While millions of Americans suffer regularly from anxiety disorders, most of them do not seek or receive appropriate treatment. While prescription medications are available, they may come with undesirable side effects including a risk of dependency. There are many natural alternatives that may work for treating anxiety.
When considering supplemental support for anxiety, it is helpful to consider the specific circumstances that surround the primary symptom of concern. These include the age, gender and general health of the individual as well as the nature of any medications and supplements they are already taking.
We must also consider the timing, frequency, and severity of the symptoms. This information can be key to selecting the correct approach.
Nutrients – The Foundation of Health
Proper nutrition is paramount to a healthy life. There are several essential nutrients that are necessary to peace of mind.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 long-chain fatty acids are a critical component of brain tissue, as well as precursors to anti-inflammatory hormones. Inflammation in the brain is associated with attention deficit disorders, depression, and anxiety and may contribute to dementia.
Cholecalciferol is a pro-hormone that has profound regulatory effects on our bodies. It acts as a catalyst for the production of many chemistries which can affect our metabolism, mood and immune system.
Critical to over 300 processes in the body, magnesium has a calmative influence in the nervous system allowing the brain and the body to relax.
Herbs – Nature’s Little Helpers
Given the stresses of modern life, even the best diet may not be all that is necessary. There are numerous herbs that can be of assistance, each having unique benefits. Calmatives are gentle herbs that can subtly shift our mood towards a more centered, peaceful state. Adaptogens balance our stress response by acting on the nervous system to improve our reaction to stressors and may increase energy and improve mood.
- Lemon balm
- Holy basil
- Siberian Eleuthero
There are several additional supplements that may support cognitive function and emotional wellness but are not considered “essential.”
An inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms the mind and balances the stimulant effect of glutamate (the primary excitatory neurotransmitter).
An amino acid that promotes calm, focus and a meditative state and blocks expression of glutamate
Essential oils have been used for centuries to enhance mood. Diffusing oils into a room where one is working or sleeping may be a helpful step in coping with persistent anxiety. These oils tend to have clarifying/lightening citrus or warming notes.
- Ylang ylang
Anxiety and Sleep
Sleep disorders are a common challenge, leading people to seek out strong sedatives as a remedy. While sedatives may act to induce sleep, they do not necessarily ensure truly restorative slumber. It may be more helpful to employ calmatives prior to bedtime in cases of chronic anxiety. By lowering levels of stress chemistry, we can allow physical fatigue to inspire restful sleep. Some useful items include l-theanine, l-glycine, magnesium and lemon balm.
Inflammation – a hidden source of anxiety?
One mechanism which may play a role in anxiety is chronic inflammation. When we experience tissue trauma, inflammation is a necessary first step in responding to the injury. However, if inflammation is not resolved in a timely manner, we can experience an elevated expression of glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter. When glutamate levels increase, we tend to experience anxiety, restlessness or sleeplessness.
While it is possible to suppress glutamate directly by supplementing with l-theanine, it is ultimately in our best interest to resolve inflammation so that we can return to normal tissue tone and a better balance of neurotransmitters.
Turmeric can be quite helpful in this scenario, as it is a well-known anti-inflammatory and may have benefits for mood and cognition as well.
Special Considerations for Children
While there are many supplements marketed towards and dosed for adults, there exists a need to address childhood anxiety in a safe and effective manner. Fortunately, there are various options available, including liquids, chewables, and teas. Relevant supplements include l-theanine, chamomile, lemon balm, and GABA.