Anxiety and Depression is a very prevalent condition in Modern Society. We look at causes and treatment of this debilitating condition.
BACKGROUND OF GAD
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive
worry about a range of concerns. People with GAD don’t know how to stop the worry-cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the
situation warrants. There is an alarming increase in anxiety prevalence among many people of all ages. It is estimated that six percent of adults will have GAD at some point in their life (1).
GAD includes panic attacks, debilitating phobias, fear, tension and excessive worry. It can lead to ailments such as insomnia, chest tightness, heart palpitations, depression, fatigue, addiction, job or
relationship paralysis, gastrointestinal disturbances and more.
WHAT TRIGGERS THIS CONDITION?
Some common causes of anxiety include:
- Hormone imbalances
- Metabolic issues, such as blood sugar imbalance, diabetes, or inflammation
- Chronic disease including autoimmune disease and heart disease
- Nutrient deficiencies such as B12, vitamin D, and magnesium
- Infections resulting from viral illness, gut infections, parasites, and Lyme disease
- Medications such as hormonal birth control, asthma inhalers, and over-the-counter cold symptom drugs
- Dietary triggers such as excess caffeine, alcohol or sugar (2)
Prescribed medication includes Ativan, Xanax, characterised, and Valium (3) all of which are highly addictive and have a multitude of side effects. These do provide short term and immediate relief, which definitely has its place, but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
Another therapy includes cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) which is a form of psychotherapy that treats problems and boosts happiness by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts.
Treatment of anxiety often involves the use of neurotransmitters and amino acids and it is necessary to understand a bit about them before continuing with this article.
Neurotransmitters and amino acids:
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter which is vital for nervous system
function, is able to counterbalance excess glutamate. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and in excess can contribute to feelings of anxiety. GABA is not found in food but manufactured in the body.
L-theanine is an amino acid (found in green tea) which binds to glutamate receptors and blocks the effects of glutamate.
By blocking glutamate receptors, L-theanine also supports GABA activity by freeing it to perform other important duties (4, 5).
Furthermore, L-theanine promotes the release of serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitters. L-theanine both calms and relaxes one while boosting concentration and alertness.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid that the body manufactures naturally. It is not
found in food but created from tryptophan (which can be found in certain foods as discussed below). This in turn produces serotonin and melatonin, two neurotransmitters responsible for improved mood, healthy sleep, gut & heart problems, controlling cravings etc.
Natural Nutrition For Alleviating Anxiety
Diet alone cannot cure anxiety, but there are foods that can help with anxiety and have a calming effect on the body while others cause anxiety after being consumed.
Foods to avoid
The spike-and-crash feeling of even a few teaspoons of sugar can ramp-up anxiety and impair one’s ability to cope with minor stressors
Researchers found caffeine increased anxiety and the feeling of being threatened and should be
used in moderation
- Fried foods
are difficult to digest thereby stressing the body and making it difficult to manage anxiety
contains toxins that trigger anxiety attacks
- Dairy products are not inherently bad, but in excess they may heighten adrenaline
levels and contribute to a more anxious state. Moderation is the key
Foods to include
- Green tea
contains an anxiety-lowering L-theanine in the tea leaves
is a fruit very similar to an avocado with a yellow flesh and a maple-like taste. It is rich in beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), minerals, protein, and niacin (vitamin B3), all of which
dehydration causes mood changes
Fatty fish (such as Alaskan salmon), grass-fed beef and flax seeds are high in omega-3 which is good at reducing anxiety
provide a blood-sugar-steadying blend of fibre, protein, nutrients, and alpha-linolenic acid (an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid). Studies show that mice that are fed walnuts showed a significant improvement in memory, learning ability, motor development and a reduction in anxiety compared to non-walnut-eating mice
is important in managing anxiety and can be found in dairy foods, almonds, fresh figs, raw apricots, small fish such as sardines (with bones)
- Dark chocolate
has been associated with increased levels of serotonin, probably due to its high tryptophan content as well as being a good source of magnesium
can lower anxiety and is found in oysters, cashews, liver and egg yolks (4)
is found in oats, soy, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs and sesame seeds
The gut microbiome is a large contributor to anxiety and depression. Poor gut microbial causes inflammation and reduces serotonin levels (95 percent of this feel-good neurotransmitter, in fact, gets manufactured by your gut). Kefir and sauerkraut can help increase the probiotic content of the gut (4)
- Complex carbohydrates:
Increasing carbohydrate intake increases insulin in the blood and this makes it
easier for tryptophan to enter the brain, where it can be converted to serotonin. In order to properly synthesize serotonin, one must eat a protein with tryptophan, followed by properly timed
carbohydrates (after the tryptophan), and avoid substances that inhibit serotonin production (e.g. excessive caffeine). Complex carbohydrates include barley, brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes or
lentils. Tryptophan containing foods include beef, ducks, eggs, fish and turkey (6)