Tag Archives: prod-521319

  • A Naturopath’s Guide to Treating Anxiety

    RedheadAnxiety, in all its forms, is a common condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. It can manifest as excessive worry or unwarranted fear, or even nervousness, shortness of breath or a racing heart. If you experience any of these symptoms, read on to learn more about anxiety and how you can treat it, naturally.

    What is anxiety?

    Anxiety is a normal, albeit unpleasant, human emotion that all people experience, ranging from mild unease to intense debilitating fear. But anxiety is different fromfear; fear is a rational response to real danger, whereas anxiety usually lacks a clear or realistic cause.

    Feeling anxious about a work presentation, preparing for a test or anxiousness over meeting a blind date constitutes normal anxiety. Abnormal anxiety happens consistently and at higher levels that interfere with normal life. For people with anxiety disorders, life can be overwhelming, and their symptoms can manifest into physical disorders such as adrenal fatigue, compromised immunity and heart disease.

    Common symptoms of general anxiety include the following:

    • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
    • Problems sleeping
    • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
    • Shortness of breath
    • Heart palpitations
    • Inability to be still and calm
    • Dry mouth
    • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
    • Nausea and gastric upset
    • Muscle tension
    • Dizziness

    What causes anxiety?

    Many factors can contribute to a person’s likelihood of experiencing anxiety. Here are a few common causes:

    • Biochemical problems, including substance abuse [e.g. alcohol, drugs (recreational or prescribed), caffeine or tobacco], stress hormones and neurotransmitter deficiencies (e.g. low GABA or serotonin levels)
    • Genetic abnormalities, or errors with neurotransmitter receptors
    • Environmental factors such as trauma, life stress, toxicities or fungal exposure
    • Psychological factors, including daily stress

    Conversely, the effects of long-term anxiety on the body and overall health can be significant. The stress hormone cortisol is elevated during periods of stress and anxiety, and chronic cortisol elevation can lead to poor learning and memory, low immune function, low bone density, weight gain, increased blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease, and more.

    Treating anxiety naturally

    The two divisions of the autonomic nervous system—the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems--are heavily involved in our anxiety response. When we’re anxious, we go into sympathetic overdrive, also known as the fight-or-flight response. On the opposite end, the parasympathetic nervous system works to regulate repair, maintenance and restoration of the body.

    The below treatments are focused on supporting the work of the parasympathetic system by addressing nutritional factors that can immediately help bring the body back into balance and reduce anxiety symptoms.

    1. Avoid alcohol
    2. Avoid caffeine
    3. Avoid sugar
    4. Address B vitamin deficiency (particularly B1, B3, B6)
    5. Address calcium or magnesium deficiencies
    6. Address and eliminate food sensitivities and allergens

    Adopting a healthy lifestyle is pivotal to managing anxiety. Here are a few vital lifestyle changes that can help relieve anxiety symptoms.

    1. Exercise regularly. It can help reduce tension, anxiety and mild depression, and improve mental outlook, self-esteem and our ability to handle stress.
    2. Get 7-8 hours sleep. Sleep deprivation disables mental and physical function, and makes anxiety worse.
    3. Eat a whole-food and plant-based diet that includes a rainbow of fruits and veggies and complex carbohydrates, balanced protein and good fats. This will also help reduce exposure to toxins (pesticides, heavy metals and food additives) and support blood sugar.

    And remember, stress management is critical in managing anxiety. Efforts to calm the mind and body can help generate a physiological relaxation response. To achieve this response, try deep breathing or progressive relaxation (whereby one compares muscle tension with muscle relaxation to bring awareness to tension throughout the body and thereby consciously change tension to relaxation). Joyful, relaxing activities—such as a walk on the beach, a hot bubble bath, a cup of tea by the fireplace or yoga—along with quality sleep, can evoke a relaxation response.

    Supplements for anxiety

    Fish oil. Anxiety sufferers tend to be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. DHA, a fatty acid found in fish oil, nourishes the brain and nervous system. Try Nordic Naturals or Pharmax brands for superior quality and absorption.

    Pharma-GABA. GABA is an important neurotransmitter that slows down the firing between the synapses in the brain. People with low GABA are prone to anxiety and depression, so supplementing with GABA can help to slow down the rapid-fire worry. Try Thorne Research’s PharmaGABA, Natural Factors’ Pharma GABA or Jarrow Formulas’ GABA Soothe (also featuring a blend of relaxing herbs).

    L-theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that helps promote alpha waves in the brain; alpha waves are calming brain waves that promote a relaxed physical and mental condition. Theanine also increases GABA. Try Natural Factors’ Suntheanine L-Theanine or Jarrow Formulas’ Theanine 100.

    Kava Kava. Kava has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, heart palpitations, chest pains, headache, dizziness and gastric irritation. Kava is effective for anxiety in peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women. Note: Do not use kava if you have liver problems or regularly consume alcohol. Try Herb Pharm’s Kava or Pharmaca brand Kava.

    Magnesium. Magnesium relaxes small muscles throughout the body and aids in metabolism; deficiency has been known to exacerbate anxiety. Try Pharmaca brand Magnesium Citrate, Natural Vitality’s Calm powdered magnesium or Pure Encapsulations’ Magnesium (glycinate).

    B Complex. B vitamin deficiency also exacerbates anxiety, since B vitamins are critical to many functions in the body including calming the nervous system. Try New Chapter’s Coenzyme B Food Complex, Thorne Research’s Basic B Complex or Pharmaca brand B Complex.

    Multivitamin. Take a quality multi everyday to ensure you’re receiving adequate vitamins and minerals, since deficiencies can aggravate anxiety. Try food-based and readily absorbed multis from New Chapter or MegaFood.

    WishGarden Herbs’ Emotional Ally is a specialized combination of emotionally supportive herbs such as St. Johns wort, skullcap and passionflower that can help you ground and re-center.

    Hyland's Calms Forte is a simple, non-toxic homeopathic blend to aid nervous tension and sleeplessness. A great product to partner with other herbal anxiety remedies or try alone!
  • Stress Supplements 101

    Young woman drinking tea at homeWe can all feel overwhelmed by stress sometimes—the last thing we need is to be overwhelmed by the number of stress relief options available. Here’s a short list of popular practitioner recommendations for stress relief, and what they’re good for.

    Racing mind: L-Theanine
    This unique amino acid, found in green tea, supports mental calmness by increasing dopamine and GABA in the brain; it also assists the alpha brainwaves associated with relaxation, without any drowsiness.

    Tense muscles: Magnesium
    Identified in more than 300 bodily processes, magnesium relaxes small muscles and is also a key player in mental relaxation, neuromuscular transmission and energy—serving double duty both rebuilding the body, and giving a sense of wellbeing.

    Anxiety: L-tryptophan/5-HTP
    In the body L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP, which can then be converted to serotonin; serotonin deficiency has been linked to poor sleep, loss of appetite, as well as depression and anxiety.

    Long-term stress: B Complex
    “B vitamins are also hugely important regarding stress,” says Cassy Dymond, naturopath at our Wallingford store in Seattle. B vitamin deficiency can exacerbate stress and anxiety, since B vitamins are critical to many functions in the body including calming the nervous system. “When we’re stressed, we burn through B5 and B6 more quickly.”

    Irritability: GABA
    GABA is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter that works to calm over-excitement in the nervous system that can lead to irritability, restlessness, sleeplessness and spasmodic movements. GABA increases the production of calming alpha waves and decreases stress-related beta waves in the brain.

    In-the-moment stress: Flower Essences
    Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a combination of five flower essences, is designed for immediate relief from stress or some kind of trauma,” says Lindsay Fontana, homeopath at our Santa Fe store. “Sometimes when you can just get a little distance from things, you can find more peace.” The formula includes essences of rock rose, clematis, impatiens, cherry plum and star of Bethlehem.

    Chronic Stress: Adaptogenic Herbs
    Our adrenal glands produce stress hormones (such as cortisol), and can quickly become imbalanced with chronic stress. That’s where adaptogens come in—they help improve adrenal gland function and boost your body’s natural stress response. Our practitioners often recommend rhodiola, eleuthero, astragalus and ashwaganda—in single extracts or combinations.

    Ask a Pharmaca practitioner for other stress-busting supplement recommendations.

  • 5 Reasons to Get Better Sleep

    SleepMaskIf you have trouble getting quality sleep, it can affect more than just your level of fatigue throughout the day. “We think sleeplessness actually accelerates a lot of health issues related to age,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. It can also affect your endocrine system, carbohydrate metabolism, glucose tolerance, cortisol levels, and the activity of your sympathetic nervous system, he says.

    Here are a few reasons why getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is essential to good health.

    Sleep improves your mood.
    We all know how we feel after a lousy night’s sleep—irritable, impatient and unable to concentrate. The reason could be that the chemicals involved in the sleep-wake cycle are also in involved in mood and energy concentration. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you enjoy, exacerbating the cycle.

    Sleep can aid in weight loss.
    Too little sleep can increase your levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite and can affect the way we process and store carbohydrates. It can also impair your ability to process glucose and increase your body’s tendency to hold on to fat cells. Experts have even linked these issues to increased rates of diabetes.

    Sleep is good for your skin.
    Our bodies produce proteins while we sleep to restore and repair skin damage that comes from UV light exposure, stress, pollutants and other age-accelerating factors we deal with daily. That means not enough sleep can make it harder to fight off free radicals and speed up our skin’s aging process.

    Sleep keeps your brain and memory strong.
    Not enough sleep limits our time in REM sleep, the cycle that is most closely linked to improved learning and memory. Adequate sleep has been shown to improve our ability to learn tasks, consolidate memories and make good decisions—a good reason to take a night to “sleep on it” when faced with big choices!

    Sleep can reduce your chances of serious disease.
    A number of studies have shown that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for health problems such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and more. Sleep deprivation can also alter immune function, impair the activity of the body’s killer cells and increase the presence of stress hormones in the body.

    Want better sleep? Learn more about natural strategies and supplements from Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD.

    Ask a practitioner about other helpful sleep supplements and strategies.

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