So you have anxiety, you use your coping skills to the best of your ability, and you don’t want to go on pharmaceuticals, but you still suffer. Does that mean you are out of luck in terms of giving your brain a little gentle support? No, not at all. There are good supplements that in many cases can help cool things down for you.
First and foremost, the usual disclaimer. Please recall that I am not a doctor and I do not play one on TV. This information is the result of my own studying and my experience with both myself and with clients. If you want to try something I talk about, you are responsible for your own decisions as a full fledged grown up. (And if you are not actually a grown up, then please go talk to the adult responsible for you before trying anything.) If you have any concerns, check with your doctor.
In fact, if you have Generalized Anxiety, that is anxiety that is pervasive over many parts of your life where you are always tense and worried about many things, you owe it to yourself to get a good physical exam. This is especially true if you never had it before, but now you do. Anxiety like symptoms can be caused by thyroid issues, adrenal gland issues, and only the lord knows what else. Get all the bloodwork done. Don’t forget that caffeine can really make it much worse.
The other thing I’m going to suggest is that if you decide to try any of these, choose a day when you don’t have to go anywhere or operate heavy machinery, like your boat. Until you’ve worked with a supplement, you don’t really know how your body will respond. I would start with the lowest dose, observe yourself, then you can add more if you need to. You want the lowest possible dose that gives you a therapeutic benefit. Unlike pharmaceuticals, there is no ‘standardized’ dosage for supplements. This is both a blessing and a curse. It truly means that it is completely up to you.
Okay, now for the good stuff. I’ve included some external links to sites that I think have good information, even if some of them sell products.
- L-Theanine – I love this supplement. Theanine is found in tea, both green and black, and has been studied combined with caffeine as a way to help people focus. It works for that, but without the caffeine it’s a good natural anti-anxiety. Here’s the caveat: you need to take it regularly in my experience. Unless you are taking it for a specific event, such as before a test or before leaving the dock, taking it regularly can allow you to reach a generally calmer state overall and give you more flexibility when something stressful happens. Anxiety is kind of like pain. Staying on top of it is your best bet. Once it spikes, it’s hard to bring it down. Try starting with 100 mg and rate your level of tension when you take it. After an hour, rate your level of tension again and see if it has gone down. Then take another 100mg, wait and hour, and do the same thing. This amino acid is safe, has few, if any, side effect, is cheap, and it works for many people.
- Catecholacalm – This supplement is designed for people who have had long term, chronic stress which has led to symptoms of anxiety due to adrenal fatigue. I first found out about it when a local naturopath prescribed it for a client who had classic symptoms of anxiety and was under a lot of chronic work stress. This stuff worked wonders for my client. I have since known several other clients to benefit from it. It’s a bit more expensive than the L-theanine, which it contains. 5-Htp – Sometimes anxiety is a symptom of low serotonin, especially if the person has many symptoms of depression as well. It is very common that depression and anxiety co-exist. There has been more interest in research on 5-HTP in Europe and Canada where pharmaceutical companies have less political influence. It’s actually a very good, well documented natural anti-depressant that increases serotonin. Interestingly, there is some research that indicates it helps with Panic Disorder. Most of the first line medications for anxiety, besides tranquilizers, are anti-depressants that increase serotonin. So it may be worth a try for you. As always, start with a low dose and work up.
- SamE – SamE is a very good stand-alone anti-depressant and will also work for anxiety as some of the same neurotransmitters are involved. It has also been shown to help SSRIs such as Zoloft to work better so people may be able to take a lower dose. The only problem with SamE is that it is expensive. Costco has a good brand and the best price. I generally suggest trying other, less expensive things first. But I guess you get what you pay for. It’s a good supplement. If you have bipolar disorder, you should definitely check with your doctor before taking this. SamE is powerful medicine. Too much is not a good thing. I really like this blog post about SamE. (That entire site is rich with information. Just excellent.)
This is certainly not an exhaustive list and is meant to give you a place to start if you are looking for ‘natural’ solutions to anxiety. Again, I include only those supplements with which I have personal and professional experience. Anxiety is often associated with other conditions that result from inflammation, so a well rounded supplementation with anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin e, fish oil, B vitamins and magnesium may help some people feel better. If you are kind of geeky and love information, this blog on Evolutionary Psychiatry is awesome. Where has it been my whole career?
In addition, there is ground breaking research on how our gut flora effect mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It’s been discovered that some of our gut bacteria actually produce serotonin. Low serotonin is indicated in many forms of anxiety, as well as depression. This is so exciting to me. The idea that the gut is our ‘second brain’ is something that gives me a lot of hope for treatment for future generations.
Join us tomorrow for the final post in the A to Z Challenge! If you want to read from the beginning, go here.