The best natural ways to help anxiety are found by addressing the true biochemical roots of the problem, which lie in neurotransmitters in the brain and an overactive sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety disorders occur typically when there is too much norepinephrine and/or not enough GABA, which may also be accompanied by not enough serotonin, endorphins/enkephalins and/or dopamine. There may also be too much glutamate or histamine.
Norepinephrine makes us alert, focused, aware, attentive and provides us with energy. It’s also the trigger for our sympathetic nervous system. When we are under stress, norepinephrine alerts the stress response system to go into action. It’s necessary for our survival, however, when there is excess then we experience high levels of anxiety, nervousness, hyper-arousal, insomnia and inability to relax. The body remains in fight or flight on a continuous basis.
GABA, on the other hand, is our natural tranquilizer. It slows down the brain, relaxes us, calms the mind and helps us handle stress. When you don’t have enough GABA, then you feel anxious, nervous, overwhelmed, stressed, wired, restless, irritable, hyped up, and unable to relax.
Serotonin is our built-in anti-depressant, while dopamine is our primary pleasure hormone and endorphins/enkephalins are our built-in pain relievers.
When all is functioning as it should, these neurotransmitters and the stress response system work in synchronicity which results in stable, comfortable moods, but if they become out of balance then a variety of psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression may ensue.
You can find a comprehensive blueprint explaining all the natural remedies for anxiety one should use and how to identify which ones your body needs, in my book, What Your Psychologist, Hasn’t Told You About Anxiety & Depression, but here is a brief overview.
Neurotransmitters and the sympathetic nervous system become out of balance for a variety of reasons, which may include the following:
- Food additives, preservative and dyes, sugar, caffeine and over consumption of complex carbohydrates – each of these also overstimulate neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system, resulting in too much sympathetic nervous system activity and depleted neurotransmitters.
- Pesticides and other common everyday environmental toxins like air fresheners, colognes, disinfectants, etc., put the body in a chronic state of stress and deplete and/or disrupt neurotransmitters.
- Nutritional deficiencies – neurotransmitters cannot be produced or work effectively without the proper nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids. This is experienced as stress in the body, which triggers the sympathetic nervous system.
- Chronic stress – when the body is in a state of stress it releases high levels of norepinephrine and uses up all its dopamine, serotonin, GABA and endorphins coping with the stress.
- Candida yeast, parasites and/or bacteria – each of these organisms releases toxins that disrupt neurotransmitters and put the body in a state of chronic stress.
- Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, nicotine, marijuana, etc. all artificially stimulate neurotransmitters, which leads to disruption and/or depletion.
- Childhood abuse or other emotional trauma like war, poverty, a natural disaster and domestic violence depletes neurotransmitters, alters brain function, and the autonomic nervous system.
Other factors that impact neurotransmitter production and function and the autonomic nervous system, include food sensitivities, hypoglycemia, hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, lack of sleep, and excessive exercise.
So the goal for all the natural ways to help anxiety that we may choose is to restore balance to the neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system by addressing each of the factors above.
Types of Natural Ways to Help Anxiety
There are many natural ways to help anxiety to choose from, but it depends on your unique underlying causes. You must first identify which of the common factors listed above that disrupt neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system apply to your situation and then take steps accordingly.
However, the most effective natural remedy which can often result in immediate improvement in anxiety levels is diet.
Dietary Changes -This is the most important contributing factor to anxiety and should be taken by everyone. The diet you eat is the foundation of all healing paths. It must be in place for the other methods to be effective. Your results with nutritional supplements will be minimal and short-term if the diet is not changed.
Removing sugar alone often produces drastic improvement in anxiety levels, as well as all the junk food pumped full of additives preservatives, and white flour. I, personally overcome chronic anxiety attacks almost instantly with the removal of sugar alone from the diet.
The diet should be organic, rich in animal protein, and low in carbs to replenish the brain and soothe the autonomic nervous system. I have found the Caveman diet, also known as the Paleolithic diet, to be the best diet for not only anxiety, but depression, and all other mental health issues, as well as health in general.
The reason the Paleolithic diet is the best natural way to help anxiety is that it addresses numerous contributing factors at one time. It removes the foods and substances that disrupt neurotransmitters, hormones, and the autonomic nervous system, eliminates toxins, balances blood sugar, eliminates common allergens and sensitivities, discourages overgrowth of candida yeast and other unfriendly organisms, and replenishes deficient nutrients. It is the diet you are genetically designed to eat.
Environmental clean-up – the environment you live in should be as free as possible from the environmental toxins that disrupt neurotransmitters and thrust one into a state of fight or flight, by practicing a green lifestyle. Avoid the use of pesticides, air fresheners, colognes and perfume and switch over to non-toxic and environmentally friendly cleaning products and personal care items.
Nutritional supplements – there are many nutritional supplements that may be helpful for anxiety, and these are often what people expect to find when searching for natural remedies for anxiety, but the ones that should be used varies from person to person depending on their unique circumstance, what nutritional deficiencies they have and which neurotransmitters are out of balance.
So random supplementation is not always the best way to go. For example, one person may be deficient in folic acid, while another is deficient in magnesium and yet another is B6, all of which can result in chronic anxiety.
Common deficiencies in people with anxiety disorders include methionine, B12, folic acid, magnesium, tryptophan, glutamine, fatty acids, iron, zinc, B6, and manganese. However, there are many other possibilities. The best way to identify which nutrients you need is with nutritional testing.
Lifestyle changes – reduce stress and practice a variety of stress reduction exercises like mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, mild exercise, mindfulness-based yoga, and spending time with nature that reduce norepinephrine and increase the opposing neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, Gaba, and endorphins.
Other common natural ways to help anxiety that may be used include antifungals, cortisol, hormone supplementation, mild exercise, biofeedback, neurofeedback, and detoxification. All remedies are dependent on what underlying factors apply to your unique situation and biochemistry.
Anxiety disorders can be successfully overcome when you identify the true underlying causes.