Anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state ranging from mild unease to intense fear. But while fear is a rational response to a real danger, anxiety usually lacks a clear or realistic cause. Though some anxiety is normal and, in fact, healthy, higher levels of anxiety are not only uncomfortable, they can lead to significant problems.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety?
Anxiety is often accompanied by a variety of symptoms. The most common relate to the chest, such as heart palpitations (awareness of a more forceful or faster heartbeat), throbbing or stabbing pains, a feeling of tightness and inability to take in enough air, and a tendency to sigh or hyperventilate. Anxiety can also cause tension in the back and neck muscles, which often leads to headaches, back pains and muscle spasms. Other symptoms can include excessive sweating, dryness of mouth, dizziness, digestive disturbances, and the constant need to urinate or defecate.
People with anxiety usually have a constant feeling that something bad is going to happen. They may fear that they have a chronic or dangerous illness—a belief that is reinforced by the symptoms of anxiety. Inability to relax may lead to difficulty in getting to sleep and to constant waking through the night.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety can be the result of both physical and psychological factors. For example, extreme stress can definitely trigger anxiety, and so can certain stimulants like caffeine. Anxiety can also be triggered by elevations in blood lactic acid level. Lactic acid is the final product in the breakdown of blood sugar (glucose) when there is a lack of oxygen.
Which Dietary Factors are Important in Anxiety?
There are at least seven nutritional factors that may be responsible for triggering anxiety by raising blood lactic acid levels: caffeine, sugar, deficiency of B vitamins, deficiency of calcium or magnesium, alcohol and food allergies. Simply avoiding caffeine, sugar, alcohol and any foods that trigger allergies, along with boosting B vitamins, calcium and magnesium, can go a long way in relieving anxiety. In fact, cutting out caffeine alone often results in the complete elimination of symptoms. Your diet should also be rich in foods that have higher levels of B vitamins, such as leafy vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Foods high in calcium and magnesium include sea vegetables, sesame seeds, milk and dairy products, and leafy green vegetables.
Which Nutritional Supplements Should I Take for Anxiety?
Foundation Supplements. There are three products from Natural Factors that I think are critical in supporting good health:
- MultiStart: Age- and gender-specific multiple vitamin and mineral formulas. Follow label instructions for dosages.
- Enriching Greens: A great-tasting “greens drink” containing highly concentrated greens like chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass juice and barley grass juice, along with herbal extracts. Take one serving (1 tablespoon) in 8 ounces of water daily.
- RxOmega-3 Factors: A true pharmaceutical-grade fish-oil supplement. Take two capsules daily.
L-theanine is a relaxing amino acid found in green tea, and also available as a supplement. Clinical studies have shown L-theanine induces a sense of calm in patients with anxiety. Take 100 to 200 mg up to three times daily (preferably in chewable tablet form for maximum effect). Note: At higher dosages, such as 600 mg, L-theanine may produce sleepiness.
PharmaGABA is the natural form of GABA – an important brain chemical. Supplementation with PharmaGABA has been shown to promote feelings of calmness, but with greater mental focus and clarity. It is a fantastic immediate stress buster. Studies have shown PharmaGABA is able to promote brain wave changes reflective of feelings of calmness within 5 minutes after taking it.
Sensoril is a patented extract of Withania somnifera (ashwaganda) that has been shown to have stress-relieving and anti-anxiety effects. It is unique because it produces a relaxing effect while increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue. Take 125 to 250 mg twice daily.
St. John’s wort extract is very useful if depression is an underlying feature contributing to the anxiety.
Additional Comments From Dr. Murray
Anxiety responds quite well to a natural approach, but I have found that without learning how to calm both your mind and body, natural medicines do not work as well. Among the easiest methods to quiet the body and mind are relaxation exercises. Some of the popular techniques are meditation, prayer, progressive relaxation, self-hypnosis and biofeedback. The type of relaxation technique best for each person is totally individual; I have found that audiotape relaxation programs are the most effective at quieting the mind. The important thing is to set aside at least five to 10 minutes each day for whichever technique you choose.
How do I Know if the Recommendations are Working?
L-theanine usually produces immediate noticeable effects. The other measures generally take a few days to two weeks before improvements are discernable.
“Dr. Murray, L-theanine has changed my life. Before I started taking it, I felt anxious all of the time, especially when I was in crowds. It has given me a tremendous sense of calm and focus. God bless you.” — AH