Chromium for Anxiety

Chromium might be a good supplement for anxiety sufferers. As with all supplements the research to prove or disprove this theory simply does not exist, but there are reasons to link a chromium deficiency with anxiety.

Chromium is used by the body for the correct digestion of food and helps supply energy to the cells. A Chromium deficiency has been linked to:

  • Sugar metabolism problems
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • High cholestrol
  • Hardening of the arteries

Those deficient in Chromium might suffer anxiety as a direct effect of that, or as an effect of low blood-sugar, or being prone to blood sugar dips after large meals or prolonged gaps between meals.

Some time ago the most common form of Chromium in supplement form, Chromium Picolinate, got a bad reputation due to claims that it might be linked to cancer. These claims appear to have been refuted, at least for commonly used normal doses.

Some researchers believe that Chromium helps with atypical depression, of which anxiety is a common symptom, but others refute that saying there is no statistical evidence.

Statistical evidence is a thorny problem though. If a hundred people with anxiety are given Chromium and only one improves, and that is because that person is deficient in chromium, then the fact that that trial would show a negative outcome is irrelevant, if you too are deficient in chromium. There are two big problems with testing the efficacy of supplements. One is that not enough research is done as there are no patents and therefore no money to be made. The second is that everyone is different and symptoms, such as anxiety, can be caused by so many things the results are not necessarily helpful to the individual.


So is Chromium supplementation worth a try? Definitely. Speaking from personal experience, it definitely does have an effect on blood sugar and does seem to stop low moods and anxious feelings. On Chromium I simply feel less nervy.

Types of Chromium

Chromium Picolinate is the one to go for. In the USA I recommend Source Naturals Chromium Picolinate, 200 mcg, Tablets. In the UK/Europe I recommend Higher Nature Chromium Polynicotinate 90 tablets. But any reliable brand should be just as good.

Dose


For adults 100-200 mcg is the standard dose. I wouldn’t take more without professional advice.

Anxiety Depression

Anxiety and Depression go hand in hand, but the relationship between them though can be hard to understand. For some people, anxiety is the main problem and they become “depressed” as a result of the effect anxiety has on their life. Although unpleasant, this may be real clinical depression or a case of low mood, after all, if anxiety is messing up your life then it is appropriate and understandable to become upset about it.

Some people have clinical depression, which we can describe as having a persistent low mood with no identifiable reason (sometimes called melancholic depression), and others have atypical depression where mood can be effected by events and circumstances. Often, people with these kinds of major depression also feel anxiety.

It is not surprising that there is a link, after all the chemical causes of both anxiety and depression are somewhat similar. Both anxious and depressed peoples tend to have low levels of various neurotransmitters in the brain. They key neurotransmitter effecting both anxiety and depression is serotonin and many medications and supplements that are suitable for depression also effect anxiety and vice versa.

For instance, 5-HTP is a popular anti-depressant supplement but is also touted as a possible anxiety solution (and also an aid to insomnia and various other mood disorders).

The drug Xanax (alprazolam) is an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety drug) but its users that are also depressed often report a brief alleviation of depression symptoms. Interesting as Xanax works on GABA receptors which are not known as being directly related to depression. (I mentioned this here just out of interest, Xanax is not a suitable anti-depressant in most cases as it is highly habit-forming when taken over a long period of time.)

Mindfulness Meditation is one of the best solutions for anxiety and depression. The technique, which requires persistence, is easy to learn. I great start is the book The Mindful Way through  Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (USA), available also in the UK and Europe here. It comes with a CD with some mindfulness meditations on it and is written by Jon Kabat-Zinn, respected expert on using meditation to recover from anxiety, depression and stress related disorders.

Of course the classic anti-depressants, the SSRI’s like Prozac and Celexa, are often prescribed to people with anxiety and panic disorder, and with reasonably good results.

So the good news is that if you are suffering from both anxiety and depression the likely have the same cause and therefore the same solution.

How Physical is Anxiety

I recently read about a woman who had a mental disorder and was trying to come to terms with the possibility she had been abused as a child. As I read I became angry at the arrogance of psychology. The idea that everything we feel has a psychological basis is accepted not because it’s true, but because it has been repeated until everyone was brainwashed.

While psychological theories are cute and seem to make sense, they are very hard to prove. That doesn’t mean they are wrong and have no use whatsoever, but it does mean they should be considered alongside other ideas and theories.

It is strange that, for example, when a woman is pregnant or menstruating we are perfectly happy to accept that those physical and hormonal changes are having an emotional effect. But the idea of a physical issue having emotional symptoms is not one which is universally accepted, and psychologists are the keenest deniers of all! Psychologists don’t like to talk about the effect for example a vitamin deficiency can have on our emotions, or how an otherwise unrelated long term health concern can cause panic attacks or depression.

We need to free ourselves from psychology and look at the whole picture. That is all I am saying.

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If you are interested in underlying physical causes of anxiety then Killing Anxiety From The Roots will interest you.

Depression Panic Attacks

Depression and Panic Attacks can often be linked. There is a simple reason for this and that is that low levels of the neurotransmitter Serotonin can lead to both depression and panic attacks.

What’s more, people who suffer from panic attacks often find themselves placing restrictions on their lives. For example someone who experiences panic attacks may become to a greater or lesser extent agoraphobic. Agoraphobia being basically a fear of panic attacks.  If you start to fear things that you used to do easily you may well become depressed and frustrated.

So depression and panic attacks might coexist because of the same cause, or because one leads to the other.

Certainly, the treatment you choose for one would most likely effect the other. For example SSRI anti-depressants like Celexa/Citalopram are often used to treat panic disorder, although the dose may need to be altered to be effective for panic.

Likewise, a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) will teach you how to think more rationally and not be afraid of the symptoms of panic attacks. The same techniques can happily be applied to depression and the negative thought trains which surround it.

So basically establishing the link between panic attacks and depression is not really necessary for effective treatment.

Anxiety Diet

Anxiety diet is much like any other diet, you get out from it what you put in and you need to persevere to see results: less anxiety and a feeling of calmness and wellness. A diet that is good for anxiety is also a good depression diet; the two problems having related chemical/biological causes causes.

The important components of an anxiety diet:

Don’t over eat. Being bloated and full puts pressure on the diaphragm and lungs and makes breathing harder. Better to eat slowly and stop when you start to feel full. Also chew the food thoroughly – this is kinder to your stomach and allows you to get more nutrients.

Don’t under-eat. You need food and without regular eating your blood sugar will drop and this makes anxiety, panic and depression all the more likely.

Eat breakfast. Breakfast improves your mood and gets you off to a good start.

Don’t eat too much sugary food. Blood sugar rises are followed by blood sugar dips, which as I have already said lead to low mood and anxiety.

Don’t cut the Carbs! You need carbohydrates to fuel your body and promote Serotonin levels in your brain. Diets like the Atkins diet that rely heavily on protein are probably not going to make you feel better and may make you feel a whole lot worse.

Try to follow the normal healthy diet rules: fresh fruit and veg and less refined foods and bad fats! It is important to eat some fat though, good fats can be found in things like extra virgin olive oil and of course fish oil.

Eat fish regularly and supplement with a good quality Omega 3 oil. Read this post on why omega 3 is important for anxiety.

Tryptophan Anxiety Depression Cure

Tryptophan for anxiety and depression is now being touted as one of the best natural anxiety cures you can buy. It is always hard to know if something like Tryptophan is effective or not because it is not marketted by big pharma companies and is therefore not widely researched.

Hydroxytryptophan, to give it its full name, is an essential amino acid which the body cannot produce itself and therefore needs to find through diet or supplement. There are many food sources but you can buy a supplement in most countries called L-Tryptophan.

Tryptophan is thought to be useful as a treatment of anxiety and depression (and other mood disorders) because it is a precursor to Seratonin. Your body uses Tryptophan to make Seratonin which is one of the most important neurotransmitters effecting mood. It also makes Melatonin, which helps control sleep.

Common dietary sources are things such as egg, cod, soya and some cheeses and some meats. Turkey is always said to be high in Tryptophan, but actually cod has more per kg. While many people get enough through their diet others do not. It is hard for Tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier because it has to compete with other amino acids. The best way round this is to eat some carbohydrate with the Tryptophan, which will release insulin which helps Tryptophan’s passage into the area of the brain where it is needed.


It is hard to say if Tryptophan works as an anxiety cure or a depression cure. Certainly many people find that carbohydrates make them relaxed which is likely due to elevated Seratonin levels in the brain. If that strikes accord with you then maybe supplementing is worth a try.

In may be better to supplement with Tryptophan than with its nearest neighbour 5-HTP, which has a habit of converting to Seratonin outside the brain and is thought to cause heart valve damage. The only real way to know if Tryptophan works for anxiety is to try it!

NLP The Promise of Salvation from Anxiety

NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming to give it its full moniker, has been around for several decades now and seems to promise the world to anyone with issues from anxiety and depression to anorexia and poverty. Does NLP work? I have blogged about this elsewhere.  There is a lack of peer reviewed evidence that NLP is effective, this may in part be due to the fact that lots of peer reviewed journals are too snobbish to cover NLP. Certainly mainstream medicine and psychology don’t like NLP. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t work however.

Well, in my own opinion and experience some aspects of NLP are very useful tools for anyone who is suffering from some negative emotions be they anxiety or anything else. Changing how we see pictures in our mind can alter the way we feel about past events and future events that are worrying us. Changing how we hear the voices in our heads, where they come from and what they sound like can alter how much we believe of what we tell ourselves. Taking the feelings in our bodies and concentrating on them, seeing how they seem to move within us and then speeding up or slowing that movement down, or changing its direction. All of these things can have a profound effect on our mood because how we feel physically within ourselves, what images we see and what we tell ourselves are basically what makes up our mood.

You could spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds on learning NLP from a qualified and certified practitioner, they really know how to charge and finding a good one can be tricky. The great thing about NLP though is its simplicity. You really can learn it from a book.

Let me say a slightly less positive word about NLP practitioners. Lots of them are now selling what they call ‘breakthrough’ sessions. These are day long sessions that they say will cure you of anxiety or whatever brings you to them. I have been quoted anything from £800 to £2000 pounds for this day long session. It is in my opinion not worth doing. The skills you can gain from NLP can be learnt far cheaper from a book such as that described above. The eight hour long session, although it may be full of promises, is probably not going to be very helpful and like all therapists NLP practitioners know how to make money from people that are suffering from anxiety and other problems. They also know how to promise a money back guarantee without ever having to give money back. The last thing I would add is that Breakthrough sessions rely a lot on timeline therapy. I am very cynical about regression type therapies and am still waiting to hear from one single anxiety sufferer who was cured by releasing negative emotion from the past. My advice: avoid.

Omega 3 and Anxiety – More Info

Since my last post on Omega 3 Oils and anxiety I have been continuing my research and I have found some more useful information. One study quoted here found that supplementing with over a gram of EPA a day was as good as a SSRI for depression, but only really worked on patients that had depression (unipolar) without anxiety. For patients with anxiety and depression the omega 3 supplement was no better than a placebo or dummy pill.

This is interesting as it suggests that omega 3 oil is not the answer some thought it was. This is at odds with a reasonable amount of literature (but perhaps not much hard science) that suggested omega 3, and EPA in particular was a useful supplement for anxious people. Certainly some suppliers of high strength fish oils state on their websites that their product is a potential treatment for anxiety.
So should anxiety sufferers abandon Omega 3 and look elsewhere for nutritional solutions to anxiety? Not necessarily. The above mentioned study focussed on depressed patients over just two months. Others have hypothesised that treatment with omega 3s needs to be ongoing, but that improvements would show after three to six months. Could it be that the patients with both anxiety and depression needed more than two months? After all, omega 3s are the building blocks for important parts of our brain and nervous system, and years of neglect can’t be remedied in a day.

So I would still suggest investigating Omega 3 supplementation as a potential anti-anxiety supplement. The medical establishment does not fully understand the role of fish oils and omega 3s.

Posture anxiety and stress

In this post I want to talk a bit about posture…not the kind of Victorian deportment stuff, although that does come into it. What I really want to talk about is the link between posture and how we feel…I think there is in fact a much greater link than people realise.

Firstly, let’s get down to some basic physiology and anatomy…your spine carries all the nerve messages from your brain to the rest of your body, this includes parts of your body which are very important to your mental health, such as your stomach (which in itself produces neurotransmitters although medical science is not entirely sure why) and your adrenal glands. Your spine is very important and you need it to be functioning properly. A poorly aligned spine, brought on by bad posture, can put pressure on your spinal column and cause it to work less efficiently. It’s not just back pain you have to worry about, it’s also anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress and tension headaches, panic attacks etc.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can blame all your emotional problems on poor posture, but it may well be a (significant) part of the problem. And solving posture problems can be a great help towards feeling better.

So, how does one go about improving posture? You can of course seek the help of an osteopath or a chiropractor, and this should definitely be done if you are experiencing pain or have serious postural difficulties.

If however you want to feel more confident and relaxed, and have less anxiety and stress, sleep better and improve your mood, then some simple posture exercises might help you get into the good habits you need re-acquire.

Try standing in front of a mirror. Gently push your shoulders back and down, don’t force anything or push to the point of pain or discomfort. Next, push your hips forward, again, don’t exaggerate it, just push them forward so your bottom is tucked in. Now, without pushing your chest out like a sergeant-major, try to imagine your ears becoming aligned with the centre of your shoulders, hips and ankles, so they all pass through one vertical line.

Now, imagine your body is a string of pearls. Imagine that the top pearl is being held up, this is your head. Imagine it floating up to the ceiling, pulling you taller. As before, don’t force anything and stay within what is comfortable, good posture takes time and practice. So as your head floats up, imagine the rest of your body as the other pearls, pulled gently towards the ground by gravity.

Hold this position for as long as feels comfortable, but more importantly come back to it in your daily life as often as you can imagine, as you walk, work, sit and eat. The more you do it the more habit-forming it will be and the better your posture will become.

rimonabant – Risks too high

Rimonabant (also known as Acomplia) is a drug which is used to treat obese patients with a risk of developing diabetes.

As I blogged about a month or so ago, the drug is considered controversial. There is now evidence to suggest that one in every ten people that take the drug suffer from some kind of psychiatric side-effect.

We say this is too high! Mental health issues are not taken seriously enough, and any drug which has this much potential to cause psychiatric side-effects should be banned (as it is already in the USA).

Treating diabetes and obesity related cardiovascular disease is important, but not at the risk of causing suicidal thoughts, depression, and, in one known case, self-harm.

It is time for some joined up thinking when it comes to medication which effects how our brain functions. The organisations and bodies that licence drugs need to be better prepared to stop harmful drugs reaching patients. This habit of stopping drugs which have now been used , and done harm, for some time has to be replaced by a more efficient system.