a fabulous source of magnesium and an acceptable treat (in small doses) if you have sworn off sugar as suggested above. There is sugar in chocolate, and some caffeine, so be sure to limit your chocolate intake to a small square of minimally processed 70% or higher dark chocolate – and savor that magnesium!!

The B vitamins are actually a loosely related family of 12 vitamins, responsible for much of the body’s well-being, including mental stability and internal calmness. The benefits of supplemental B vitamins is discussed below, but as with any vitamin or mineral, getting as much as possible from your diet is optimal. Foods rich in vitamin Bs include meat (especially pork), fish and dairy. Potatoes have a large amount of B, as do legumes such as lentils and chickpeas. Broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, avocados are also all high in B vitamins.

Healthy fats, namely, the Omega-3 fatty acids, go a long way in relieving stress and reducing anxiety. People who feel depressed and stressed are often lacking in Omega 3s. Omega 3’s are found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. Grass fed beef and the dairy products from grass fed cattle are rich in Omega 3s. Most meat and dairy products, however, are from grain-fed cattle – producing unhealthy Omega 6 animal fats, which you are best to avoid, or limit severely.

 

SUPPLEMENTS FOR ANXIETY

Probiotics

Given the connection between abnormal gut flora and the central nervous system, optimizing gut flora is perhaps the first thing you should do to address any mental symptom, as well as provide general health benefits. The value of fermented foods for providing healthy bacteria to the gut is discussed above, but a wide spectrum probiotic can be beneficial as well. Be sure you get one that is refrigerated, includes multiple bacteriae strains with as high a bacteria count as possible.

GABA – or “gamma amino butyric acid,” an amino acid produced in the brain, functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It has a beneficial effect on anxiety by inhibiting the transmission of stress-related nerve impulses in the brain. Look for GABA combined with P5P (an active form of Vitamin B6), marketed as PharmaGABA for optimal results. (Interestingly, this form of GABA contains sugarcane fermented with the bacteria used to ferment vegetables such as cabbage for kimchi. Make note of my recommendation to eat fermented foods above.) Synthetic GABA requires much higher doses, and is not nearly as effective in addressing anxiety as the more natural PharmaGABA. Please note that if you try using synthetic GABA, you must also take B6 vitamins with this, as with any amino acid supplement.

L-Theanine, the calming amino acid, easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and stimulates the production of alpha brain waves — those associated with a state of relaxation. The result is a state of calm with mental alertness.  L-theanine also plays a role in stimulating the production of GABA. While drinking green tea has numerous health benefits, L-thEanine only represents 1-2% of the tea leave’s dry weight; so it would take a very large quantity of tea to constitute a physiological dose of L-thEanine. Standard adult dose of L-ThEanine is 100 to 200 mg per day. NB: also take vitamin B6 with this, as with all amino acid supplements.

Magnesium is the “calming mineral”. I discuss the benefits of a magnesium rich diet above, but additional supplementation with magnesium is a good idea for many people. Magnesium is easily depleted. Prolonged physical or emotional stress, pharmaceutical medications, fizzy drinks, excess dietary fats, salt, all deplete magnesium. While magnesium deficiency can be a factor in anxiety, it is also involved in hundreds of other biochemical reactions in the body, and optimizing this mineral is important generally for well being. Because magnesium is water soluble, it is easily evacuated from the body if there is excess – in urine and stool. Best practice is to take Magnesium Glycinate or Magnesium Taurate to bowel tolerance, starting with 100 mg at night and in the morning, and slowly stepping up the dosage (taking the larger amount at night as it is beneficial for sleep) until you have reached bowel tolerance.  It is important that you also take Vitamins D3 and B6 along with magnesium to optimize its effectiveness.

Niacin/Niacinamide – many people find this mineral extremely effective in reducing anxiety. Niacin needs to be stepped up slowly, starting with 50 mg taken with food three times daily, and gradually, over the period of a couple of weeks increased to up to two 500 mg tablets, three times a day. Niacin can cause a “flushing” of the face. An alternative to Niacin is niacinamide  — dosage of 500 mg, three to four times daily.

A B-complex Vitamin must be part of a comprehensive approach to anxiety. B-vitamins improve energy levels, reduce stress, and help the body deal with stress hormones in an efficient way. B-Vitamins also enable biochemical and enzymatic reactions necessary for conversion of brain chemicals into serotonin. These vitamins are grouped into a “complex” because they are usually found together in foods, and they perform best when in the company of other B-complex vitamins. Daily requirements and recommended doses are different for each member of this class of nutrients, but a 100mg complex is generally a safe place to start for addressing anxiety. B12 is of particular importance for regulating the function of the nervous system; additional amounts of this vitamin, taken sublingually,  may be required by some (and is essential for vegetarians).

HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS:
Passionflower and Valerian
are both useful for easing anxiety and assisting with sleep. A tea made from these herbs and drunk before bed is beneficial for insomnia due to anxiety. It can take a couple of weeks for results to be noticed, so don’t give up too quickly.


HOMEOPATHY FOR ANXIETY

 

Long-standing chronic anxiety responds very well to homeopathy, but needs the skill of a professional homeopath to prescribe and dose appropriately. However, fleeting, occasional, situational, acute anxiety also responds well to homeopathy, and is appropriate for self-prescribing. These remedies are also useful for anxiety that accompanies some illness (e.g. the anxiety that can come with food poisoning, ear infections, etc). There are 691 remedies listed for anxiety in the homeopathic material medica. That represents a breath-taking range of choice, with often hair-splitting differences between various remedies. Listed below are the remedies I consider most useful for acute anxiety, but there is always more to chose from, so contact a professional homeopath if you find these suggestions unsatisfactory for your condition.

ACONITE – This is the first remedy to think of for panic attacks. Anxiety comes on suddenly, violently. The person needing Aconite can look shocked, with staring glassy eyes. They are likely to be extremely distressed, difficult to console, and feel like they are about to die. This remedy is good to use before situations that bring on panic. Aconite is also useful for anxiety after a fright (witnessing an accident, seeing a scary movie, getting stuck in an elevator, etc). Ailments with anxiety that come on after exposure to extreme cold (coughs, ear infections, etc.) can respond well to aconite.

Give Aconite 30 or 200 as needed – often as often as every 10 minutes in cases of extreme panic, less often for ailments after fear. If using before an event, dose as suggested below for Gelsemium. Do not give more than 4 doses without a positive result – you probably need another remedy.

Arsenicum album – this remedy is good for anxiety that is accompanied by restless pacing and chills.  Arsenicum anxiety typically comes on between midnight and 2 am – waking in the night anxiety. People needing this remedy do not want to be alone, but they can also be difficult to look after as they tend to be demanding and particular in their state of illness.  This is the first remedy to think of for the anxiety that can accompany vomiting and diarrhea from food poisoning.

Give Arsenicum 30 or 200 as needed – often as often as every 10 minutes in cases of extreme anxiety. Do not give more than 4 doses without a positive result – you probably need another remedy.

Gelsemium  This remedy is of particular use in anticipatory anxiety; most especially in situations in which anxiety causes someone to seize up and freeze before giving a talk or performance. People needing this remedy can forget their lines, stutter, and appear paralyzed with fear. It is also useful for situations in which there is great apprehension about a coming ordeal.

 Take a single dose of Gelsemium 30 the night before the anxiety-producing event, and also take a water bottle with 4 pellets of remedy to the event, sipping on the bottle as needed. (You can add 4 drops of Rescue Remedy to this water bottle as well to make “worry water”). Argentum Nitricum – is another remedy useful for situational anxiety. People needing this remedy tend to tremble and have diarrhea before an ordeal. Like arsenicum, they can feel very hurried and restless internally, and find waiting in line, in a seat for an ordeal, or in a warm room almost impossible. Their anxiety is likely to be triggered by being in crowds, high places, or if late, but performing can also be difficult for those needing this remedy.

Take a single dose of Argentum Nitricum 30 the night before the anxiety-producing event, and then take a water bottle with 4 pellets of remedy to the event, sipping on the bottle as needed. (You can add 4 drops of Rescue Remedy to this water bottle as well to make “worry water”).

Bach Rescue Remedy

Not strictly a homeopathic remedy, but a combination floral tincture, this is a great little “remedy” for sudden circumstantial anxiety. This is excellent for taking the edge off unmanageable stress and anxiety. It can be used alongside any of the homeopathics mentioned above, or on its own. Use 4 drops directly on the tongue, or 7 drops in a little water or as part of a “worry water” combination with a homeopathic remedy.

 

 

 

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