General Anxiety Disorder can include panic attacks. In truth, the various labels given to anxiety in its various guises are not very useful. For some reason psychologists and doctors like to divide anxiety in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder. The fact is, you feel what you feel and experience what you experience, and many people with anxiety also get panic attacks.
It is not surprising that anxiety and panic go hand in hand, they tend to have the same causes with a panic attack just being an extreme extension of anxiety. Ultimately anxiety and panic attacks tend to come down to low serotonin, low GABA, hyperventilation, vestibular dysfunction and trauma. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder tend to have some of those and may even, if they are very unlucky, have both.
If you have anxiety disorder and are suffering from panic attacks it is a good idea to look at your breathing, Many people find they are suffering from Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome.
It is also worth looking at all physical causes of anxiety, Killing Anxiety From The Roots has a lot of information on that.
You might also want to have a look at how much tryptophan you get in your diet as this can effect how much serotonin your body can produce. You could also think about the Amino Acid supplements that can raise your GABA level, which is essentially trying to do naturally what Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax to artificially. Which is basically to stop anxiety and panic attacks by raising GABA.
Insomnia is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorder – it is also one which is easy to treat. There are several different kinds of insomnia:
- Having trouble falling asleep
- Falling asleep but waking up frequently or too early
- Sleeping a reasonable length of time but waking un-rested.
Each of those types of insomnia are a major inconvenience to life and they can all both cause and be exacerbated by anxiety. That’s right, insomnia can cause anxiety.
The exact function of sleep is not fully understood, but when we sleep our nervous system recovers from the day and prepares us to be capable of dealing with more stress. If that vital sleep is disrupted or is not of sufficient quality then we tend to find ourselves more on edge and irritable. For a day or two it doesn’t matter, but over time this can descend into anxiety disorder.
Equally, anxiety causes insomnia because for peaceful, restful sleep we need both physical and mental relaxation. And with anxiety physical and mental relaxation can be hard to find.
There are many weird and wacky insomnia remedies out there, but I recommend the following:
- Drink a herbal tea to relieve anxiety. Chamomile or lemon balm are probably best.
- Go to bed early and get up early. Sleeping during the hours of darkness is the natural way, and waking early sets up your sleep cycle for better sleep quality.
- Practise relaxation techniques for the mind and the physical body.
- Avoid all caffeine including chocolate.
- Eat a complex carbohydrate to increase your serotonin levels.
- Consider using tryptophan or 5-HTP.
If you experiment with these tips you should be able to make great progress with your sleeping.
The best way to cure anxiety and panic attacks naturally is to look for the cause of the problem. The medication doctors prescribe, as well as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) works by treating the symptom and not the cause. The natural approach should be more solution focused: it’s kinder to your body, works better and makes anxiety history sooner.
So how do you cure anxiety and panic attacks naturally? In an ideal world you would discover the cause of anxiety and treat it accordingly. In reality no two people are the same and figuring out what causes anxiety inside you is not easy. That means you are left with a process of trial and error, and more often than not it will be a combination of things that ultimately cures you of anxiety.
You need to examine yourself in these areas:
It is possible that you are not producing enough serotonin due to a tryptophan deficiency. You could try a 5-HTP supplement. Or maybe you need an amino acid boost to raise your GABA levels. Naturally balancing your brain chemistry is much better than taking anti-depressants and is much more of a permanent solution.
In this day and age it is easy to become deficient in vitamins and minerals. It is easy to correct these deficiencies but you need to be careful that you don’t overdose. You should pay particular attention to calcium and magnesium as well as Vitamin D. These vitamins and minerals can have a surprising effect on our psychological well-being.
Balance. A surprising amount of anxiety and agoraphobia is caused by balance problems. Very slight vestibular disorders (disorders of the inner-ear) can cause panic attacks in wide open spaces and supermarkets (typical of agoraphobia). While psychologists might still insist that these problems have their roots in childhood memory, science is moving on and finding many non-psychological causes of anxiety. Killing Anxiety From The Roots has a lot of information on this.
Chronic Hyperventilation is linked to anxiety as a cause and symptom of anxiety. It is essential to practice good breathing everyday and this will pay dividends in a short time.
Calcium is a surprisingly important nutrient for anxiety sufferers. Amongst all the medication that is available for anxiety it is easy to forget the simple remedies, which might actually be treating the core of the problem and not just the symptoms. Calcium is something you should not ignore.
Calcium is a surprisingly powerful tranquilizer. It helps calm the nervous system and therefore the mind. Also, anxiety, irritability and nervousness are symptomatic of calcium deficiency.
The full extent of Calcium’s anti-anxiety powers are not totally understood, but it is also thought that Calcium effects our serotonin level, which would explain some of the calming effect.
Correcting calcium deficiency is generally pretty easy. You can boost your intake of calcium by eating dark green leafy vegetables lice spinach, and also other vegetables like broccoli. You can also by supplements, and some nutritionists recommend up to 1000 mg a day. If you are going to supplement you should also make sure you get sufficient Magnesium, as Calcium and Magnesium work together and it is important to keep the two in balance. Also make sure you get enough Vitamin D (read the post Vitamin D and Anxiety), which in itself is useful against anxiety.
Nutrient deficiencies, such as with calcium, and other physical factors, can be part of the root cause of anxiety. If you are interested in the non-psychological causes of anxiety then Killing Anxiety From The Roots will be on interest to you.
Let’s examine the link between Vitamin D and anxiety levels. Today the Scottish government issued guidelines on Vitamin D as people in that northern country lack sufficient levels through the winter months. Obviously people in other northern countries such as the USA and Canada, or anywhere with a gray winter might be at risk as well. The guidelines were aimed at cutting rates of cancer and multiple sclerosis (both linked to Vitamin D deficiency), but it got me thinking to how Vitamin D is also important for anxiety sufferers.
This post continues below:
Why Does vitamin D work for Anxiety?
Vitamin D carries out a number of important functions that affect neurotransmitters in the brain. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is often lacking in people with anxiety and depression, is thought to be increased by Vitamin D, as possibly are other neurotransmitters such as Dopamine. Importantly Vitamin D is also used by the body in the uptake of calcium (read about calcium and anxiety here) and magnesium, both of which are essential nutrients for anxiety sufferers and potentially lacking from our diets. To get enough Vitamin D you should get fifteen minutes if sunlight every day (being careful not to get burnt). As long as you are careful and the sun is not too hot you should be safe. You can also find Vitamin D in oily fish (also good for anxiety) and often in milk (if it has been fortified). You could also consider supplementation. Dosage is hard to suggest and many experts are divided. Ranges of 400 IU to 50,000 IU have been recommended but normal healthy adults shouldn’t need anything like 50,000 IU and at any rate you shouldn’t go for more than 1000 IU without speaking to a doctor as Vitamin D toxicity is a problem. How much is too much? This post on Vitamin D Overdose is quite interesting. You can buy good quality Vitamin D online.
Valerian Root has been used as a natural anxiolytic for centuries – calming anxiety in times of stress. Like most Anxiety Herbs, Valerian has not been subjected to the same thorough testing and research that medication has been, so it is hard to be definite about whether or not it works.
On the one hand, it’s so harmless that the scientific proof doesn’t matter; take it and see what happens, very few people suffer side-effects and even if they do they are mild and pass quickly.
Personally, I find Valerian quite effective at calming me down and bringing a sense of well-being over me. It takes about half an hour to work but just the taste of it in my mouth feels calming, almost at once. That is no doubt the placebo effect at work!
I prefer Valerian tincture. It is a little more expensive than the tablets or caplets but it gets absorbed faster and ten drops in a glass of water (warm or cold) actually tastes pretty good. You can also take Valerian as part of a combination of herbal remedies for anxiety and Seredyn is one of the more popular.
In the USA I recommend Vitamin Shoppe – Valerian Root Extract.
In the UK HealthAid Valerian Root Liquid (tincture) is a good brand to try.
Also read: Anxiety Disorder Herbal Remedies
While there have not been definitive clinical trials, Theanine probably does calm anxiety and promote relaxation through stressful events and times. I last blogged about Theanine for anxiety some time ago. On that post someone commented that:
Under my doctors supervision, I was able to wean myself off of Ativan. I have been on L-Theanine since January and I am very happy with the results. Most days, I only take 100 mg but during periods of stress, I increase it to 200 mg. I have also found that a 100 mg dose before as stressful event (such as performing before a live audience!) helps a great deal.
This kind of response to Theanine is quite common. It is not as noticeably powerful as the benzodiazepine class of drugs, such as Valium and Xanax, however that is one of its benefits: instead of feeling spaced out, sleepy or “high”, you feel pleasantly alert but more relaxed.
There has been some research done, mostly in Japan where the main source of Theanine, green tea, is the national drink. In a study where participants took either 50mg or 200mg of Theanine it was found that more Alpha Waves were produced.
In one study of these mental responses to L-theanine, brain wave topography showed that alpha waves were observed from the back to the top of a person’s head (occipital and parietal regions of the brain) within approximately 40 minutes after the subjects had taken either 50 or 200 mg of L-theanine. In a separate study, the intensity of alpha waves were determined to be dose dependent (with a 200 mg dose showing a significant increase over controls) and detectable after 30 minutes.
The alpha wave state should be pleasantly calm and for people that suffer from anxiety it should be a refuge. Because Theanine’s effects are quite gentle it might not be strong enough to tackle the most voracious anxiety. There is only one way to find out.
Luckily, Theanine has a very good side-effect profile. The best way to get it is through supplementation . You can just drink Green Tea but you need to drink a lot, eight cups a day. Green tea also contains caffeine which might over-excite you in those quantities.
I recommend trying 200mg and seeing how you feel. 600mg a day is considered the maximum dose by most people however an upper tolerance has not been established at this time.
Amino acids can be used to treat anxiety. The question is which ones to use, what dose, and how often. These can be difficult questions to answer as there are various causes of anxiety which might respond to various amino acids.
What’s more, everyone is slightly different and therefore able to absorb differing amounts of amino acids through natural diet and supplementation.
General advice on dose when it comes to amino acids and anxiety is to use the least amount that works and to never go beyond the amount recommended on the packet without medical supervision. Often, when a deficiency of an amino acid has been corrected you can move to a much lower “maintenance dose” or stop taking the supplement altogether as long as your requirements are being satisfied by diet alone. At any rate you should stop taking the supplement periodically for a week or so.
The most important amino acids for anxiety are:
Tryptophan, which is used to make the feel-good chemical serotonin. Found in most protein based food such as meat, fish, dairy and egg it is thought to be low in people with anxiety disorders and depression. There have been questions over the safety of tryptophan but now it is back on the market in most countries. Some people prefer 5-HTP as a natural way to raise serotonin.
Taurine is one of the amino acids the brain uses to make GABA, an important calming substance. Taurine is found in reasonable quantities in some fish and meat products.
Glutamine is also used to make GABA and is widely available. Research as to its efficacy is scant however.
Theanine is known by some as Nature’s Valium. It is safe and encourages relaxing brainwaves to keep you calm. It is found in green tea but can also be supplemented.
Histidine is sometimes used for anxiety, as is glycine.
Tyrosine is often used for depression but there is good reason to believe that it might help anxiety in some cases as well.
You should also read about amino acids side-effects. If you are interested in treating the root cause of anxiety through amino acids and other physiological aspects you will find Killing Anxiety From The Roots extremely interesting.
Amino acids side effects can be severe. It is often said that amino acids are safe and natural, and this is true if they are used properly. But unfortunately there is very little reliable testing available to assess which amino acids you need more of. That means it is easy to have too much either in one dose or over a period of time. From dietary sources alone it is virtually unheard of to have too much of an amino acid and to suffer side-effects.
Tryptophan (commonly used for anxiety and depression) can have side-effects at relatively low doses. Side-effects can include nausea and dizziness and, in cases of large doses, can result in mania and seizures. It should not be taken alongside other drugs without medical supervision.
Histidine can cause a rise in histamine and make allergies and asthma worse. Large doses should be avoided and caution taken. Histidine is said to be effective for anxiety in some cases
Tyrosine (indicated for anxiety) is involved in the production of dopamine and epinephrine and to some extent serotonin and is favored by some as a treatment for depression. But too much can cause over-stimulation including anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. Use with care and start at low doses. Read this post: Tyrosine for Anxiety.
Glycine can give palpitations and panic attacks to people who are sensitive if they take too much.
Glutamine can cause mild stomach upsets but is not known for severe side-effects at any ordinary dose.
Taurine is not known to cause serious side-effects at this time, although there are isolated incidents of some negative outcomes that may or may not have been related to large taurine intake.
Histidine can be used to treat anxiety, but it’s anti-anxiety properties are little known and little understood. It is thought that histidine lessens beta waves and encourages alpha waves which promote relaxation. It can also improve digestion and often a calmer stomach equals a calmer mind and less anxiety. Histidine can also help with the sexual dysfunction that many anxiety sufferers have.
If you take too much Histidine you may suffer from more anxiety and not less, including palpitations and panic attacks.And that’s the annoying thing about a lot of amino acids: it’s hard to be sure at what dose they will be effective and how much is too much. There are still no reliable tests to show deficiency, so you have to go by symptoms. But differing amino acid deficiencies can have similar symptoms.
If you want to try histidine, then start on a low dose and increase it very gradually to see if you have any success. Don’t mix it with any other medication either from a prescription or over the counter as it can increase histamine levels and cause a worsening of side-effects.