Calming Stress & Anxiousness with Diet, Supplements, & Herbs (Part 1)

calm Jun 18, 2019

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

Optimizing your brain to support mental health isn't as complex as some experts want you to believe. When you understand the basic functions of your brain, then you can more confidently, effectively, and lovingly care for it.

Brain Science 101

Neurotransmitters & Your Brain: In order to work properly, your brain must have the right balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters.

How You Balance Neurotransmitters: The only way your brain can produce neurotransmitters is for you to bring the necessary nutrients into your body.

How You Feed Your Brain: The best way to feed your brain for neurotransmitter production is through a good diet (e.g., our NMH Resilient Diet).

What About Supplements?  When used properly, however, nutritional supplements and herbal therapies may help restore brain balance, soften the damaging effects of the stress response, and prevent the recurrence of illness. 

Further, many herbal remedies have been used safely for centuries to treat anxiety and stress-related problems. I use them most often for sleep, though they can have anti-anxiety effects as well when taken during the day. 

However, nutritional supplements and herbs are not intended to replace the work of food. They are “supplements” to a healthy overall diet.

You heard that right. We LOVE our line of Resilient Remedies, but pills should not take center stage. We believe that folks generally need less pills and more healthy food and skills. 

As you dive into all these nutritional supports, remember that they are just one strategy of a synergistic self-care and community-care routine.

Balancing the Chemicals of Fear, Stress, and Anxiety

The summary table below lays out the brain chemical, the role it has in your stress/fear/anxiousness response, and nutritional supports that may play a role in bringing it back to balance. Over the next few weeks, I'll be covering more details about each chemical in additional blogs. I've broken them up so that you can move between sections more easily. 

 

 


 Sources for this series of articles:

  1. Hassel, B., & Dingledine, R. (2006). Glutamate. In Siegel,G. J., Albers, R. W., Brady, S. T., & Price, D. L. (Eds.), Basic neurochemistry: Molecular, cellular, and medical aspects (267-290). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 
  2. Kim, A. H., et al. (2002). Blocking excitotoxicity. In Marcoux, F. W., & Choi, D. W. (Eds.), Neuroprotection (3-36). New York: Springer.
  3. Krimer, L. S., et al. (1998). Dopaminergic regulation of cerebral cortical microcirculation. Nature Neuroscience, 1, 286-289.
  4. Wichers, M., & Maes, M. (2002). The psychoneuroimmuno-pathophysiology of cytokine induced depression in humans. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 5, 375-438.
  5. Peled, R., et al. (2008). Breast cancer, psychological distress and life events among young women BMC Cancer, 8.
  6. Alhaj, H. A., et al. (2006). Effects of DHEA administration on episodic memory, cortisol and mood in healthy young men: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Psychopharmacology, 188(4), 541-551.
  7. Darbinyan, V., et al. (2007). Clinical trial of Rhodiola Rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 61(5), 343-348.
  8. Bystritsky, A., et al. (2008). A pilot study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(2), 175-180.
  9. Khanum, F., et al. (2005). Rhodiola rosea: A versatile adaptogen. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 4, 55-62.
  10. Lombard, J. (2006, September). Neurobiology of mood and cognition: Strategies and protocols of neurotransmitter balance. Presented at Great Lakes Conference.
  11. Kobayashi, K., et al. (1998). Effects of L-theanine on the release of alpha-brain waves in human volunteers. Journal of the Agricultural Chemical Society of Japan, 72(2), 153-157.
  12. Lake, J. (2008). Integrative Management of Anxiety. Psychiatric Times, 25(1), 13-16.
  13. Grant, J., et al. (2007). N-acetyl cysteine, a glutamate-modulating agent, in the treatment of pathological gambling: A pilot study. Biological Psychiatry, 62(6), 652-657.
  14. Grant, J., et al. (2009). N-acetylcysteine, a glutamate modulator, in the treatment of trichotillomania. Archives of General Psychiatry, 66(7), 756-763.
  15. Mori, M., et al., (2002). Beta-alanine and taurine as endogenous agonists at glycine receptors in rat hippocampus in vitro. The Journal of Physiology, 539, 191-200.
  16. Wu, H., et al. (2005). Mode of action of taurine as a neuroprotector. Brain Research, 1038(2), 123-131.
  17. Palatnik, A., et al. (2001). Double-blind, controlled, crossover trial of inositol versus fluvoxamine for the treatment of panic disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 21(3), 335-339.
  18. Abdou, A., et al. (2006). Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. BioFactors, 26, 201-208.
  19. Kinrys, G., et al. (2009). Natural remedies for anxiety disorders: Potential use and clinical applications. Depression and Anxiety, 26, 259-265.
  20. Akhondzadeh, S., et al. (2001). Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: A pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 26, 363-367.
  21. Yuan, C. S., et al. (2004). The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 98, 353-358.
  22. Panijel, M. (1985). Therapy of symptoms of anxiety. Therapiewoche, 41, 4659-4668.

 

In Part 2, you will learn how to calm yourself by balancing excess glutamate & GABA deficiencies with supplements and herbs. Learn more here.>>>

Close

50% Complete

Boost Joy, Calm, & Focus

The NMH newsletter goes out twice monthly. You'll receive helpful tips, resources, and special offers to optimize your mental health and create more joy, calm, and focus in your life.