3 Ways to Manage Anxiety Without Drugs

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This is a guest post by Laura Schoenfeld, a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s degree in Public Health, and staff nutritionist and content manager for ChrisKresser.com.

You can learn more about Laura by checking out her popular blog or visiting her on Facebook.

“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” – Chinese Proverb

Confession time: If I had to choose one personal health issue that I’d love to wipe out with a simple wave of my hand, I’d choose anxiety.

Everybody has some type of health concern that they deal with on a daily basis; it’s rare to find someone who feels completely, 100% healthy and free of any ailment. While many healthcare practitioners (including nutritionists) may give off the impression that they have all the answers to perfect health, the truth is that many of us struggle with our own issues, and some of the best health experts in the world became that way because of their struggle with a serious illness. For me, I’ve been on a quest to figure out how to manage my anxiety without resorting to pharmaceutical treatment.

Struggling with anxiety? Check out these tips by @AncestralizeMe to help you stay calm!

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States, affecting approximately 18% of the adult population, costing us more than $42 billion a year in healthcare services. (1) And that’s just the people who have actually been diagnosed – in our hectic, stressed-out, achievement-driven society, many people deal with stress on a regular basis, even if they’re not actively seeking treatment for their condition.

While I’ve been tempted in the past to run to a doctor for a quick-fix anxiolytic medication (especially when I was a graduate student), deep down I’ve always known that this could never be the answer I was searching for. I didn’t want to use a treatment that could be hard to stop, or that could even be dangerous to my health.

After searching for effective non-pharmaceutical treatments to help manage my anxiety, I’ve found a few specific methods that, for me, have made a big difference in my day-to-day experience of anxiety.

From my personal experience, here are the three best ways to manage your anxiety without resorting to drug treatment.

1. Un-Restrict Your Diet

This recommendation is for all of you 99% Paleo dieters out there who are worried that even the most minor of slip ups will completely derail any progress you’ve made in changing your diet for the better. While certain people will benefit from a strict Paleo diet that completely eliminates foods like grains, legumes or dairy, from my experience, the majority of people out there do not need to be quite so restrictive in order to maintain overall good health.

First, think about the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating. While some people believe that a very low carb diet is healthy for everyone, my own personal experience (and the experience of others) has shown me that low carb is not always the best choice, especially for those of us who struggle with anxiety.

If you’re on a very low carbohydrate diet (<100 g per day) and feeling anxiety on a regular basis, you may benefit from an increase in carbohydrates. I recommend starting at 20-30% of calories, and seeing how you feel at that level. You may even feel better on a higher carbohydrate diet, perhaps around 40-50% of calories (or more!).

Don’t let the low-carb dogma dictate how you eat – if you feel like crap on a low carb diet, that’s a relevant feeling and you should be prepared to experiment with a higher carbohydrate diet. And while eating enough protein and fat can be helpful with anxiety, some evidence suggests that too much protein can induce anxiety, so try not to go above 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight if you’re prone to anxiety or panic attacks.

Finally, consider the overall restrictiveness of your diet. Are you on a self-imposed autoimmune protocol despite having no autoimmune diagnosis or symptoms? Do you completely avoid all dairy even though you’ve never had a problem with it in the past? Do you avoid generally benign foods like white rice, properly prepared legumes, or natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup simply because they’re “not Paleo” or some armchair nutritionist on Paleohacks said that cavemen didn’t eat rice? In this case, consider the possibility that your overly restrictive diet may be doing more harm than good.

2. Try Quality Supplements

(Please check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. These recommendations are intended as general advice only and should not replace medical advice from your primary care physician or other provider.) 

If you feel like you’ve already experimented with your diet to no avail, there are some excellent supplements that may be beneficial, including herbs and nutritive formulas. While there are hundreds of combinations that may be beneficial, there are a few more well-studied types that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Some of the herbs that are generally understood to help with anxiety are: California poppy, hops, verbena, chamomile, lemon balm, valerian, rhodiola, lavender, and passionflower. (2a, 2, 3, 4) These herbs are available as supplements, tinctures, and even tea blends for those looking to use evidence-based natural strategies for anxiety management.

Many supplements contain a mixture of these herbs, which can be helpful for those looking for a reduction in anxiety without the side effects that often come with pharmaceutical treatment. Personally, I like to use Integrative Therapeutics’ Lavela during the day and the Revitalizing Sleep Formula before bed; I find they help take the edge off and allow for a more restful sleep on days where anxiety is starting to get the best of me.

There are some nutritional supplements that are helpful as well. L-Theanine, an amino acid largely found in tea, has been shown to be effective for its anxiolytic effects, including increased alpha brain wave activity and inhibiting cortical neuron excitation. (5) While you can get L-theanine from drinking tea, it’s far more potent in supplemental form, and if you’re dealing with regular anxiety, you may find that it helps keep you calm and focused during the day without causing drowsiness.

Magnesium is also important to supplement with, as most of us are unable to get adequate amounts of it in our daily diets to replace the losses caused by modern day stressors. And research has shown that magnesium deficiency can lead to anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation. (6) If you prefer not to take magnesium supplements orally, you can also increase your magnesium levels by taking epsom salt baths or using a topical magnesium oil. Whatever your method, I strongly recommend finding a way to boost your magnesium levels if you’re struggling with chronic anxiety.

3. Cut Down on Caffeine

I know, I know… cutting out caffeine sounds like a death sentence for many of us who either need the caffeine to get going in the morning, or just love the taste of a nice hot coffee as part of our morning ritual. I’ve tried to quit caffeine before, but haven’t been too successful, as I’m back in the habit of drinking a few cups of coffee every day.

The good news is that cutting down on caffeine doesn’t require total elimination of all caffeinated beverages. In fact, going cold turkey on caffeine can actually lead to an increase in mental distress and symptomatic anxiety. (7) Caffeine withdrawal is a legitimate condition, and one that I’ve experienced in the past when I went from excessively drinking multiple espressos daily (I was working as a barista while traveling in Australia) to a complete cessation of caffeine consumption. I felt awful, and it wasn’t just the emotional attachment to my coffee that was causing the problems; there are actual documented symptoms that come from a sudden removal of caffeine. (8)

So instead of going cold turkey on your morning cup of joe, try reducing the overall caffeine you consume on a regular basis by half. Maybe that means going from 6 cups of coffee per day to 3, or perhaps you switch out one or two cups of regular for decaf coffee or green tea instead. Caffeine is a well-established anxiogenic (i.e. anxiety producing) stimulant, and if you’re dealing with chronic anxiety, it’s worth at least moderating your caffeine intake and trying to reduce it over time. (9) You may find that you need less caffeine than you think to get going on a daily basis, and you may end up with more energy and less anxiety or feelings of panic if you don’t overload your nervous system with this potent stimulant.

As an aside (and this relates to step 1 above), one common practice that many Paleo gurus promote is the use of “Bulletproof Coffee” as an effective weight loss and intermittent fasting protocol. While there are many people who experience great benefits from this method, I would caution anyone who deals with significant anxiety to reconsider their use of Bulletproof Coffee as a daily practice. The combination of caffeine, daily fasting, and carbohydrate avoidance is liable to exacerbate feelings of anxiety for those who are susceptible, especially women. (10)

If you do choose to continue with Bulletproof Coffee, try eating a real breakfast at least a few days a week, and use L-theanine to combat the anxiety-provoking effects of caffeine. (11) Like a low-carb approach, if Bulletproof Coffee makes you feel terrible, stop drinking it! (Don’t be a lemming!)

Time to Take Action!

Now that you’ve read my top three tips for managing your anxiety, I’d like to hear from you. Have you implemented any of these recommendations? Do you have any other ideas that would be helpful to other readers?

I’ll be covering more natural ways to manage anxiety in part two of this article series, but for now, I’d like you all to focus on these three and report back to me once you’ve given them a try!

Share your experience in the comments below!

Note: By purchasing the products I’ve recommended through any Amazon affiliate links, I do earn a small commission, which helps support my ability to continue sharing my nutrition and health knowledge through writing. Thank you for your support!

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Vaileria says

    Anxiety inspires fear, worry and nervousness and totally affects or social, physical and mental balance. It makes person completely negative. Living with anxiety make life so miserable. To find more information on anxiety you can visit http://alturl.com/fk8dj.

  2. says

    I have a son who is on the autism spectrum, and removing gluten, dairy, and starches really did help get him out of his brain fog. He is well on his way to recovery and we’ve made believers out of his therapists, who came to us not really believing much in alternative therapies. I find the same type of diet does help me with my anxiety levels, though I do need some carbs to keep myself in a good and steady place. Lately, however, I am wondering if my son might also be helped by reintroducing healthy carbs back into his diet. To me, it’s about experimenting and adapting as you go along because humans really are such individual creatures.

  3. finndian says

    Sometimes it is just nutrition and to make it more complicated then that is a mistake. Eating a great diet doesn’t always eliminate nutrition as a possible cause of anxiety or depression. There are genetic reasons why you may have deficiencies… but there are work-arounds for that.

    What you believe is a family history of depression that dooms you to repeat it could be only a genetic variant that makes B-12 difficult to absorb for example. Guess what? A $10 bottle of Methyl-cobalamin sublingual B12 fixes your centuries old family history!

    Habits like avoiding the sun while not supplementing vit-D can bring on depression as well. Here’s Emily Dickinson most likely writing about her wintertime vitamin D deficiency induced depression and wondering what the hell was going on.

    ——-

    There’s a certain Slant of light,
    Winter Afternoons –
    That oppresses, like the Heft
    Of Cathedral Tunes –

    Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
    We can find no scar,
    But internal difference,
    Where the Meanings, are –

    None may teach it – Any –
    ‘Tis the Seal Despair –
    An imperial affliction
    Sent us of the Air –

    When it comes, the Landscape listens –
    Shadows – hold their breath –
    When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
    On the look of Death –

    ———

    To become a mechanic to your own body and top off the nutrients occasionally and to learn the work-arounds to fix genetic flaws is to be empowered. Immediately making it all about repressed emotion, some kind of yoga deficiency or writing a poem about it can be a real waste of valuable time.

  4. says

    I’m so pleased to see this topic being covered and love all the recommendations except coffee and no breakfast :) I love the herbal teas and think Lavela is fabulous. A nice tip to stop the repeating of the lavender taste (if it bothers you): can freeze the capsules before taking them.

    I also have great success with GABA and tryptophan with my clients.

    And from a dietary point of view there’s now plenty of evidence supporting of a whole real foods diet with grass-fed red meat and making sure gluten isn’t affecting your mood (most of my clients do better gluten-free).

    And finally, improving gut health and adding probiotics can be a big plus.

    Trudy Scott, Certified Nutritionist, author of “The Antianxiety Food Solution”

  5. Jesse Liberty says

    I have been making smoothies in the morning based on Bulletproofs… Or at least inspired by them.
    I take a shot or two of espresso and blend in some solid fats(usually coconut and butter, maybe cocoa chips), i then blend in a heap of hemp seeds, a banana, cocoa nibs, and a little yogurt for probiotics. Ill toss in a couple frozen strawberries until i like the consistency.

    Its super delicious and gives me a little fiber and carbs, which i need a little of.
    I find drinking my coffee this way reduces the amount of refined sugars I end up consuming and gives the benefits of bulletproof while not starving myself of the carbs I need to feel good in the morning.

  6. Mary says

    CBM ( http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/ccp-80-6-1021.pdf ), NLP, and EFT are also possible options for those experiencing undesirable anxiety.

    For many, the cycles of promoting fear and anxiety are fed through labels and fear mongering. Am I the only one who finds it interesting how the “health improvement/medical/pharma/alternative medicine” industries continually fuel these cycles?

  7. Chris D says

    a PLUG for Do TERRA!!
    VERY EXPENSIVE oils, deceptive claims like their oils are “safe for internal use”
    I have been using E Oils since 1973. MOST are safe for internal use and any good book (Tisserand, Valnet etc…) will tell you which ones are NOT. Use ifo from do Terra and buy your own oils including vervain (= lemon verbena), citrus aurantium (both for external use on temples and wrists).
    Lavender oil also mostly for external (Internal use is antibacterial and antifungal). Mixing oils is easy but I’d try them individually. Both lavender and lemon verbena work for me. Lavender on my pillow puts me to sleep in 30sec.

  8. Sara Ann says

    My son had extreme anxiety since the toddler years. What does extreme anxiety in a toddler look like? He was scared of ledges. He was scared of the play places at McDonald’s. He would leave the room for certain parts of his favorite cartoons, like when a strobe light went off in a silly song during Veggie Tales. He would cover his ears and get an intense look of anxiety on his face when a room was painted with a bright color like red. Yes, I wrote that correctly. He covered his ears when he didn’t like a color. He was first diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. When I read through the parent survey for effective treatments on the Autism Research Institute’s website, I chose the cheapest but most effective one to try first. That was Epson Salt baths. Over the years, we have been able to tell a huge difference in his anxiety levels depending on how often he soaks in Epson salts. It did not cure him. He has still needed lots of other things, but Epson Salt baths was the first thing that made a difference and to this day (he is now 15) we see a big difference in his anxiety if he goes a week without a soak. He himself decided this year to try to soak every day and he will say that he feels a lot more stressed without it. Again, this is not the only thing we are doing, nor is it the most important, but it makes a chartable difference in his anxiety and ability to cope with the stresses he faces.

    • finndian says

      You describe me as a child! I was very socially withdrawn and fearful. I would be frightened of chaotic situations and activities that others my age would be overjoyed to take part in. My parents were told that I had extreme shyness with probably some emotional problems and they diagnosed different syndromes. I was totally normal with people I knew however so it never seemed to fit.

      It was not until I got older that I discovered my undiagnosed food allergies were causing chronic magnesium deficiency (among other things). Without magnesium stores to calm me when my adrenaline would rise I would panic and get palpitations. Magnesium buffers adrenaline and quells the flight urge when there is no need to run. I was being betrayed by my body and my mind would follow not the other way around. I never felt it was an emotional problem. It felt like a loss of control and embarrassment because I couldn’t hide what my body was doing to me.

      I never had the problem with red rooms but perhaps he was associating the red with blood in a loud horror film… thus covering his ears. Although oddly enough some studies show that red rooms cause blood pressure to go up and eye blinks to increase… even in blind people! Magnesium deficiency causes exaggerated startle response by making the ear sensitive to loud sounds, it causes eyes to be photosensitive and could be why he left the room at the strobe??

      As soon as I got my magnesium levels restored with supplements, epsom salt baths (magnesium sulphate) and IV’s my whole personality changed. I no longer have to fight panic and appear insane when I run into someone I know unexpectedly for instance, no more gripping the armrests fighting panic on airplanes… I even speak in front of groups of people. I am calm to the core and I wish my parents were with it enough to have caught on about the magnesium connection as things would have been a lot different for me.

      If magnesium baths makes a big difference then I’d suspect active food allergies causing stomach inflammation. Magnesium cannot be absorbed orally with active stomach inflammation and the epsom baths bypass the GI tract.

      My allergies were so mild that I didn’t feel any stomach upset although eventually began to look sick probably because of the deficiencies it brings about. Still, I didn’t believe the food allergy diagnosis was the root of my problems when the doctor read me the report because I just didn’t feel stomach problems other than constipation. I clearly said I very low in B-vits… he showed me the my red blood cell test showing severe magnesium deficiency. So I cut the offending foods and eventuallyrestored the depleted magnesium levels quickly with IV and my ability to deal with stress changed virtually overnight.

      After my entire life of awkward social interaction with strangers because and avoiding of to much excitement because of my heart racing, blood pressure soaring and all the anxiety… now I finally didn’t have to fight the adrenaline surge! Magnesium keeps my body from freaking out and then my mind following. Before this I could not even bid on something last second on Ebay without feeling my heart was about to jump out of my chest.

      The two tests I relied on were Magnesium Red Blood Cell analysis… Serum testing is not indicative of Magnesium stores, just whats circulating in the blood. The food allergy testing was a stool antibody test by Diagnos-tech expanded GI Panel.

      I no longer lose massive amounts of magnesium but when I do feel the need for a boost I use a product called “Natural Calm”… a powdered magnesium drink before bed. Good luck with your son!

  9. says

    Hi All,
    A few weeks ago I attended the “Healthy Mind Symposium” put on by doTERRA Essential Oils. There was a myriad of Dr.’s presenting all kinds of cases including anxiety and depression. The Dr.’s went into detail on how the use of specific doTERRA essential oils protocols offered relief of the symptoms. I have family members and friends that are looking for more natural treatments for anxiety and depression. Like this article mentioned, nutrition is a big component of getting on the right track. The essential oils can be used with good nutrition and excersize to relieve anxiety symptoms. Please contact me if you would like to learn more. Here is a list of the oils Cherie Burton recommended essential oil protocol for anxiety:
    • Breathe essential oil blend
    • Serenity essential oil blend
    • Balance essential oil blend
    • And using the doTERRA lifelong vitality pack essential oils, vitamin and mineral supplements. This is the only doTERRA product that has a 100% money back guarantee.

    Best, Jan Spencer

  10. Dotslady says

    Leaky gut is a source of anxiety and depression for me. I got better going gf for celiac dx in 2006, got better again going dairy free later, but never seemed to close my leaky gut (lactulose-mannitol tested twice, Cyrex tested twice): I had LPS … turned out 7 years into trying to figure out my gut health that I have/had been living with gastritis and h pylori (I have celiac, Hashimoto’s, fibro or possible candida, and am histamine intolerant). Please tell me how to fertilize/help my gut terrain to prevent recurrence (alkaline, acid, probiotics? which ones? starch, no starch, fats or low-fat? high or low carb? (Dr. Amy Yasko suggests higher carb, low-fat, btw). Eight months prior to endoscopy my Genova NutrEval suggested low B vitamins and that I wasn’t using what little I had. ND didn’t pick up on that, and high urea/taurine. I have completed the 7 day “triple therapy” antibiotics/PPI and am about 3 months into “recovery” I hope. I share this because before diagnosis I was coming out of my skin with anxiety and it has curtailed a lot.

    • Chris D says

      Hi dotslady,
      Isn’t your ND giving you nutrition advice?
      You say “Dr. Amy Yasko suggests higher carb, low-fat, btw”
      Given what you shared about Ur condition I’d lean toward the opposite: high fat moderate protein and low carb (at least less than say 80g a day total carbs with no or little sugar/honey – less than 15g = 1TBSP)
      NOW, I am a nutrition counselor, not a doctor.
      “Candida” or rather yeast overgrowth is best assessed with a URINE OAT By Great plains lab. It will clearly show if you have yeast (and bacterial) infections based on amounts of metabolites excreted. It won’t identify the yeast but so what?
      Used for autistic disorders GPL OAT is VERY reliable and covered by medicare.
      You may have to use faily large amounts of probiotics like primal defense (The only one that worked for me) to keep yeast at bay (low carb will help) but leaky gut + auto immune are BIG obstacles and you get opportunistic infections .
      Soil Based Micro-organisms from Swanson is a MUCH CHEAPER alternative to primal defense and you may need 9/d for a while (start with 3 (3days) then 6 then 9 after 6 days.
      Fungall(TM) is an essential oil combination that will KILL yeast which may be needed since it may be outside of your GI tract. After Fungall high dose of probiotics will keep U yeast free even with carbs. you should e-mail me for a source of Fungall.(chrisddd40@yahoo.com)
      H pilori is probaly gone if you had antibiotherapy but is a sign of low HCl (have you tried to take HCl – wait 1 mo until mucosa heals – or alternatively a combination of HERBAL Bitters before ,meals?).
      Have you eliminated all the foods identified by Cyrex as positive?

      • dotslady says

        Chris D,
        Wow, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I don’t see the ND regularly (because it’s out-of-pocket); the last visit being the review of the NutrEval $$ (it was recommended I take B vitamins which I was already doing). Re: my diet, I have been eating 50-60% fat (omega oils, avocado, chia, sometimes flax, whatever’s in meat); and carbs have fluctuated as I’ve tried different things. I felt best when I didn’t eat much at all (or I ate carbs: during a stressful time I ate Starburst and watermelon a lot (with salmon, egg yolks, potato, veg, and other meat and I felt wonderful enough to jog 6 miles in a day which I’d never done before in my obese life – no pain – which I believe was due to not eating much. HOWEVER, I did get a vag. yeast infection that summer which I don’t have a history of). With HP you can eat a full meal and still be hungry (was true for me and I thought it was ME being overweight and maybe a blood sugar issue — it was NOT as i tested). I’m guessing I have candida or SIBO or ? because of last Genova Comp. Stool Analysis (I had the #2100, not the updated #2200 and my HP tested negative 2 mos. prior to endoscopy, fwiw). My yeast came back a 1 this time whereas in the past it has been negative.

        I have not asked for an OAT but I have read a lot about it, thank you for the suggestion I will put it on my list of things to do.

        I do not eat tested my Cyrex food allergens (barley showed up which was concerning since I’m fastidious about g-freeness). Barley also showed up on one of my Genova stool tests. I found it in the Primal Defense probiotic I’d been taking off and on for a whole bottle during a year between other strains (it has barley grass – I talked with Jordan Rubin when he was in town selling a book; he said they test to the legal 20ppm gluten, which is just too much for this celiac apparently. I share as a warning to others.)

        I have read about SBOs also – thanks for mentioning as I need to research them more. I have another health counselor who suggests that a person might be better served knowing which strains are needed. Case in point would be when I took Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora 80 billion cfu (bifido and lacto strains) I broke out with itchy spots on my hands and got anxiety: my last Genova results indicated I had too high bifido, and need way more lacto strains. I went to another ND (the earlier mentioned ND was also an MD) who had me taking Candisol; I just finished the bottle.

        I think they only way to know if HP is gone is to get rescoped. From what I’ve read, you can GET HP “from” the scope! argh! I would like to follow the triple therapy abx with herbals I’ve read about such as manuka honey and matula tea as well. I’d say I’ve had a stressful past 7 yrs, but I could say that about my life – OR – that I’ve just not handled it well due to having undx celiac and HP! I’m in the middle of a contentious move out of state and hopefully will have the opportunity to start fresh in a few weeks. I’m befuddled right now. :P

        Oh, at the time of HP dx in December I was up to taking 5 HCL caps w/heavier meals. Dr. Yasko says HP likes too little or too much acid, so I have (under counsel) lowered my dose to 2 HCL caps w/heavier meals. I tried bitters but (histamine) reacted, plus the one I tried tasted awful!

        The Fungall intrigues me (when I search online it’s an animal fungal topical?), as does your statement about using it with probiotics then being able to eat carbs. I hope to email you after I get settled in my new temp digs. Thank you again for your time and thoughts. You are appreciated.

  11. Lillian says

    I enjoy your tip about avoiding a too-restrictive diet in particular. However, I think it’s important to also stress that if you NEED medication, you should feel okay about taking it.

    I didn’t like having to take medication at first. I thought I should be able to manage with just cognitive behavioral therapy (medication itself wasn’t what got me all the way to feeling healthy – CBT was a major component, too). I didn’t want to use it during either of my pregnancies. I thought that if I worked hard enough, I would be “better” and not need it anymore.

    Eventually I had to admit that it kept recurring and the my quality of life is at a much higher level when I go ahead and take some meds. It’s a pretty low dose of an SSRI. It took a long time to come to terms with it – but for some of us, it’s necessary.

  12. says

    One very interesting aspect of anxiety is many people have no idea they are suffering from it. There inability to perform everyday tasks without extreme nervousness is written off as simply “I’m not good at that, or I don’t have the guts to it”.

    A whole foods diet has made remarkable reductions in my anxiety levels witnessed by activities I simply couldn’t do before or previously forced myself to do in spite of sweating palms and a churning and purging digestive system.

    I’ve also seen further reductions in anxiety while on the GAPS Diet.

    If you suffer from anxiety, don’t give up! The world looks and feels like a whole new place when you’re able to reduce your anxiety levels.

  13. Margaret Ann says

    Thank you so much for this post. Living in South Africa on a farm with farm murders every day is not a walk in the park. I took some advice from a young man. He suggested a Cup of warm water, a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of cinnamon in the morning. Well do I say more….This is magic for my anxiety….. :)

  14. Danielle says

    This was a great post, thanks for sharing all this information! For my anxiety I found reducing my caffeine consumption to be the most important. If I have low levels of stress in my life I can handle a daily cup, but this is rarely the case. Instead I have occasional decaf espressos and sometimes when I feel I am in a good place mentally (relaxing on a Holiday) I can handle the real deal. The caffeine in tea doesn’t seem to effect me much so I still get my daily dose from green or black tea. Skipping breakfast is also terrible for me for anxiety. I am okay to delay it an hour or so for an early morning yoga practice but that is as much as I can do. The key for me is being aware of my internal stress and controlling the controllables. I do what I can do to put my body in the best state to handle the external stressors.

  15. Baz Shaw says

    I suffered from generalized anxiety, panic attacks etc for most of my 60 years and it wasn’t until I came across what was for me, the ideal solution that I realized why I was such a victim of it. Without wishing to blatantly ‘plug’ this, I really owe a debt of gratitude to the British anxiety specialist Charles Linden and his method: http://www.charles-linden.com/

    In a nutshell, what I learned from Charles was:

    Keep busy! I noticed that my worst periods of anxiety occurred not at my job, which is moderately stressful, but actually at weekends when I had time on my hands. Soon as I found myself just sitting around watching TV or doing nothing in particular, anxiety would manifest in some form or another – worry, depression, fear, hypochondria etc. Yet while insanely busy at work, I would literally forget to be anxious.

    Stop internalizing yourself! The very fact that you are reading this, is a symptom and also in some way an enabler of your anxiety. Don’t stop reading yet though, lol. I became an obsessive Googler of medical symptoms – a ‘cyberchondriac’ is the popular term. By doing hours of research on anxiety and other health issues I cemented the belief in my brain that I have a ‘problem’ that needs to be ‘cured’.

    Reset your amygdala! The little almond sized gland in your brain that controls the release of stress hormones and stuff, when subjected to repeated stress triggers gets stuck at a higher baseline level, so any subsequent worry puts it into overdrive. Layman’s explanation – Charles Linden explains it better. But with the right kind of effort and perseverance you can dial that puppy back to a more comfortable level.

    Fight or Flight…..or… Acceptance. We all know the first two components of a panic attack, but for me what really works is the objective alternative – acceptance. When I feel the warning signs of panic start to bubble up – palpitations, short of breathe, disorientation etc, instead of doing what I always used to, ie fear the impending attack, I just shrug my shoulders and say OK, bring it on. Don’t fight it, you can’t run from it, so just relax and let it happen. After a bit of practice, they usually just fade away like a false alarm. Acceptance is very powerful and is not a sign of weakness or resignation, but an effective tool which disarms the amygdala, or whatever mechanism is in play.

    Don’t micromanage your diet! Completely agree with Laura’s second suggestion. My anxiety reached an all time high during the 3 months or so that I was fooling around with my carb & sugar intake on the advice of a mainstream nutritionist who said my HgA1C was borderline prediabetic. As a result I began to cycle alarmingly between hyper- and hypo-glycemic and the panic attacks came thick and fast. I t wasn’t until I stopped listening to doctors and started listening to my body that I finally got it under control. It always amuses me that human beings are the only animals that don’t know what they’re supposed to eat!

    • Paul says

      Thanx for link Baz. I know exactly what your are saying. To pin the whole thing on diet is like saying that Catholic guilt is caused by the carbs in the Eucharist and not seeing that it is a learned response.

  16. Bet says

    I’ll be the contrary one here. I have suffered from anxiety and depression my whole life, but I didn’t realize it because I thought it was ‘normal’. I also do have several AI diseases and leaky gut, the whole shebang. I crashed and burned about 2 years ago. Since then I have been on zoloft, and it has helped me tremendously. Not only has it helped with my anxiety and depression, it has helped me sleep and my myriad of digestive issues. From reading Chris, I know how important serotonin (and melatonin) are for digestion as well as sleep and mood. I truly think that I had a severe imbalance of both serotonin and melatonin. I do also follow a Paleo diet, but I get enough carbs. I take Magnesium Glycinate (thanks Chris!) and epsom baths. I just want to say that sometimes prescription drugs do work and can help.

  17. says

    i thought going Paleo would help my anxiety, but it didn’t – it turned my skin health around (in a huge way), and I follow a strict autoimmune approach,

    but . for my anxiety…… (think “paleo treats” and I think you might have a clue as to why)

    that is until I reduced my intake of my problem foods such as chocolate, insoluble fibres and “gluten free” recipes – riddled with fructose and omega 6

    once I started figuring out the nutrition side of reducing anxiety, I wanted to positively effect my nervous system to see if that would help….

    I practiced (and still practice) a strategy that, thus far, has been my absolute go-to technique for anxiety – as soon as I get a worry-some thought pop in to my head that won’t go away, I go and take a walk and about every 50m or so, I pause to take 10 deep breathing squats with a FULL inhalation and full exhalation (4s in and 4s out)

    after 10 minutes or so of this walking, breathing thing , the anxiety has simmered down and Im back to feeling me again

    Anxiety is such a bummer when it hits – it can totally absorb your entire mind/body/soul axis and take away the joy in from life BUT, the key, I believe is like Chris suggests and thats to NEVER stop experimenting with natural ways you can help it (there will always be a solution , it just depends on how hard you’re willing to look)

    (supplements I’ve found beneficial for my anxiety are magnesium citrate, glutamine and Holy Basil (or Tulsi Tea – WAAAAAYYYY cheaper if you buy it as Tulsi)

    Will

  18. Ronald says

    Did anybody mention the L-glutamate salts (E621 – E625) used as a flavour enhancer as a major cause. Paleos eat usually from the stalk, but it is easy to come in contact with a glutamate flavour enhancer through many additives in various ways.

    Are all Paleos really that strict with themselves on all levels of their diet? Still eating bread/pastry made with instant yeast? I believe (experience) the yeast to be GM and responsible for free glutamate.

    Start cleaning out your cupboard, friends cupboards, restaurant cupboards of additives and if you are still anxious, then try all other mentioned avenues in this article and comments.

    And yes, many still believe that the manufactured salt is the same as the glutamate naturally found in food . . . but it is not.

    It worked for me.

  19. Dr. A. Lekkos says

    Another great supplement for anxiety is Inositol, otherwise known as vitamin B8. It takes a large dose of 8-10 grams a day to help with anxiety. Its best to take once a day. If you cant, then break it up into divided doses (half in AM and the other half in PM). L-Theanine is excellent too, but works best when take 400mg twice a day. L-Theanine is also great if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine, or have had a late night coffe and cant get to sleep. L-Theanine (400mg) displaces caffeine off its receptors allowing your mind and body to calm down. Good luck !

    • Chris D says

      excellent advice. I’d add Calm forte and Vervain tea (a little hard to find here common in France (vervaine).
      Dr Laskos is it true you recommended high carb for someone like dotslady (see a cple comments below) who has “candida infections?
      She says Dr. Amy Yasko suggests higher carb, low-fat, btw.
      e-mail me if you wish chrisddd40@yahoo.com

      • Dotslady says

        Chris D, I should have stated more clearly that Dr. Yasko recommends actually alternating diet to trick h pylori out of hiding to then attack with treatment of choice. It seems HP likes fat and salt (and as I’d been eating higher fat maybe this isn’t helping me). I ALSO have dysbiosis/candida/SIBO (still guessing) so while on one hand I feel better with carb, should be lower carb for that. I believe addressing the HP is a priority, then the dysbiosis as I don’t think I can do it all at once. I really appreciate the convo/thread. Thanks.

  20. Lynn says

    Eva,

    Are you a dietician? I’m wondering if stress and iodine deficiency can cause a slow thyroid function? Is there a test for iodine deficiency?

    • chris D says

      Lynn,
      Yes and yes and yes; see a doctor who will order free T3 and T4 as well as total T3 T4 n in addition to TSH

    • Eva says

      Hi Lynn, I’m not a dietitian. I work as a Multidimensional CranioSacral Therapist.

      I work with my hands, heart and whole energy field. The body shows me (as in seeing the inside of the body in a movie and getting lots of explanations at the same time) what is not working and often a whole big mosaic of threads in many directions of connected issues, follow-on issues, underlying causes and a multitude of other things that are not working well as a result.

      The body will often show me what it needs to come better into balance, such as iodine, or magnesium, Vit Bs, zinc, etc or whatever it may be. Usually its a number of things which needs to be changed or supported. And it virtually always comes down to unresolved emotional events or periods of life combined with previous physical trauma, nutritional deficiencies and current life situation (job, family, stagnation, unacted upon yearning for self development). The nutritional deficiencies often have underlying causes of blockers, natural and unnatural things that block the receptor cites of many of the vital vitamins and minerals we need to keep all our bodies (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) well, in balance and connected to each other.

      From what I have gleaned and understood, chronic iodine deficiency would be coming from somehwere, just like chronic magnesium, or zinc deficiency. Not necessarily that you don’t put it in through your food, but that your body is not able to take it up, either from leaky gut syndrom or from blocked receptor sites.

      The biggest blockers of many types of vitamins and minerals I have encountered is fluoride. But I may find more big blockers in the next few weeks or months. In this kind of work, every session is a lecture by the bodies themself. I have extensive training, but nothing beats the wisdom and understanding of the body itself. It knows what it working and not working, what it needs and isn’t getting and in which order to address things. If you can only listen.

      In my understanding, like I wrote in my previous post, if the adrenals are in overdrive, they use up all the available iodine first, leaving the thyroid gland without. And it can’t handle that very long before it gets into difficulty.

      Having said that, Lynn, there are a few other things I often notice when it comes to thyroid issues. The fascia around the area of the thyroid is very connected in all directions and very involved with the neck. Thyroid issues can come from tension in these fascias as well, causing the thyroid to get subtly distorted and “strangled”. A good CranioSacral Therapist can help you with releasing these tension streaks, which can relieve the thyroid a lot. Thyroid issues may also come from issues with higher authorities, ie those higher up in the hormone chain, such as the puituitary gland and the hypothalamus.A good CranioSacral Therapist can help with those areas as well.

      Looking at it from the other end, a thyroid in distress will also be able to cause some of the fascia distortions, just like adrenals, kidneys, livers or other organs in distress also cause distortions and tension streaks in the fascia. With the right contact the organs can get a lot of relief fast. But the underlying deficiencies causing the distress have to be addressed in order to not have the organs go back into distress.

      Sorry, long story. Hope you got some more insight form this. Happy to help with more explanations if you need it.

  21. Shoog says

    I take Calming Support GABA Ease and Nutrigold Ashwagandha during the day and Integrative Therapeutics SEDAPLEX, Source Naturals NutraSpray Melatonin, and Gaia Kava Kava Root at bedtime. Yeah, it’s a lot of stuff, but I have a really hard time sleeping through the night. I’m using these things as tools to help ween myself off of Valium prescribed for tachycardia. Also, for some reason if I drink a quarter cup of organic creamer, I seem to sleep a lot better. I only do that occasionally, since my naturopath is on me to cut out the dairy and go strictly Paleo for my Hashimotos.

  22. says

    I have had issues with anxiety my whole life due to external and internal problems on every level. In the last year many of these issues have finally been settled by a variety of techniques, including diet, supplements and “energy” work.

    I am mostly “paleo,” about 70-30. I do eat more carbs because these do seem to help ease my anxiety. I aim for good ones, though, like sweet potatoes, all the regular potatoes, quinoa and a little organic blue corn.

    Theanine has helped me a TON- but I had to take enough of it to make a real difference. I take Theanine Serene which has theanine, Relora and some other stuff in it about three times a day. My last dose, at night, I couple with 5-HTP which really helps me sleep. I love Melatonin for sleep but it ends up provoking really distressing dreams (as did Valerian) so I’ve mostly given that up except for the occasional sleep issues.

    But the things that have helped me the most are Emotional Freeing Technique, Tapas Acupressure Technique, EMDR and Reiki plus two gifted therapists (one on each coast- I travel a lot) who really got me on a much more even keel than ever before. I highly recommend all four of these therapies for everything that ails you. I have links if anyone’s interested.

    Finally, thank you, Chris, for your great articles! I learn something from every one I get in my mailbox. Keep up the good work!

  23. Allison says

    Copper:zinc balance as mentioned above is so important and I think this problem is under diagnosed. Testing is simple: plasma zinc and serum copper and check the ratio between the two.

    I have done well to address this, along with dysbiosis (streptococcus created a minefield in my brain). Other things that have greatly helped are glycine at bedtime and gelatin during the day, diaphragmatic/belly breathing, the Panic Away program (a modernisation of Claire Weeke’s work that helps us to not fear anxious thoughts and sensations), regular exercise, laughter.

    Anxiety is very treatable, but there is often more than one factor involved.

    • Laura says

      Hey Allison,

      You said “…along with dysbiosis (streptococcus created a minefield in my brain).”

      How did you identify that it was streptococcus? What symptoms did you have? What steps did you take to get rid of the “minefield” in your brain?

  24. Eva says

    Iodine supplements can work wonders.

    Many have iodine deficiency without knowing it. I have a lot of experience with this from years of clinical practice (Multidimensional CranioSacral Therapy) where my clients’ body & energy field show this, and from my own experience.

    When you are in distress (which anxiety most certainly is to all of your bodies (physical, emotional, mental) the adrenals are in overdrive burning up iodine very fast. You can even feel it, it gives the feeling of “frazzled” and a tightness in the kidney/back of diaphragm area on either side of the spine. A lot of people don’t seem to have enough iodine in their diet even for non-anxiety states, so when stress is added it’s a disaster for every part of the body who needs iodine to do their job, like adrenals and thyroid gland, who start to waver and burn out causing other follow-on physiological issues, thyroid problems, hormonal problems, tired and brittle heart tissue, chronic fatigue, weak thought process, broken thought chain, scattered brain, heavy feeling, panic feeling about coordinating more than one task or sorting out one problem at a time. There is a whole cascade of down the line issues in many parts of the body and mind. It may show up even stronger for women, who in general are normally multitasking, and it is really stressful not to be able to do that without collapsing.

    The easiest and usually most (by the body) preferable way to address the iodine problem quickly is to take a solution with iodine and potassium in it. I think the bodies I work with prefer this way of getting the iodine-potassium over dry forms (ie seaweed etc) because it is easily taken up when it is in fluid form and also easy to dose exactly by drop, You can get the solution by ordering it from the pharmacy and transfering it to a dropper bottle, the one’s I’ve seen around (Australia) are Lugol’s Solution or Aqeous Solution, both containing 5% iodine and 10% potassium. The potassium part is really necessary for many but not all. Some bodies are temporarily primarily interested in the potassium, but the two seem to be needed together. The tired heart tissue and body tissue in general is what is after the potassium whereas the glands and brain seem to be after the iodine.

    It can be a drastic turn-around in anxiety level from one day to another by simply adding a few drops of iodine-potassium solution to a glass of water. A common starting dose for many of my clients, those who need iodine-potassium, is 4+2 (4 drops in the morning and 2 in the evening) or 2+4 or 4+6 etc. It has to be enough to make a difference fast, so that the adrenals can come out of the despair they are in, but not too many.

    Most people cannot communicate with their body and figure out what dose they need. You’ll need to learn how to feel inwardly which dose, as it may change daily (only minor changes), or ask someone who can communicate with your body (Multidimensional CranioSacral Therapist, Kinesiologist, other…) which dose to begin with and then regularly to discover if you should change the dose.

    A few people need an extreme amount for a period of time before their insides start to come down off the alarm state they are in, but most people’s body prefer below 10 drops a day for 3-4 weeks and can then lower by a few drops over a period of time as things start to breathe easier on the inside until it is down to maintenance dose.

    Maintenance dose of Aqeous/Lugol’s Solution for me and many clients (but not everyone) seems to be aorund 3 drops a day unless you up the intake (and possible uptake by the body) from another source, such as foods rich in these elements. It took me a year on between 6-12 drops per day before my body had replenished and repaired enough to come down to maintenance dose.

    A few times when I haven’t seen a client for a while, half a year or more, and they have been in big stress or other physiological trouble during that period, for instance by chronic infection, their bodies are so burned out and depleted in resources that their heart tissue is so brittle it’s on the brink of breaking – heart attack within a week from even the slightest provokation. This is very tangible when you know what brittle heart tissue feels like. The treatment (which we were already in the process of doing) and a dose of 6-8 drops of iodine-potassium a day has been enough to bring them back from that imminent risk of heart attack within 24, provided that they stay on the supplement until they have replenished their reserved and resolved the physiological and emotional situations which got them into that brittle state in the first place.

    A few of these clients had had a long period of uncomfortable heart flutter issues which they hadn’t told me about before the session, but which they had sought medical help for several times, without the doctors’ knowing what was causing it. That something as simple as a few drops of iodine-potassium can make such a difference the doctors would probably shrug off as very improbable and dismiss out of hand.

    I have also noticed that it is very common for those who are struggling to have enough iodine-potassium for all their body’s needs to also have an omega 6 deficiency and to need more magnesium and zinc than they are currently putting in or able to take up.

    To me, with everything I see and experience internally in the people and animals I treat, it is quite evident that these deficient situations are not isolated. They are usually deficient in more (sometimes many) vitally important vitamins and minerals and it is important to look at the whole picture of what the individual is deficient in AND WHY, in order to rectify the problem on a permanent basis and not simply puttin out the fires, or like in this case trying to resussitate the charred remains of the poor adrenals.

    Being deficient in certain or a number of vitamins and minerals means you are either not giving your body enough of those vitamins and minerals through your diet, or it points to a problem of substances and elements which you have taken in through food, air, water (such as pesticides, plastics particles, additives, unnatural and natural food chemicals, heavy metals, etc which block the body’s receptor sites for the uptake of those vitamins and minerals.

    I’m only scratching the surface of this topic in my practice, but so far some of the most common blockers i have discovered are fluoride and heavy metals. Chloramine, wheat, especially genetically modified wheat and other GMO foods play a big role as well, but in a more complicated way than only blocking.

    • chris D says

      Eva you are drinking the DANGEROUS Coolaid Dr BROWNSTEIN has been selling. I am glad it worked for you but taking 100s of times what the RDA is may not be healthy as many doctors have now told us. The debate on large iodine supplementation was covered in the Townsend letter (don’t have a ref here). Dr Gaby in particular wrote articles. The whole thing is NOT based on good science and some people get VERY ill.
      The urine test is itself very flawed and usually NOT repeated after a few days…
      I tried. It did not help my condition but amazingly it shut down my thyroid and my immune system…
      I believe 1mg/d (1 drop lugol/week) may be safe!!
      also you say “I have also noticed that it is very common for those who are struggling to have enough iodine-potassium for all their body’s needs to also have an omega 6 deficiency”
      WHO in the US has an omega6 deficiency? U probably meant omega3.
      Be weary also that iodine is a strong OXIDANT, just below chlorine thus it’s use to purify water (Iodine tablets).
      Brownstein ignores this completely even asking in his book “is iodine an anti-oxidant?”

      • finndian says

        I took 50mg of iodine for months and even doses as large as 100mg for weeks with no ill effects. Its a common thing to take 100’s of times the RDA of many nutrients. When you take a B-complex you get 8500% of the RDA of B1 for instance. 1000mg of vitamin C is 1666% of the RDA… I take 4 at a time when I’m sick!

        I have Hashimoto’s and although many articles say I shouldn’t be able to take iodine I was fine on high dose inorganic iodine. No spikes in TSH, no rise in thyroid antibodies, no kidney or liver problems according the the regular testing I took while I was taking iodine.

        You want to warn people? Warn them about Aleve and its dramatic increase in the risk of stroke!

        • chris D says

          Finndian, I am glad this works for you. I just wanted to warn people that Iodine supplementation can be dangerous. I got one benefit from it: my Thyroid antibodies went to almost zero (My doc said he had never seen this).
          Vit C and B are water soluble, they don’t accumulate in the body and they are NOT strong oxidants.
          Would you add 100mg of chlorine to your water?
          Note that adding an oxidant to your diet* can boost energy but in the long run it will reduce lifespan, oxidize your LDL and HDL (recent data on oxidized HDL in june 2013.
          Do read what Dr Gaby wrote in the Townsendletter (It should be avail online I can’t remember the issue).
          * people report benefits from taking sodium chlorite solution (NaClO2) but it it is also an oxidant – used as iodine to disinfect water so be aware and careful.
          btw: when people get a 50g Vit C infusion it is now known that a this concentration in the blood it acts as an oxidant, generating hydrogen peroxide.

          • finndian says

            I just want to make sure everyone knows that yours is an opinion. I didn’t say Iodine worked for me, I said that iodine was not in the least detrimental to my health. I felt nothing and suffered no positive or negative effects from long term high dose Iodine… other then urinalysis confirmed bromine excretion which is what many people take it for.

            Lets keep hysteria out of it and stick to the facts thats all. Iodine is mostly excreted in the urine and sweat. Endurance athletes risk iodine deficiency from their profuse sweating.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16175493

            Lesser known fact about high dose Vitamin C is that it lowers B12 levels.

  25. Greg says

    Hi,

    I think maybe anxiety is due to people with low whole blood histamine levels they are fast methylaters, so when they get too much B vitamins they get hyped up with overactive neurotransmitters.

    So be careful taking too much B vitamins as if you are an over methylater it takes a few months for the high B12 and B6 to get out of your system and then you could get panic attacks.

    I think also upper neck problems with atlas and axis also contributes, making you feel sort of dizzy or strange. Maybe inversion therapy can help with this?

  26. chris D says

    I am re-posting a comment i made under someone-else s’ above.
    I am VERY confused: you say “a very low carb diet is 100g of carbs/d?” That is about 200g of my bread daily, hardly a low carb diet.
    On protein, 1g/poud of body weight means 150g for SO weighing 150lbs.
    So, with 32g of protein per 4oz steak (Nutrition Now tables) that’s about 18-19oz of steak/day (1lb 3oz). I’d agree that it is a lot!

    Laura, Please correct the numbers you use if there is an error. Dod you mean 10-15g carb/d, not 100?

    In addition Lactobacillus Rhamnosus (R11) and helveticus (R52) is a specific strain which has been proven to reduce anxiety so make sure your current one has some and maybe add more. I am not sure if it has to be R11 and 12. I doubt it. IF you want that combination its in Lacidifil (Xymogen) maybe also sold as probiotic stick by Jameson in Canada

    • Cat says

      ‘Low carb’ generally just means lower than what most people eat: 300g+. It’s a relative term, so you can be low carb at 15g or low carb at 150g, and what you choose depends entirely on your individual tolerance.

    • says

      <100 grams of carbs per day is pretty low carb. 1 banana has about 20-30 grams, and a medium sweet potato has about 25 grams of carbs. Depending on how many calories you eat, eating less than 100 grams of carbs in a day might end up being 20-25% of your calories (or less) which is fairly low. The government recommends 50-60% of calories from carbohydrate, as an example.

      As far as protein, almost all foods have some level of protein in them, so you don’t have to strictly eat meat to get protein. A sweet potato has about 2 grams of protein. A cup of broccoli has 2.6 grams of protein. So you don’t have to eat 18+ ounces of meat to get 150 grams of protein in a day.

      • chris D says

        Hi Laura, I hear you but we disagree. You said “very low carb” referring to 100g/d and on a blob that has alot of Paleo readers so it was misleading. Compared to the extreme unhealthy Govt recommendations indeed 100 is low BUT not even extremely LOW.
        Some people are on 1/2 slice of bread/d as a very low carb diet + carb from veggies and no fruit.
        Of course protein sources are many I was just using the steak example.

  27. Brian says

    Dear Laura,

    Thank you very much for this article. Your first tip particularly resonated with me, as my anxiety tends in the direction of orthorexia. I found myself in your examples of over-restriction, and your advice was very liberating.

    Thanks again,

    Brian

  28. Joyce says

    The best thing I have ever found for severe chronic anxiety is Yogic Breathing or Pranayama–it resets your nervous system. This is the DVD I use: http://www.amazon.com/Pranayama-Self-Healing-Vasant-Lad/dp/1883725151/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396634992&sr=8-1&keywords=pranayama+dvd

    It is by Dr. Vasant Lad the premier Auyurvedic doctor in America today. Though it is 79 minutes long, you only have to listen to the full DVD a few times to hear his explanations of what each breathing exercise is for; after that you can just fast forward to whatever breathing exercised you want to do.

  29. Gareth says

    I think Paul makes a good point. It’s not wrong to feel anxiety, it’s perfectly natural. Trying to cure it is pushing it away, let it be there, nothing needs to be done about it, it goes of it’s own accord.

    Imagine a world where for anger you take B12, jealousy-probiotics, fear- vitamin C, boredom – parsley, pride- honey. poor self esteem- coQ10, unemployment- propolis.

    I believe that believing that every problem is down to diet is disempowering.

    • Ian says

      Right on Gareth! I couldn’t agree with you more and my experience confirms this for me.

      Digesting rage with an emotional growth facilitator helped me more than anything I’ve ever taken orally. The day this moved my anxiety/depression and brain fog was gone from the inside out.

      • Gareth says

        Yes. I think it’s a matter of getting real to what’s going on. I think that the body responds to the mind a whole lot more than the other way around and so many people find that addressing the mind at the mind level sorts out the physical.

        However getting real also means that often the body is sick at the body level and no amount of sorting the mind out will change anything and so treat the body as necessary. However a healthy mind will make dealing with a sick body a lot better. So often the worse consequences of having health problems is the minds tendency to get depressed, angry or anxious about it so it adds to the suffering.

        I guess I am not a fan of thinking that the problem is always in then body and so can always be put right with diet and supplements, I think it’s missing a vital part of what’s going on

        • finndian says

          I couldn’t agree with you two any less! The body is a machine. If the mind creates stress in the body then it needs to follow the rules of the body to disrupt it. Stress hormones get released. Cortisol rhythm gets disrupted and sleep cycle suffers. Cortisol interferes with thyroid hormones production and a cascade of problems begin that include digestive enzymes weakening. Digestive problems produce nutritional deficiencies after a while. All those deficiencies have their own set of symptoms…. it fans out from there.

          I believe that many long term physical symptoms of stress are all the nutritional deficiencies that develop. Compare PTSD to magnesium deficiency for instance… its all there, migraine, aversion to loud noises, photo sensitivity, sleep disorder, etc.

          To understand that you have options to block the cortisol spikes if you can’t withdraw yourself from the stress is to be empowered. To ameliorate the nutritional deficiencies so you don’t suffer while you work through your problems is to be empowered.

          So to fully understand that the body has procedures to follow to produce symptoms of stress is to be empowered. Wallowing in all the symptoms while you talk with your therapist is unnecessary and further, everything is not emotionally based and to assume it is is to waste a lot of time.

          San Francisco examiner says:
          http://www.examiner.com/article/magnesium-can-improve-symptoms-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

    • Cat says

      I think the problem is unreasonable anxiety, which is actually debilitating and not helpful at all. If it interferes with someone’s life to a large degree, then something should definitely be done about it. I think you may not have experienced anxiety attacks to the level that other people have. The natural anxiety you’re talking about is normal, but I think people can tell the difference between a mild anxious reaction with a cause, versus unreasonable strong anxiety with no real cause. It’s not a ‘natural’ response to something; it tends to be random and annoying for many people.

      Anger can be caused by high homocysteine, so B12 would in fact be something to consider if someone was unreasonably angry all the time.

      Understanding that diet has a huge effect on mood can be extremely empowering, because diet is something most people can change by themselves, and it means that they can actually DO something about their anxiety. I think it can be damaging to say “just accept it”. We shouldn’t just accept things that can be changed, for example: you can stay strong and healthy in old age, even though many people accept being frail and sickly. Many people believe that the frailty and sickness is ‘natural’ and just due to ageing. Then they don’t try to change, even though a large factor in how someone elderly will feel is their lifestyle (diet + exercise + social interactions). Anxiety is very much the same.

      • Gareth says

        I wouldn’t take anything to an extreme so if a pill helps be it natural or pharma then take it.

        I did once experience extreme panic attacks and a debilitating constant anxiety which was a 24 hour nightmare. Nothing worked until one day I went for a walk and forcibly stopped myself from thinking negatively second by second and all of a sudden I felt so much better. I realized that the problem was my own mind and thoughts and with this realisation I was empowered to give up trying to find a cure anywhere else.

        My point is not to ‘accept’ anxiety and ignore it or not to take something which will help, but to take responsibility for all afflictions and not put them simply down to diet (which is not to say that diet can affect mood as it clearly can).

        There may come a time when someone is simply tired of being pushed around by anxiety, anger, jealousy etc and stops looking to pin the problem on something else like diet and takes responsibility for their own creations so to speak.

        If your ready for this then when these afflictions arise don’t accept them, don’t run with them, don’t avoid them but let them fully be felt and experienced and you will see that they always move on and that at no point where you at any danger from them. This advice is not the usual advice which seeks to be rid of these problems (only for them to arise again) but to gently empower yourself to see that you are actually always stable in the face of all. However it’s good to be supported in doing this by others who are also giving up being a victim to their own mind training.

        But as I said no extremes, get help from professionals or wherever if you need to.

        • marcus volke says

          Gareth, I agree with you that one of the causes of anxiety is controllable psychological factors, controlling one’s thoughts can help control one’s feelings, but that is not enough to fix a real case of anxiety. Speaking from experience as someone who had it for several years and has since recovered, it is indeed a physical experience as well as a psychological experience. Imagine if you were under some constant state of threat, how would you respond? Your sympathetic nervous system would be switched on and you will feel perpetually stressed and no amount of positive thinking would stop it. That’s what it’s like having anxiety only there is no actual threat and no logical reason for the reaction.
          The gut brain axis link to depression and anxiety is particularly strong, and has been established in a number of studies – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21893478
          For me my feelings of anxiety started at the exact same time that I Developed irritable bowel syndrome, and most people with depression and anxiety have gut issues.
          A number of studies have observed differences in the brain scans of depressed and non depressed people including impaired neuroplasticity – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_of_depression#Monoamine
          The condition is also associated with decreased brain volume –

          http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v18/n9/full/nm.2886.html

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16425236

        • Paul says

          Gareth, I can’t agree with you more. You are spot on.
          Given that you are in good health, given that you’ve done all the nutritional due diligence and your gut-brain is balanced well, and you still have anxiety, then look at your mind. Do you ruminate, why then? Do you worry, why then? Do you pace the floor for no reason, why then? Do you not enjoy simple things, why then? Is there a stench in your soul, a foul low grade chronic pain, why then? Do you feel chronic guilt but have done nothing to deserve it, why then? Do you constantly question your social interactions and reactions…worry that maybe you said or did something wrong at a party, even when there is no possible way you could have, why then? Why dammit?
          Another ingestive ain’t the answer. You have to look at the way you think. You have to look at the way you tell your own story to yourself. You have to examine the movies you play in your head. You are not seeing yourself in the world correctly. But you first have to accept that fact and then release it, no guilt, go to work reprogramming your self to see the beautiful human you are.

      • Paul says

        Cat, I think you may have misconstrued “acceptance” in this regard. If a person, such as I, suffers from chronic long term (lifelong) anxiety, and your healthy, and your family history is indicative of anxiety and depression your first step MUST be acceptance. Guilt is a huge factor, and acceptance of facts removes guilt. You have to first accept basic facts, which is the first step to freedom. Based upon your comments you are neither elderly nor a sufferer of chronic anxiety. And, by the way, frailty is a natural part go aging.

    • marcus volke says

      gareth that is a bit dismissive. There is a difference between a normal functioning person who feels transient anxiety and someone who’s whole life is being controlled by perpetual and uncontrollable feelings of anxiety. You might as well say that anxiety as a chronic condition doesn’t exist. The fact is that people who have persistent feelings of depression and anxiety have concomitant physical symptoms that have been observed, including gut dysbiosis and measurable neurological distinctions.

      • Paul says

        I would have to disagree here. Since 1974 I have been up and down the rabbit hole of the health foodie movement looking for that magic elixir that would make me feel whole. Wine is the only thing that works and that’s just another rabbit hole in itself. I am in perfect health, sixty yrs old, and suffer chronic low grade anxiety. I’m not talking panic here I’m talking of a guilt shadow that follows you around forever.

        I have friends that eat garbage and are as happy as idiots so it ain’t all diet. And I have no concomitant physical symptoms. I understand that the gut-brain (enteric nervous system) is ninety percent autonomous from the brain and that it controls the brain to a large extent. But when all that is accounted for, anxiety must be seen as “part” of who you are. Now that knowledge is true freedom for a chronic sufferer. You may not understand this but it’s true. Now we have the self permission to see it as the ghost that it is.

  30. Neuroscientist says

    I think the type of protein is more important than the total amount you eat. If a protein food is high in the amino acids tryptophan and/or glycine, it will increase GABA production and have a calming effect. This is true of proteins found in poultry, beans, dairy, gelatin and pork skins, for example.

  31. marcus volke says

    As someone who has suffered from anxiety in the past for years this is not very formidable advice.
    If I had to pick the top 4 strategies for addressing anxiety it would be as follows –
    1: Adopt a quality “paleo template” diet.
    2: add lots of socially interactive exercise, including strength training.
    3: Address gut health (that was a big one for me, Fecal microbiota transplantation is needed in some cases). There is a HUGE link between gut dysbiosis and anxiety.
    4: Address psycho-social issues. For me, getting a girlfriend made a really huge difference in my life. The support, strength and bond of a partner almost eliminated the residual symptoms of anxiety that I had.

    No offense but I really don’t think drinking herbal teas and being less strict on one’s diet should be top priority for something as serious and recalcitrant to treatment as anxiety. No coffee is pretty much a no brainer.

    • Ian says

      Hey Marcus:

      This all makes sense to me. I’ve experienced similar and having a girlfriend was awesome and definitely noticed way less anxiety when I was dating. I’m sad to say I walked away from both my x’s and would rather be alone that in an unhealthy relationship and glad I gave it a shot with both of these women!

      I’d just add that sometimes waking away from an unhealthy relationship is just as important and having one depending on the circumstance.

      • marcus volke says

        Good point Ian, a destructive relationship can make things even worse and people with anxiety tend to have trouble letting go of these relationships because they find it hard to cope alone, i’m glad you were strong enough to do that :)

    • Cat says

      +1 for the exercise and social interaction, together and/or separate. Though it has to be actual vigorous exercise where I’m thinking about the game; it can’t be the slow types of yoga (I know there are fast tempo yogas) that make you focus on yourself and your breathing -that’s counterproductive for me. Basically, things that bring me out of my head seem to work really well (which is why yoga and meditation are unfortunately not strategies I can utilize).

      Chamomile and magnesium never worked for me, but green tea does have a general calming effect. I’ve also found chicken hearts (high in phosphotidylserine, I believe) to be helpful. For carbs I find it’s more about the single dose not being too high. I can eat lots of carbs if I split them into ~50g portions in each meal, but going over 50g gives me anxiety attacks.

      I also believe gut dysbiosis is a major factor in anxiety, but I find that it’s incredibly difficult to fix, so other strategies can be tried in the meantime.

      • chris D says

        50g of carb is 100g of bread (3 slices in my sprouted whole wheat bread ) that is HUGE.
        What am I missing?

        • Cat says

          2 apples =50g carbs. It’s about 1.5-1.75 potatoes, or 1 potato + other fruit/veggies, so not that huge at all. If you eat 3 meals per day with 50g carbs in each meal, that’s 150g carbs total, which is low carb ala PHD, and what many Paleo-template adherers eat.

          But either way, what you’re missing is that I was just sharing how I control anxiety attacks. I noticed eating more than 2 potatoes in a meal would trigger anxiety, so I stopped. Just an n=1.

          (You may also be eating very low carb, and I only eat moderately low carb, because otherwise I find it difficult to get enough calories. I think 300g+ carbs is what many high-carbers eat, so 150 g is half of that, ie/ moderately low carb. 50g carbs is not a lot unless you are doing a ketogenic diet or controlling diabetes.)

      • marcus volke says

        Hi cat, i had the same experience, yoga, meditation and other supposed stress relieve exercises were also counterproductive to me, vigorous exercise is much more effective. I think this is because people with anxiety are operating on high stress levels and they need a fight or flight response like vigorous exercise to deplete all those stress hormones and resolve the conflict. Gut health is hard to treat but FMT can be like a miracle cure if you IBS or other issues.

  32. says

    I have healed from Post Traumatic Stress disorder, Anxiety and Depression. I’ve always believed that I could heal med free but until a few years ago had not found peers in my profession who believed as I do. I now contract almost exclusively with a wonderful website where all of us as coaches/counsellors share a similar philosophy. We believe that anxiety is condition of both overstimulation and fear. So we start off by teaching people physiological strategies…what you’ve mentioned here as well as a few more. THEN we teach them how to contain their thinking (cognitive strategies)…after which we’ll go to underlying issues.

    When people start with, and consistently apply, the physiological strategies their symptoms will go away.

    If you’re interested in checking it out, there is a lot of great information at the membership part of the site: http://www.anxietycentre.com (Canadian spelling of centRE) :)

  33. Laura says

    Dear Laura (and Chris, too),

    Thank you for this wonderful article and thanks, as well, to everybody’s informative comments. I intend to read up on every one of the suggestions. You are all kind to post and share your strategies!

    Anxiety is a new companion for me (but I have had mild depression for years). I have been doing a Paleo/GAPS diet for 8 months with wonderful results. However, recently anxiety has gotten very high (several stressful life events converging has contributed) with really uncomfortable physical symptoms (grindy stomach, not able to physically relax and bring it down, feelings of fear and racing thoughts, constant, constant worry, pain in my mid-back).

    One thing your article helped me to ID right away was a change to my diet which may have contributed to higher anxiety. I followed up on the URL about Bulletproof coffee which led me to Bulletproof tea. We are tea drinkers and order high-quality loose-leaf teas from China, Taiwan and India. I have always drunk either Te guan yin or Jade Oolong teas; these are both lightly oxidized oolong teas (closer to green teas than to black teas) with high levels of theanine and other antioxidants. These teas calm me and help me focus and I gravitated to them.

    I ran out of my tea and started drinking my husband’s; he favors Darjeeling, which a highly oxidized, almost black tea. It has much less theanine (so caffeine will affect one more) and more purines (aids blood circulation, normalizes blood pressure, warming properties…) than the lightly oxidized oolongs I favor.

    BTW, we do not add anything to our tea (milk, sugar, honey, butter…), preferring to enjoy the subtle and ever-changing qualities of multiply-steeped tea leaves.

    It is clear that the tea is absolutely a medicine for me and by both running out of mine and also switching to a black loose-leaf tea, I am reacting badly. The Jade and Te guan yin create calmness and focus, a feeling of well-being physically/mentally, for me. Theanine lack? Well, your article made me sit up and take notice…

    But, I also think there may be dietary factors that are contributing. The stressful life events came and I started craving sweets and I began eating dates. Not a lot, not every day. But, I do not think I can tolerate any simple carbohydrates right now and I believe I experience more anxiety in the days following eating dates.

    We eat sauerkraut every day and my husband now makes his own kombucha (fermented tea). I started making water kefir and I also make my own 24-hour organic, whole milk/cream yogurt. The ferments are aiding our overall health, but by adding sugars (dates) I am probably feeding a bunch of bad bacteria and upsetting the balance I am trying to get to, by eating ferments.

    I am one of those people whose gut disorders (and auto-immune response) lead to a disregulation of the brain chemistry. Gut-brain connection. Mild depression has taken a back seat to anxiety, for me.

    My sympathies to anyone who has struggled with anxiety for years… …it is not easy to live with.

    So, THANK YOU so much for writing about this critical topic and for giving us more tools/info to use to heal and get to well-being and calm. I really hope will write more about this topic. Those of us whose master-computers (our brains) are affected by an out-of-balance gut really do appreciate it!

    • Trish says

      Oh, Laura, I feel you, sister! It is obvious you take your health seriously and are stepping up. Good for you!

      May I ask what autoimmune issue you are dealing with?

      I, too, fermented my own kefir, yogurt, etc. and LOVE kombucha! I ate only raw dairy and giving it up was really hard. I hate to admit this, but I do feel better dairy-free!

      I love your observations about how you react to the different teas! I am envious of your ability to handle the oolongs; they are delicious!

      I hope to be able to tolerate the small amount of caffeine in them again! And how I miss kombucha…

      How well do you sleep?

      My very best to you,
      Trish

      • Laura says

        Trish,

        I have a mild brain injury from a car accident years ago; left me with mild depression & SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

        I am so excited to read the Paleo community (including Dr. Kresser) posting and writing books about the gut-brain connection. This info was unknown years ago; I tried to help my mild brain injury heal years ago with diet, herbs, etc. …with virtually no known tools – well, you could get all kinds of meds / pharmaceuticals …which I did NOT want and chose to refuse.

        Today, I am aware of at least two books wherein the authors (doctors) not only advocate a Paleo approach but give very, very specific ways to heal the gut/brain connection, thereby helping the brain itself. It is now generally agreed – among these researchers – that just like people develop “leaky guts”, they can also develop “leaky blood-brain barriers”. It is generally agreed that if you have had a brain injury, you now also have a leaky gut, because of the intimate connection between the vagus nerve and the gut. Insult the brain, insult the vagus nerve & the gut. The communication between the two is pretty much initiated mostly in the gut …with the brain NOT the leader but the follower! So, heal the gut/vagus nerve pathways, heal the brain.

        As far as a “leaky blood-brain barrier”; holy cow does that factor introduce lots of things to think about! Just HOW does a “leaky blood-brain barrier” manifest in one’s day-to-day life? I wanna know!

        …and, just HOW the heck do you heal a leaky blood-brain barrier?

        …and, are they telling me I not only have a leaky gut but I ALSO have a leaky brain ?

        We were all taught years ago by the Drs. / media / drug companies that you need anti-depressants so you can (re-use) serotonin in the brain and manage depression. Well, now it is being stated by Paleo docs that 80%+ of your serotonin is not only produced in the gut, it is also USED in the gut. So much for the effectiveness of SSRIs and their serotonin recycling in the brain! Toss the pills and gimme my sauerkraut, please.

        I, too, can’t have (non-fermented) dairy. But I have found that if I ferment the milk for 24-28 hours I have NO problems; this long fermentation both gets rid of the milk sugars and changes the milk proteins so they are digestible for me. I also ferment using 1/2 whole milk and 1/2 full cream (all organic, grass-fed). The higher fat works really well for me. I would ferment 100% cream but I can’t afford it! Boy is it yummy!

        BTW, sleep is off right now. I am staying up later, waking up earlier, and am not refreshed. This anxiety-thing is not fun.

        Trish, are you dealing with an auto-immune issue?

        Thanks for your post!

        • Trish says

          Hey, Laura,

          I have Hashimoto’s Disease. But frankly, it’s the adrenal fatigue syndrome that is really the dominant issue.

          I was an outsales sales rep in the natural health industry and I sold to holistic M.D.’s, N.D.’s, etc. but I had filed the info regarding a leaky brain-barrier away in some part of my brain. Thank you for the refresher! I love dialogue with people who are informed and passionate about getting healthy naturally! And it sounds like you have really been through it, too!

          Now… I had this massive lab done through my lovely D.O. and found out that my body was not digesting nor absorbing ANY fat! Not fat synthesized by my body nor dietary fat! Which completely explains why I gained 25 bloody lbs on the GAPS diet and had constant reflux that actually developed into full blown gastritis with erosions covering my stomach and esophagus! I felt unwell the whole time I was on it.

          Not to thouroughly gross you out, but I had a week in which I was pretty sick. I had diarrhea with vomiting and for 5 days ate only clear bone stock, which I made, and I GAINED 4 lbs! When my thyroid and adrenals tanked I gained 20 lbs within 4 weeks, not changing my diet or acitivity level. I ate well and was doing yoga, pilates and good cardio. Then I nearly collapsed and had to cease all exercise and went on the GAPS diet, working with a certified GAPS practitioner. I gained another 25 lbs within 4 weeks! When I switched to a more balanced paleo diet, then eliminated all dairy, I started feeling better and I am slowly dropping weight.

          My AFS was so bad, Laura, that the slightest stimulant triggered an adrenal crash. For a while there I was truly in fear for my life.

          I am slowly doing better and looking forward to rejoining society! And unfortunately, even well fermented yogurt makes me bloated. :(

          Thank you so much for the fantastic info, your intelligence and sense of humor!

          • Laura says

            Trish,

            May I ask, what are the physical symptoms of adrenal glands which are weakened or not working well?

            Yeh, digesting fats is an issue. I am OK with that part of Paleo-GAPS, thankfully. But I have a friend doing GAPS and she has also gained weight and now thinks digesting fats is an issue. She has started taking HCl/betaine tabs. (She is also currently under a lot of stress.)

            I hope you continue to do better and find ways to heal the auto-immune thing(s). I am so envious of people who can just start Paleo and have no probs no AI issues – well, not really envious, just wishing that my pathway were easier.

            Best to you!

      • Laura says

        Trish, re. tea and caffeine: among tea people (and I’m talking cammelia sinensis here, not tissanes AKA herbal teas) it is recommended – if you are sensitive to caffeine – that you discard the first steep of your tea. This removes a very large percentage of the caffeine. Steep the loose-leaf for 60 seconds, discard the water, and then steep again & again and you will gain the benefit of the other phyto-nutrients in the steeps, while loosing the effects of caffeine.

        Also, you sound like you probably already know that different types of tea produce different mental states in different people (the Chinese tea-masters have known this for centuries). So, try different types of teas to see their effect …and try brewing your initial steeps (discarding the first, of course) for very brief times (30, 45 seconds) …and read up on which temp. of water to use for which tea (very important). Both water temp & steep length will change the expression of the phyto-nutrients in your cuppa. Let your tongue tell you what is right for you.

        Tea bags (not the more expensive and superior loose-leaf teas) contain tea leaf that has been broken up (it is called “dust” in China and is the cheapest, lowest grade of tea – sold to the Lipton’s and Tetley’s of the world). Once broken up as “dust” the leaf releases a great deal more caffeine. So, do not use store-bought tea bags.

        Finally, the black teas (highly oxidized) tend to express more caffeine and the light oolongs and greens (lightly or not oxidized) tend to express less caffeine and more of the other phyto-nutrients. So, stay away from black teas …and dust!

        Caffeine makes me jittery and I should have picked up on the Darjeeling (almost a black tea) making me antsy!

        HTH. I would be desolate if I had to give up tea! Maybe this will give you a way to add tea back in?

  34. says

    For years I struggled with chronic anxiety, the life-changing difference came when I surrendered my life to Christ. I know I can cast all my anxiety upon Him and He will set me free. I have a hope and peace in Him like nothing I had ever experienced in my life prior to His Saving Grace. I pray that you will find relief, peace and joy in the One who truly can save. Many blessings, Kelly :)
    “… cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. .”
    -1 Peter 5:7

  35. Ian says

    Laura,
    Excellent post! I can relate with this and here’s what I’ve done/experienced to share with the tribe:

    I found I do best with the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. My friends told me I’m the most solid and confident “ballsy guy!” they know when I’m doing that as long as I have plenty of work coming in.

    I’ve struggled with employment and if my diet is “perfect” or what works best for me is dialed in, but I don’t have income coming in my anxiety goes through the roof no matter what and the the focus on diet can then become a distraction. So there are definitely psycho/emotional things that can’t be “fixed” by diet for me.

    This isn’t black and white, but in general having a low carb diet (especially without fruits) without nuts/seeds/grains/beans and moderate clean forms of caffeine works for me.

  36. Julie says

    Just for the record, when you talk about grams of carbs and protein, it’s usable carbs and protein and not weight? I followed the Zone ratios for a number of years (on and off I confess, and I always lost weight steadily) and functioned very well. I now eat cleaner but think the lower carb isn’t working so well for me either.

    • chris D says

      July has a good question which makes me ask mine:
      I am VERY confused: you say “a very low carb diet is 100g of carbs/d?” That is about 200g of my bread daily, hardly a low carb diet.
      On protein, 1g/poud of body weight means 150g for SO weighing 150lbs.
      Now with 32g of protein per 4oz steak (nutrition Now tables) that’s about 18-19oz of steak/day (1lb 3oz). I’d agree that it is a lot!

      Laura, Please correct the numbers you use if there is an error. Dod you mean 10-15g carb/d, not 100?

      • Susan says

        100g of carbs is total carbs not net carbs. 1g of protein per lb of body weight should be lean body mass. There are calculators online to find your lean body mass. The 150 lb person you talked about may have a LBM of 105 lb. 1g per LBM is also for very physically active people so people should adjust their protein intake based on activity levels just as they should with total carb intake.

  37. Greensleeves says

    Magnesium, theanine, rhodiola, ashwaganda & B vitamins are key! Plus some form of meditation & probiotics.

  38. says

    I struggled with anxiety for several decades before eventually finding my own solution and now I help others to do the same. I thought my anxiety had no connection with my diet as I had zero digestive symptoms and a seemingly cast iron stomach. Ah how wrong I was!

    But it’s not just your macronutrient balance that counts. Your Brain loves fat, water and lots and lots of nutrients. It hates inflammatory foods, things you are intolerant to, rollercoaster blood sugar and a wonky 03/06 balance. And it hates toxins.

    The solution is not about ‘restricting or unrestricting’ your diet according to a Paleo blueprint. Just because you are paleo doesn’t mean that your diet is healthy or right for you.

    Paleo is a good start but it’s only a start. If 100 paleo dieters read this page you are looking at 100 different diets. You might actually need low-fodmap, no nightshade, egg and lactose free paleo with no walnuts!

    What you are aiming to do is to improve the quality of your diet one habit at a time – upping the nutrients whilst removing the stuff your body doesn’t like….

    Get rid of the inflammatory foods, the foods that you are intolerant too (which you probably won’t notice until you clean up the rubbish first), balance your blood sugar and your o3/6. Eat enough damn nutrients in the first place.

    I actually got much worse when I started a paleo diet as I had unwittingly added more of the ‘healthy’ foods that were causing my problems. It sounds so obvious to say ‘You Are Your Diet’ but you are. It has a huge impact on your anxiety levels. But it takes time. Don’t just ‘restrict or unrestrict’ your diet to follow a blueprint. Work systematically until you find your own. Yes it can be a slow and frustrating process but it’s worth it in the end :-)

  39. finndian says

    The magnesium suggestion is right on the money. I had panic issues on and off for most of my life. I had weird symptoms that had gotten progressively worse as I got older as well… especially nerve conduction issues; I woke up and one of the triceps muscles was paralyzed. I went physical therapy for 2 months until the nerve began to fire again. Then one of my vocal cord stopped working for 3 months. I was sure I had MS but test showed nothing.

    I discovered after years of many different doctor visits that I had a couple undiagnosed food allergies that would play havoc with my stomach. When you have gut inflammation you cannot absorb magnesium and B vitamin absorption is disrupted as well. Could be because the bacteria in your stomach that makes B12 called intrinsic factor is overrun as the gut ecology changes drastically with food allergy.

    I cut the foods out of my diet and it took a few months of Mediclear plus and daily L-glutamine to calm the inflammation. Restoring my B12 took weekly injections of methyl-cobalamin for months. Magnesium is hard to restore orally when you have lingering stomach issues and because of different qualities and the levels of absorption of the different types of Magnesium. Magnesium oxide is notorious for being just about useless in terms of absorption for instance.

    Even after months of taking high quality magnesium glycinate testing showed I was still deficient. I was taking regular magnesium baths and using magnesium oil as well as 1500mgs of glycinate but red blood cell analysis still showed low magnesium blood levels. I had to have 2500mg IVs of magnesium once a week for 3 weeks to bring levels up to normal. Now I take a powdered magnesium drink called “Natural Calm” occasionally and that takes care of my levels now along with lots of dark green veggies of course.

    Benefits of restoring my deficits have been no more tingling hands and feet, no more of occasional RLS, no more nerve conduction problems, no more dehydration, no more of my life time of canker sores, no more chronic constipation, no more depression, no more panic, no more exaggerated startle response, no more social anxiety, I am calm to the core, no more occasional prostate pain, no more chiropractor once a month for back adjustments, adult acne disappeared.

    One thing I learned is that if you are truly magnesium deficient that you are also potassium deficient since they go hand in hand. I drank low sodium V8 juice since one 8 ounce glass is like eating 2 bananas for the potassium. Restoring magnesium without potassium supplementing will highlight the potassium deficiency symptoms like leg cramps. Potassium pills are limited by law to 99mg which is 3% of the RDA. Taking one pill will not help you.

  40. Trish says

    Hi Laura,

    As a child growing up in a violent home, anxiety was my normal way of being; it was all I knew. I had panic and anxiety attacks but didn’t realize that’s what was going on until much later.

    I now know I was born with adrenal stress, and the subsequent ongoing abuse created a chronically anxious state that developed into PTSD and then very advanced adrenal fatigue syndrome.

    I suffered from crippling insomnia, getting 2-4 hrs of sleep in 15-minute increments, and often not sleeping at all. The cascading effect of health issues started very young and took over my entire life. I vibrated at my very core, kind of like a car idling. I had IBS as young as 7 yrs old, debilitating headaches, PCOS, stage 3 cystic acne, chronic low back pain and sacral instability, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, interstitial cystitis, and Hashimoto’s Disease.

    I worked as an outside sales rep in the natural health industry, I am a certified clinical hypnotherapist and a certified professional coach. I have acquired a lot of tools over the years and always looked to food and supplements as a way to augment the other emotional and spiritual healing modalities I utilized.

    4 years ago when I was on the verge of collapse and adrenal failure, I was having paradoxical reactions to nearly everything I took. I was forced to leave my job and have even been housebound off and on for months at a time. I gave in then and began taking very small doses of xanax at night in order to get some kind of sleep. If I am unable to sleep, healing will not occur. I do not take it during the day and really look forward to the day when I can wean myself off at night.

    Paying out of pocket seeking help in a society that knows very little about adrenal fatigue syndrome has left us financially drained. I have found that even those who know something about AFS don’t understand that mild and moderate AFS are a far cry from advanced adrenal fatigue syndrome. Once you cross that line into advanced it’s a whole different ballgame. Any kind of stimulant can trigger an adrenal crash and paradoxical reactions are the norm.

    I have been working with a brilliant therapist doing sound therapy with tuning forks. I was holding onto so many toxins that I was unable to absorb nutrients, especially the nutrients that calm the nervous system. Someone mentioned copper earlier, and she is spot on! I was storing high levels of copper deep within my cells and I have been releasing the toxins that have contributed to my body’s inability to function as it was intended. It took me 4 months to release the copper. I am currently releasing old vaccines and this experience is profound.

    I am now able to absorb magnesium and vitamin C is also really important for adrenal healing. I drink lemon balm tea and have L-theanine on hand for times when I need it. I practice slow, deep breathing and will lay down in the ‘corpse pose’ during the day doing slow, deep belly breathing. While this all works well, I have had AFS for so long, healing is taking a while. Those of us dealing with this, often have a hard time self-regulating and as soon as we start to feel better we try to resume normal activities… and then we have an adrenal crash. It is frustrating and I deal with this firsthand. I am learing about being patient with myself!

    One more thing. I highly recommend an exercise program called TRE or Trauma Releasing Exercises developed by Dr. David Berceli of the Berceli Foundation. When we are under severe or chronic stress, our posas muscles constrict as a way of protecting us at our most vulnerable. Other muscles react in kind and this triggers fight/flight. When the stress is severe or chronic enough, our psoas muscles remain constricted and our emotional and mental health reflects that. The exercises are like yoga poses that elicit a shaking within the psoas that reverberates throughout the body and relaxation results.

    That was a very simple way of explaining it, but his website explains it all beautifully. http://www.bercelifoundation.org/s/1340/aff_2_home.aspx

    Thank you again, Laura, for your great information and offering a place to be heard!

    I find I love all things Chris Kresser related! :D

    • Ian says

      Trish,
      I just wanted to chime in and say you are right on. My experience of doing deep psycho/emotional growth and healing helped me more than any diet ever has.

      Anxiety is often fear of being hurt or a way to bypass rage. When I digested repressed rage from a traumatic family where I was forced to give up my power to an alcoholic man eating/hating mother and coward of a father it was the first time in my life I felt my anxiety/depression/brain fog really resolve! The day this moved was literally the best day of my life and I’m 33 so that says a lot.

      Thanks for saying something about this and best of luck on your path!

      • Trish says

        Ian! Thank you so much for your kind words and support! And congratulations on your own growth and healing!

        Being willing to show up and face what you have takes courage. So many people are afraid to do just that out of fear of pain, not realizing that they are creating far more pain by resisting and denying.

        Good wishes back to you! Here’s to radiant health!

        Trish :)

    • finndian says

      Trish I noticed you listed Hashimoto’s last on your list as a symptoms of adrenal fatigue but every last one of the other symptoms are signs of undertreated Hashimoto’s. What are your labs? As a Hashimoto’s sufferer like myself your free T3 should be in the high normal range.

  41. Paul says

    Beyond looking for a silverbullet food / supplement regime anxiety is also mind made, which is precisely the point of this axiom: “That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” – Chinese Proverb

    If you suffer a chronic undercurrent of anxiety that shaves off joy and pleasure…and your healthy in general you need to look at your thinking process. I am sixty, healthy and sensitive to nothing…can tolerate dairy, legume, pasta, meat…all of it, I had anxiety all my life, been through buttload of foodie / vitamin stuff and was about to go pharma when my doc told me that I just may be hard wired for it, based on my family history. These were words of magic…it’s what I needed to hear. It took all the guilt away.
    Sure I have anxiety, lots of it, so what? I thInk wrong…I can work on that. Don’t just look for the injestive magic bullet…there ain’t one. Look at your mind, the way you think, the way you put yourself in the world, the movies you create in your mind. Just accept it. Watch your mind…watch the way you think and love who you are.
    Mind made…change mind.

  42. Gareth says

    There may be some benefit to tinkering with diet and herbs but if anxiety is really bothering you then I would suggest getting real. The real cause of anxiety imho is due to believing that your well-being is dependent on things going right in life and worrying that things won’t go well. This is merely a habit we have all trained in and it causes stress and anxiety to nearly everyone.
    When you see that actually you are ok all the time no matter what, then you gradually stop believing in your mental gymnastics and they die down.

    I used to walk into a health food shop and believe that somewhere on those shelves must be the cure to my anxiety. This type of thinking is just more anxiety.

    We have created torture chambers in our own minds and so we can choose to stop the self abuse.

  43. Aimee says

    What a great article! I found this personally so true for me and feel much better with heatlhy carbs. Plus being strict is just no fun and thats important. I also find that being appreciative to God that we have all this real food to eat! Thanks again for a great article :)

  44. JessD says

    I agree with increasing the carbs! I feel better now that I switched from low-carb paleo to PHD (more root veggies/plantains/white rice and LOTS more fat…specifically the healthy oleic & stearic fats). I also consume caffiene very rarely. The only supplements I take are vit d3 and the occasional cod liver oil when Im not eating liver. But I do eat a crazy amount of variety, including seaweed (i sprinkle dulse on everything!), herbal teas, lots of healthy spices (especially ginger/turmeric) gelatin, and fermented foods/kombucha everyday. I feel overall better including OCD/anxiety/binging problems. Also I think yoga/buddhism helps! Oh and I am lucky enough to get 8hrs of sleep every night. And I try to eat a mix of raw and cooked foods everyday. It’s hard to say what has helped me the most. But I feel like I’ve found a great balance/routine now.

  45. Corey says

    Maybe the thing to do for anxiety is to get some vitamin B3. It’s interesting how a general need for niacin is linked to so many anxiety and even dangerous mental disorders.

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/10/21/pellagra-causes-violent-crimes.aspx

    Although, I like to add a wide spectrum medical grade probiotic to help control anxiety. I find Super Shield Plus probiotics from Blue Rock Wholistics to be a pretty nice blend for my purposes. I figure if leaky gut can exacerbate conditions like autism, why not anxiety too?

  46. Jerome says

    A few years ago I developed crippling panic disorder with near constant fear and paranoia. When it first occurred, I went into a doctor and he mentioned my cholesterol was slightly high as well. My reaction was to become a vegetarian, then a vegan. But my lipid numbers only increased and I had more and more trouble keeping off the weight. Meanwhile I required constant benzos just to function throughout the day.

    I changed my diet from one of severe restriction to one of super nourishment; eating egg yolks, liver, quality fats, meats and healthy vegetables… while leaving out processed foods, oils and sugars and largely eliminating the tremendous amounts of whole grains I had been eating as a vegetarian. I no longer take medication, I no longer have panic attacks, and I find the little anxiety I do have is very manageable. My energy levels are stable, I’m calm, and I can now face situations that would have had me shaking in fear with a grin.

  47. Roland says

    I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life. After losing weight and starting to eat healthier, I started to meditate daily. Meditation is the most powerful thing I do and has been the best antidote for anxiety, for me. I didn’t have any anxiety for years, until I switched to a paleo diet and my stress levels increased for other reasons.

    I’ve slowly learned much of what you say here through my own experience. I definitely get anxious when going too low carb… I need at least 150g per day. Higher amounts of protein cause me a little anxiety if I am not exercising that day. I use L-theanine regularly. I’ve supplemented with magnesium in the past but lately I’ve stopped due to strange side effects. I think I actually get enough in my diet and might take a little a few times a week.

    With caffeine, you can be a freak like me and measure out ground coffee before you brew it. Over long periods of doing this daily, I’ve found the perfect range of coffee that works best for me through measuring the amounts. If I go a little over that amount, I can start to notice more negative effects of overstimulation.

    I agree on the Bulletproof Coffee method. After drinking only Bulletproof Coffee in the morning for months, the stress of fasting broke me. Even doing Bulletproof Coffee/fasting most days of the week and only eating breakfast a few days a week doesn’t quite work for me. My health started to decline. I fixed that by decreasing the Bulletproof Coffee recipe slightly and adding a decent breakfast with it in the morning. Now I feel absolutely fantastic.

    Now I use anxiety as a meter. When I have anxiety, I try to think of one of these things or control stress better. It is a clear sign of an imbalance somewhere. In this way, it is a useful tool.

  48. Basil Grey says

    I have heard magnesium mentioned by several people. I love mineral water such as Gerolsteiner which is high in magnesium and it’s usually affordable depending on where you buy it (1.29 at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s).

    • Miranda says

      Gerolsteiner water is amazing for me! From a little research on the internet the minerals in this water are very high compared to similar brands

  49. says

    Very brave of you to mention that excess protein and lack of carbohydrates can be a contributor to anxiety on this site. I very much agree and have felt those effects myself. Ayurveda, the science of life from india, recommends healthy grain foods as satvic promoting clear awareness and calmness. Kudos Laura

  50. Luzmin says

    Hello,

    Lavela’s list of ingredients includes canola oil. Is there a similar supplement without canola oil?

    • Adlock Hungry says

      Luzmin, I wouldn’t worry about the small amount of Canola Oil you might find in a supplement. You wouldn’t want to make it a dietary staple, but unless you are allergic/highly sensitive, the amount of canola in Lavela’s couldn’t possibly be enough to throw off the balance of Omega 3/6, nor be enough to produce significant inflammation.

      Just my two, completely non-professional layperson, cents! Cheers!

  51. Ledak says

    Thanks for this article. I have found all these tips to be useful for me. Increasing magnesium, reducing caffeine and alcohol, and upping my carbs have been helpful. The only things I would add are getting adequate sleep, light to moderate exercise and plenty of prayer :)

  52. says

    I’ve been following your blog for years now, and thought maybe it was time I contribute!

    Hands down the most effective way I’ve learned to handle anxiety-as well as depression, fatigue, ADD/ADHD, most physical and emotional pain, and a number of other complaints-is to reengage the parasympathetic nervous system through a process called Open Focus. Les Fehmi was one of the early pioneers of biofeedback/neurofeedback, and developed these exercises back in the 1970’s. His research papers on the work showed a 90% reduction in all stress related complaints for his study subjects.

    I’m generally pretty skeptical about anything that makes such promises on such a broad scope of complaints, but knowing the wide damaging reach stress plays in the body, I decided to be my own guinea pig and spend a week out in Princeton with Dr Fehmi getting certified in the technique, undergoing the process as a patient the whole way. I’ve I’m very hands on, and have tried meditation, supplementation (which I still wholeheartedly recommend to clients, but for other issues), caffeine and alcohol restriction, nearly a year of bi-weekly neurofeedback sessions….The results I encountered with Open Focus were nothing short of profoundly effective and beautifully efficient, and I’ve seen the same results repeated in my own clients. For the CK readers who are probably well up to date on adrenal fatigue and the HPA axis, my working theory is that by pulling you out of your fight/flight sympathetic ns state, the HPA axis is no longer unnecessarily/chronically stimulated, allowing for longer term healing of the steroid hormone balance (and thus the rest of the body) in addition to the more immediate benefits that comes with relaxation and expanded awareness. However, I have not yet been able to confirm this improvement with a saliva test, as most of my clients add in other work with me, which muddles the variables a bit!

    There are unfortunately only a handful of certified coaches for this work, but Dr Fehmi’s book (Open Focus) is available, and contains scripts and an audio CD of some of his basic exercises.

    • Bill Dinner says

      Adrianne and Chris.

      Glad you mentioned Dr. Fehmi. I believe his techniques especially for pain management are excellent. I would also like to mention “the healing power of the breath” by Richard Brown, MD and Patricia Gerbarg, MD. They focus on simple breathing techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance concentration and to balance your emotions. The book also comes with an excellent CD for breath training.

      I belive the approach is easier to start with than the open focus approach of Dr. Fehme and can be learned by just about anyone. I have found it effective in reducing stress and my students appear to agree. My wife has also integrated some of the breathing techniques into her therapy practice with good results. Dr. Brown gives numerous workshops in the NY area as well as a week long teacher training course.

  53. getwell says

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for sharing your very personal experience. Anxiety and worry have been a lifelong struggle for me. When I started having panic attacks after taking a stressful job, I tried every supplement, and lifestyle intervention I could (yoga, therapy, group therapy). Magnesium worked wonders at first, then stopped helping after a few months. I eventually began a 10 year journey into medicines to try to get some relief. My life has changed a lot, as well as my diet, I still hold out hope that someday a solid supplement regimen can replace the pharmaceuticals. I will tell you, that despite not liking to take them, I am very grateful for the medications that have made the last 10 years liveable. There are some supplements in your article that I have not tried, I will have to give them a go. Thanks again for the quality work.

  54. phil says

    I strongly believe that with all the chemicals in our food today, that food can definitely be a culprit of anxiety. Hormone imbalance can also be a cause. You just need to find out the right balance for you. Moderation is key as too much of anything is not good. Also, fatigue contributes to anxiety. Prayer works very well for me along with good suppliments and eating veggies and fruit. I have cut out gluten for the most part and I do feel much better as gluten for some people is an inflammatory. It takes time, but keep working at it and you’ll find out what is best for you.

    • Amie says

      Hey Phil,

      Good point with the hormonal imbalance. I have had anxiety since I was 15, I am now 24. I was on the pill age 16 – 23 and when I came off it my hormonal balance went out the window (I’m talking no period for months, hair loss and acne). My anxiety makes it worse as I am constantly in “fight or flight” mode but then my hormonal imbalance also gives me anxiety as I worry about that… so it’s really a vicious cycle!

      I’ve only been eating paleo for about 2 months now but I’m starting to see improvements each day… don’t know about giving up my morning coffee though! :-(

  55. Austin says

    Great advice! I have personally struggled with daily anxiety for about a year now. The stress of a 40 hour work life and being a full time Dietetic student married with two children had really taken a toll on me. Last September I had a full blown panic attack and realized something had to be done. I do currently take .25 mg of a benzo when my anxiety gets really bad. I have refused to take anxiolytics or anti depressants during this time due to the negative effects. Some advice I can give that has greatly helped me is taking 500 mg curcumin 2x a day along with 500 mg of magnesium citrate. Deep breathing, positive affirmations and continuous prayer have been on top of the list as well. I have also recently incorporated drinking two cups of caffeine free Tulsi tea with Chamomile and Lavender which is a great calming drink in the evening time. Hope this helps and many blessings!

  56. Birgit says

    I believe the role of caffeine on anxiety is far greater than any of the other factors described because it hugely changes sleep patterns and is usually used to survive on less sleep.
    It is not just the effects of the caffeine directly that causes the damage.
    Why drinking moderate amounts of coffee (3 instead of 6 cups) when it is extremely easy to gradually reduce caffeinated coffee and replace it with (swiss-water-based) decaf. I did this over the course of 10 days, exchanging 10% of caffeinated coffee with decaf until I was drinking only decaf. I had no withdrawal symptoms at all as long as I kept regular sleeping hours and avoided computer/TV exposure within 2 hours of bedtime. One could even do this more gradual over 20 days. I now have decaf several times a day with up to a 1/4 cup of heavy cream and it works great as a meal replacement in a pinch.

    • Lori says

      I completely agree about the caffeine! Depression and anxiety are new to me over the last year. I’m fortunate to have found an excellent naturopath and am on the path to healing my gut. But, I kept having bouts of not being able to take a deep breath, when I got rid of refined sugar that made an improvement. And then I gave up coffee and the few times I’ve had a small cup that feeling of not being able to breathe kept racing back. I just can’t help but think caffeine has an even bigger effect than we give it credit for.

    • Chorton says

      I completely agree with the copper detox. Since I’ve been detoxing, I find I have periods of a week or so of a sense of calm that I’ve never had. Of course, when the body decides to let loose with another round of detox I can get a bit anxious again, but it’s always when I have obvious signs of detox. …and eventually I find that week or so of calm again when the body takes a break. The nice thing is that those weeks get longer each time and the space between them shorter. :)

    • John McDonell says

      I didn’t know about the hi copper levels – makes sense. Zinc and copper are like a teeter-totter – up-down; most folks are low in zinc so would be too high in copper … anxiety. {And there is I believe a strong Cu(copper)-caffeine link.

      Not so common a link may be in EMF exposure as WiFi and laptop exposure Regenerative Nutrition News, a British supplement company has some excellent info in a new article.
      Laura you may wish to introduce carbohydrates at a supper meal on a ketogenic diet for breakfast-lunch- @2pm>>>strenuous exercise >>> small amt protein … >>> then for supper the carbohydrate foods ,,, concept called carb backoading by John Kieffer.

  57. Pippa says

    Thank you for speaking so much sense. I do feel that there is so much prescriptive, restrictive dietary preaching going on. My children and I lived on a very restricted diet for 5 years trying to heal our guts. Not much healing took place, in fact my gut and health kept deteriorating. By that point I’d read and researched so much on how detrimental grains, legumes and fruit were to an injured gut that I couldn’t even bring myself to eat them. There has been a definite psychological impact from trying to arm myself with knowledge. I would say that reading all the negative talk about certain food groups created a sort of eating disorder within me. I completely lost touch with my own body and intuition trying to listen to the experts. I still find it hard not to associate those foods with creating ill health, although I feel and look so much better including them in my diet. And now that I eat oats again for breakfast I no longer suffer from the terrible insomnia I had. Pippa

    • Jan says

      I really appreciate your comment. I have a few autoimmune diseases and have always eaten a organic foods, low sugar, gluten and dairy free diet with low to moderate carbs diet. I decided to try the AIP a couple of months ago…I was never a big meat eater, but became one. I am sicker than I ever was for some reason. I do have leaky gut…was tested. I have been on an herb and supplement protocol and am avoiding all seeds, nuts etc…almonds used to be my standby. I am finding that I am hungry a lot, have a lot more joint pain, am fatigued and am having huge flares of all of the diseases. It is hard to let go of the idea that this particular diet will help and that it has helped so many others. There are nutritionists who only advocate the AIP for autoimmune disease. Maybe it is not for everyone though. It is nice to be given the permission to eat what works for us. I am going to have to find what works better for me…the AIP isn’t it.

      By the way, for everyone else…I take magnesium threonate, because it crosses the blood brain barrier and is very calming.

      • Jen says

        I am feeling the exact same way. I have been trying all sorts of diets and supplements and nothing seems to be helping. Now I am freaked about food in general, worried I am making the wrong choices.

        I just got a new doctor (after the last one completely told me that my thyroid was fine when the numbers showed it was way off) and she is much more the voice of reason. She is the first one to tell me about the thyroid/gluten connection and I have had diagnosed Hashimoto’s for 25 years!

        I have stopped the supplements with glandulars that I think were giving me problems and feel better already. Now I am trying to truly listen to my body instead of a doctor assuring me that more supplements will cure what ails me. It is a day at a time as I truly listen to what my body likes.

  58. Robin H says

    I don’t really have anxiety anymore, but I certainly used to. One thing that used to give me anxiety was excessive alcohol intake. I’d wake up early in the morning with an overwhelming anxiety. Even now when I slip and drink a little too much wine in the evening, this will sometimes happen. I’m a lot more strict about my alcohol and caffeine intake now, and I rarely get anxiety anymore.

  59. Michelle says

    Hi – I am working on anxiety issues from C-PTSD with diet, exercise, CBT, lifestyle, etc. I actually find Bulletproof Coffee helpful. Granted I make mine with Matcha. My stomach & digestive system does not tolerate protein, does not tolerate large meals, and if anything, I end up low on my daily calories because of it. I assume the stomach issues are from stress coupled with HPA dysregulation, it’s a huge bummer, but what can you do? I make BCP with matcha and some L-theanine, and find that my digestive system is much happier in the morning without having a glut of food sitting in my stomach, causing me discomfort. It helps alot with getting enough calories without the pain. At present I am trying higher carbs (mostly from fruit) later in the day event though I do OK on lower carbs. Due to the digestive and metabolic slowdown from stress, I am trying not to end up in the overweight category, too. It’s ALL a struggle, and an an incredible balancing act in the face of constant overwhelming stress.

  60. says

    Anxiety is no fun, the stress we deal with everyday is way more than people used to, electronics like cells phone makes us feel like we are always connected and we never get time to give our brain a break.

    I never used to have anxiety, but with lots of life stressors over the years I have been hit with anxiety and its no fun. I have found some natural herbs and vitamins that have helped me big time.

    Rhodiola is my favorite :-)
    Ashwagandha, magnesium and Tulsi tea. These for help products have help me big time.

    Thanks for writing this, helps people understand that there are natural things that can help :-)

    • Marie says

      I take Rhodiola as well and love it! My teenage son had terrible anxiety and lithium orotate was the only thing that helped him. He took 10 mg once or twice a day. It was a lifesaver for him!

    • Maggie says

      Acupuncture helps keep my mental hyperactivity under control which assists in sleep as well as anxiety. Also amino acids like gaba, homeopathy and St Johns Wort.

  61. CW says

    I’ve actually added in magnesium and minerals (I take ReMag and ReLyte) and also increased my carbs to over 100g as well as adding back in things I eliminated like rice, potatoes, quinoa, etc. I also increased overall calories (actually using the calculator and subtracting off several hundred as I’ve seen you mention previously – was happy to see you recommend that). I am SOOO much better. Not only that, I’m actually finally able to lose weight for the first time in ages! I initially lost some on paleo, then it came to a screeching halt and I started gaining it back. I think my thyroid is much happier with this approach! So is my mental health!

  62. says

    Excellent advice, Laura! I have struggled with sub-clinical levels of anxiety on and off since childhood. When I first embarked on the low-carb paleo (+dairy) approach 6 years ago, not only did my physical health improve, but my brain fog and reactive hypoglycemia went away, and my simmering anxiety greatly reduced as well. When I add too many carbs back into my diet (in the form of safe starches, mostly) or eat too many nuts, I find the bloating AND anxiety return lock-in-step. I suspect there is a strong connection between gut inflammation and anxiety. I know Chris has discussed the gut-brain axis many times before, both here and in his excellent podcast.

    What I find incredible is how varied are the approaches that work across individuals. In my case, restricting carbs and other gut irritants helps me physically and mentally. For many others (perhaps a majority?), it seems that limiting carbs too much actually induces anxiety. Individual variation is important, and I’m glad the folks in the paleosphere, and realm of Ancestral Health are not only recognizing this, but embracing it.

    • ChicPammy says

      Aaron,

      Thank you so much for your comments on Brain Fog. How bad was yours? I am in the midst of a 6 week bout with it -from taking antibiotics after a rountine surgery. I have had this before and it went away after a lot of self care. Any tips are much appreciated.

      Best!

      • says

        Hi ChicPammy,

        I’ve been plagued with brain fog all of my life, until going low-carb paleo 6 years ago. I also think I suffered from what used to be called petite mal seizures, though it’s never been officially diagnosed. I definitely remember having frequent (every few days), very brief (30s or so) bouts of “absence” where I’d kind of daze off and be sort of present mentally, but not really. I was always aware of them when they happened, but I couldn’t exert any control over the state and “snap” myself out of it, no matter how hard I struggled mentally to do so. I just had to ride the episode out, knowing it would pass in a moment. I don’t get these anymore, either, and I have a strong suspicion they are related. I think that’s why the low-carb paleo approach works well for me. In fact, a paper was just published showing a case report of a child who responded very well on a keto paleo diet as a treatment for preventing his petite mal seizures (which, now that I opened up the PDF, I see are currently called Childhood Absence Epilepsy). (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40120-013-0013-2).

        As I said, I suspect a common cause may underlie the various cognitive/mental effects such as brain fog, absence epilepsy, and anxiety/mood disorders. But, the triggers might be different for different folks. For me, it is anything that irritates and inflames the gut, such as too many nuts, oats, gluten, and even carbs (even safe starches and resistant starch). I do tolerate a small amount of carbohydrate, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice, and honey, but I’ve gotta keep the daily amount below 50g or so, otherwise, I start getting the gut symptoms (bloating, gas, cramps), and brain effects (fog, anxiety).

        You’ve got to find the things that trigger these effects in you.

        Best of luck!
        Aaron

        • Darlene says

          Hi Aaron,

          Cyrex is a lab that can test for ” leaky gut “, and cross reactive foods. Array2 will test test your gut, and Array4 will test cross reactive foods to gluten. Also have you had your adrenals tested? Sometimes it pays to take the guesswork out and have some good labs done. You can call Cyrex and they can also give names of practitioners in your area. If one has leaky gut the symptoms will continue and grow worse until gut is healed.
          I responded to you because leaky gut wasn’t mentioned. All the best.

          • says

            Hi Darlene,

            Thanks for the advice. No, I haven’t had those tests, but have thought about doing so. Being a crazy academic with two young kids, it’s easy to keep putting it off. :)

        • ChicPammy says

          Wow; thanks for taking the time to share your story and research. It sounds like you have been through so much and continue look for new ways to keep your body and mind strong. This e-mail makes me feel hopeful. Bless you!

      • Sue says

        Hello – Brain fog is a symptom of Candida. You may need to supplement with anti-fungals like caprylic acid or oil of oregano or garlic or Pau D’Arco inner bark plus pre- & pro-biotics. I have been through this several times and it is maddening to live with. Sending you healing thoughts -

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