The National Institute for Mental Health website, a division of the NIH, states that over 18% of the American adult population suffers anxiety disorders each year. 46% of adolescents experience this debilitating condition between the ages of 13 and 18. It’s a silent epidemic which may be a windfall for the pharmaceutical industry but it’s wreaking havoc with individual and family wellbeing, productivity and healthcare costs.
New medications are continually being released into the market, but as time goes on it becomes more and more evident just how serious the side effects can be including severe withdrawal effects that can last for years in some cases. A growing body of research is showing that the use of some of these classes of medications significantly increase the incidence of premature death and greatly increased risk of falls in those who are older.
Fortunately there are a number of non-drug holistic or natural options which many have found to be highly beneficial.
L-Theanine is an amino acid extracted from green tea which has the capability to reduce cortisol production; the major fight or flight hormone. Very low levels are necessary for normal functioning, but higher levels should only be present when the body and mind are responding to a threat or stressor. Ongoing elevated cortisol typically causes anxiety, weight gain, increased inflammation and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. It has no sedating effect so it can’t cause drowsiness or reduced attention and focus.
L-Theanine takes thirty to forty five minutes to take effect and lasts for six to eight hours. I suggest testing 100mg in order to ensure you’re not one of the small percentage of people who don’t react well to it; oddly enough very low cortisol levels can cause feelings of anxiety as well. If there are no negative effects then 300mg can be taken as needed up to four times/day.
The effects of L-Theanine are not cumulative, so if no benefits are seen after a few tries, there is no point in continuing. This can be a useful tool for episodic anxiety or as a stop gap to provide short term relief while working to find more long term solutions. Taking L-Theanine long term is not harmful, but the body eventually adapts and it’s likely to lose its effect when used continually for extended periods.
The Equilib Nutrient/enzyme Protocol has been the go to natural or holistic solution for many dealing with anxiety or depression for many years. Since a simple but effective no cost support and symptom monitoring program is available to clients, EvinceNaturals, has been able to track the reported effects over more than a decade. Given the results recorded, they will provide a warranty for those who request it and enroll in the no cost support program. They reimburse the entire cost of materials if compliant participants do not show substantial benefits within eight weeks; with no requirements to return empty bottles etc.
This sophisticated compilation of amino acids, amino acid chelated minerals, plant nutrients, and vitamins in highly bioavailable forms along with broad spectrum live plant digestive enzymes (DigestPlus) has no direct drug like effect. Instead, it provides the basic building blocks in their most effective forms and appropriate ratios to make up possible metabolic shortfalls which may be caused by many factors. These include diet, emotional and/or physical trauma, digestive issues, chronic low level toxic exposures and some degree of genetic susceptibility. Given the benefits of a toll free no cost support program and a response warranty, this is high on my list of resources for dealing with anxiety, stress and/or burnout.
Use the power of your prefrontal cortex. We have a primitive part of our brain which is responsible for the basic and well know fight or flight reflex. This region known as the limbic system has no ability to reason or speak; it simply reacts. Unfortunately when the limbic system gets the bit between its teeth it starts charging off in all directions dragging the rest of the brain and body with it. This can cause the highly unpleasant symptoms associated with anxiety or panic attacks; feeling like you can’t get enough air, heart is pounding, dizzy and feeling like you might die. But, there is a useful brain hack.
When the limbic system receives a triggering mental, emotional or physical trigger it begins to produce what are known as anxiolytic chemicals. The prefrontal cortex which is the logical part of the brain can produce counteracting chemicals to reduce the distress experienced and greatly shorten the duration of the attack.
At the first sign of a panic or anxiety attack, grab those spiraling thoughts before they can get out of control. Acknowledge that it feels as though you can’t breathe etc. but at the same time continually repeat “I’m okay. This feels horrible but it’s just an anxiety/panic attack. I’m okay, it just feels like I’m not.”
It takes practice and needs to be done at the first sign of an attack but it’s a powerful tool to take control rather than just let the attack run its course. When in the grip of panic, blood flow to the prefrontal cortex or logical part of the brain can be reduced by up to eight percent as the limbic system grabs the reins. Utilizing this technique keeps more blood flowing where it’s needed; keeping the control in your hands, not the limbic system’s
Emotional Freedom Techniques are another useful tool. For many, negative thoughts, emotions or continuous self-critical automatic tapes running in the background are powerful drivers which trigger or make much worse feelings of anxiety or panic. Many of these have roots deep in the past that we may not even be consciously aware of; but our subconscious mind certainly is. EFT or “Tapping” uses focused thoughts and sequential acupressure points to remove the emotional power from our negative or painful thoughts and memories.
In my experience, combining the Equilib Nutrient/enzyme Protocol with EFT has been profoundly life changing. The Equilib Protocol provides the basic metabolic building blocks while EFT reduces the metabolic demand by removing the stressfulness of our memories. It’s rather like a power shortage with anxiety attacks or panic attacks being brownouts or blackouts. The Equilib Nutrient/enzyme Protocol provides more power to deal with the physiological demands and EFT is like an energy conservation retrofit.
Meditation is an ancient art which has received a growing amount of attention from researchers in the past few years. More and more people are joining groups to learn to meditate, practicing at home or using audio aids to shepherd the brain into a meditative state. When meditating effectively the mind goes into a slow brainwave pattern and thoughts outside the specific focus are excluded. This has a very calming effect and with time can help the brain find that calmness more frequently even when not meditating. It’s free or inexpensive and has benefits not only for anxiety but for long term cardiovascular health as well.
The synergy of combined modalities.
Each of the above tools work in different ways and each support the other. Any or all may be integrated safely to leverage the benefits. Unlike prescription medications for anxiety, none of the above can cause serious side effects including death or addiction and in my experience have been powerful.
David E P Gilbert
Funded Programs Administrator
Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8.
L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state.
Nobre AC1, Rao A, Owen GN.
Meditation – Mayo Clinic