|Posted on September 29, 2015 at 3:00 PM|
If you have followed my blogs the last few months, you know that I have battled this out of body experience that has been labeled as anxiety, or even social anxiety. It has been uncomfortable and at times, scary. If you read through my previous blog appropriately named, “un-cute life events”, you can see all the appointments I had gone to at that time. In short, I was having headaches, had a loss of energy, temporarily lost hearing in my right ear, was very dizzy, and beginning to experience panic in basically any social setting. My doctors seemed helpful, but at the end of the day, I felt confused and was handed xanax with little information or instruction on it, and told I was ok.
The last doctor’s appointment I went to my doctor noted that I needed to be on antidepressants for 1-2 years daily, and then she would attempt to wean me off it after that time. I didn’t accept that prescription and left in tears and more confused than ever. I’m in no way against doctors or medications. We have been dealt some hefty medical endeavors in our life and without our truly heroic doctor’s, my husband and I both would have not made it through. I think that depression and anxiety are very real things, and at times need more serious medications. I just knew that I was being brushed off from my doctors this go around. All I kept hearing was that it was “just anxiety”, but no real advice on what to do with that other than to medicate. I had so many aches and pains that were new each week, tension headaches that lasted weeks, very little energy, and I wanted to feel more confident in my medication decision but everything I read pointed me in a different direction. And quite frankly, I didn't have the energy to research on my own.
A family friend of ours is in medical school and read through all my blogs. He then emailed me his sympathy, encouragement, and advice. I am beyond grateful for the way he took the time to read my story and offer so much advice and ultimately a health plan to combat my anxiety naturally. We in no way are endorsed by this email!!! This is just his studies mixed with my anxiety that resulted in the hugest blessing! I am ecstatic to say, it is working. Like… Really working! Before I started this natural plan, I was on .25 xanax almost daily, if not daily, and if not more. That has been the case for the better part of this year. I’m now coming up on my 3 week “anniversary” of taking these supplements and I’m ecstatic to say that I’ve only had ONE .25 xanax in that entire time! I am praising the Lord for feeling like myself again, for these natural supplements bringing my health back, and for Jon taking the time out of his busy studies to care enough to help! Having a personalized “doctor” is pretty nice, so here we go sharing all the info with you! Welcome Jon…
Thank you Aly! It’s been an honor to be part of this rollercoaster of a healthcare adventure, and I really appreciate the opportunity to help share what we’ve done with others. Since we’re talking about health issues I do need to state for the record that I am not a doctor. I write this as a health and preventive medicine enthusiast who also happens to be in medical school. With that said, I can point you all to excellent resources and medical doctors who are more than qualified to cover this topic in detail. And that is my main goal. To share what seems to be helping Aly, answer/address any questions that you all may have, and most importantly point you towards some information that may be of great benefit to you or someone you know.
To further research all of the herbs/supplements mentioned here, www.examine.com/supplements is an excellent site that will tell you everything you could ever want to know, from how they work to clinical studies that have been performed.
Ok, first question for you Jon! I really love my doctor's and have always had so much respect for them. This seems to be a tricky topic though and I was frustrated by the responses I heard. What is your take on that?
Ya, before we get into the heart of this I definitely want to say to everyone who has been frustrated in their search for help from the medical community, I empathize with you. The medical community can do much better, especially when it comes to treating anxiety.
Most doctors are great people who work extremely hard to provide excellent care, but they are limited by a couple key things. First, the large shortage of primary care physicians in the US means that most need to see dozens of patients every day. They’d love to spend an hour fully exploring your unique story, but the constraints of the system make that nearly impossible. I assure you, many of them are discouraged by this reality as well. Most of them went into medicine to help people, not constantly live under the pressure of the clock. Second, doctors receive very extensive training about a vast array of diseases and medications, but little about nutrition, which is both sad and ironic because the majority of their time is spent addressing issues that are caused by nutrition and lifestyle problems. Though to be fair, especially since I will soon be one, by the time most doctors see a patient, immediate intervention is needed so that means they must spend most of their time focusing on those kinds of treatments.
The challenge with anxiety is that many factors can be involved and this makes it difficult to treat given the limitations I described. That is why I strongly believe that nutrition should be the initial focus. Once that is addressed, then we can start considering other options. But if we don’t correctly identify the root cause then we’re treating symptoms with powerful drugs that often come with significant side effects, and then it’s easy to get into a situation where more drugs are being prescribed to treat the side effects. So, nutrition first.
To further reinforce this, consider the following for a moment. Our bodies were beautifully and awesomely created, with millions upon millions of cells working together to allow you to be here right now. Your thoughts and emotions are the result of nearly unfathomably complex actions occurring every second. You and everyone you hold dear came from a couple microscopic cells. If you think the creation of the universe is amazing, consider yourself. It’s truly stunning. We are the result of nearly countless actions that happened in exactly the right order and magnitude. Your body knew how to do all of that. It’s kinda smart.
The practice of medicine is about stepping into this truly awesome world and modifying it. There are definitely times we must do this (genetic diseases, infections, trauma, etc.), but I also think that one of the best things we can do to heal the body is provide it with the resources, the nutrients, it needs to function as it was designed.
Such great insight! Thank you for shedding that light so that we can keep great appreciation for our doctors. I know with me, even though I felt like my "gut" (not a girly topic) was fine, you insisted we start there to help my anxiety. Can you explain that? And also explain what supplements you suggested I take?
Of course. My first goal with you was to see if your anxiety was related to not only your diet but also to the health of your gastrointestinal system. It may seem weird to link this to anxiety, but the medical community is quickly realizing that this system has a significant impact on overall health, especially the mind. The work in this area is largely being pioneered by Dr. David Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist who also has a background in nutrition. I encourage everyone to read his book, Brain Maker, in order to better understand this relationship. He does a much better, and more thorough, job than I can in explaining how nutrition issues can be related to not only anxiety but allergies, migraines, inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, and more.
So the first step was to add a really good multivitamin, a probiotic supplement, and a prebiotic fiber which is essentially a food source for the good bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal system. The purpose of these things is to ensure the body is receiving what it needs, and to restore the bacterial composition within the gut to healthy levels. For more information on this topic I again encourage people to read Dr. Perlmutter’s book, but the key point is that both good and bad bacteria live within our bodies and they can greatly impact our health, so it’s important that we consume foods that promote good bacteria and minimize the ones that tend to generate disorder and inflammation.
Second, we incorporated several herbal supplements that have been shown to help the body repair the damage that can occur with chronic anxiety from things such as excessive release of cortisol and other hormones. The herbs/supplements we used are Ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea, and Theanine. Most of these are categorized as “adaptogens”, substances that essentially help the body adapt to physical and mental stresses. I’ll explain a bit about each, and include links for each to an excellent site that will tell you everything you could want to know about them, including clinical studies.
Ashwagandha has been shown to decrease cortisol levels as well as boost levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is the main inhibitory/calming neurotransmitter. Of the three herbs I just listed, this one probably has the greatest anti-anxiety effect.
Rhodiola has been shown to be a potent anti-fatigue herb that also has the ability to reduce the biochemical markers of stress such as cortisol.
Theanine has been shown to have a calming effect without causing drowsiness. It’s mostly known for being found in green tea. It can also help boost levels of the neurotransmitter GABA.
To recap, my goal was to address possible root issues with nutrition, and help your body to essentially calm down. The body really is an amazing thing, and it’s usually incredibly good at regulating itself, but sometimes it gets out of balance and starts doing dumb things such as not correctly differentiating between minor everyday stressors and life-threatening situations. Adrenaline is great if you need to run away from a tiger; terrible if you’re simply in church with your family. My hope was that if we could get those physiological things under control, then Aly could more easily focus on addressing any psychological factors involved without fear that her body was going to freak out every time she left the house.
Are there any other supplements that could help?
There are definitely at least a couple more that have been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of chronic anxiety.
The most important is probably magnesium. Studies have shown that up to 80% of Americans are deficient, and it’s likely higher than this in those dealing with heightened anxiety because the increased cortisol release, among other things, can cause magnesium loss. It’s probably the most underrated mineral out there. Your body uses it for hundreds of essential reactions and even those who are very health conscious struggle to obtain the desired levels without a supplement.
The best form of magnesium is probably magnesium glycinate. The form is very important. The worst form, which is found in most magnesium supplements, is magnesium oxide. It’s often used as a laxative because the absorption rate is so terrible. Magnesium glycinate is absorbed very well, and even better, the magnesium is bonded to glycine which is another calming neurotransmitter. The recommended daily allowance is 300-400mg a day. If you start noticing the levels listed on nutrition labels you’ll likely find that you’re getting much less than this. Though magnesium glycinate has a really good absorption rate I wouldn’t go crazy with it. Start with 100mg morning and evening, with the goal of getting to 300-400mg a day.
Bacopa Monnieri, another “adaptogen”, has also been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety as well as improve memory after 2-3 months of use. The two most popular, and effective, herbs for treating anxiety are probably Bacopa and Ashwagandha.
I definitely suggest that all caffeine sources be eliminated until the symptoms of anxiety are completely under control, but if/when you reach that point and would like something with a stimulant effect, I think that green tea will probably be your best friend. The theanine that it contains is probably the reason why many people, including myself, prefer it to coffee. It helps keep me awake and focused without the jittery feeling.
Lastly I will have Jon list the links to each supplement he has shared about. For the last 3 weeks I have been on the women’s multivitamin that he shares below, (2 in am, 2 in pm), one scoop of the prebiotic mixed in juice every am, ashwagandha, (1-2 in am, 1 after lunch or before bed), rhodiola rosea (1 in am, 1 after lunch), one Theanine in the morning, and one probiotic every morning. I have also been taking two magmind every morning, a magnesium supplement, but am switching to the one Jon suggests below.
I’m shocked by the lack of panic and gained energy I’m experiencing. Before, shopping was an overwhelming task, and just this last week I went into two different stores without even thinking about anxiety and praised God when I left and realized it! Truly thankful and excited about all my results! Thank you Jon for taking the time to share all of this information with me, and with any readers who have also dealt with anxiety! Please feel free to comment below with any thoughts or questions you have for me or Jon. He would be excited to answer those for you! God bless everyone!
You are so welcome Aly! And to everyone else, I will do my best to address all questions posted in the comments section. In watching how anxiety has affected Aly and her family I have a much better appreciation for how much this can affect nearly every area of life, so I will make the time to help and at the very least point you in the right direction.
Can you share the exact links of the products you have shared about?
Multivitamin – Garden of Life.
Prebiotic – Now Foods.
Probiotic - Hyperbiotics
Ashwagandha – Organic India.
Bacopa Monnieri – Swanson.
Rhodiola Rosea – Now Foods.
I suggest starting with these before adding additional supplements. If you feel good/stable after 3-4 weeks then you may want to try the magnesium. Here is the one I suggest.
Magnesium Glycinate – Doctor’s Best.