(TRANSCRIPT FROM VIDEO)
“Yesterday, three out of my six patients asked me, how do I improve my anxiety without taking medication? It’s a common question that I get– anxiety is a pervasive symptom. I’m going to call it a symptom in our society, it’s not necessarily a diagnosis, the reasons for that are many. We all have different forces pulling on us daily, from work, to friends and spouses, children, finances. It never seems like there’s enough time in the day to get everything done, and it does seem like there’s a lot to worry about. However, there are definite symptoms related to anxiety or reasons for that physiological anxiety in the body. And there are ways to mitigate it without taking meds.
When we are anxious, we go into a state of heightened alert, if we are worried or perseverating about something, the body sends signals from the brain to the adrenal gland to make adrenaline. Adrenaline is a fight or flight hormone, and when adrenaline is produced, it raises our blood pressure, it raises our heart rate, it diverts blood flow to our muscles so that we’re ready for action. But what adrenaline also does is shuts down our ability to think and reason. We’re going to be in react mode– not “let me calmly think about this” mode.
Adrenaline turns off our digestive function, reproductive function, all functions that aren’t necessary in a fight or flight situation. So anxiety can have a lot of negative consequences in terms of gut health and not being able to digest our food or absorb the food properly. It can have negative reproductive consequences. It’s probably one of the biggest undiagnosed reasons for infertility. It can have negative effects on our sleep. Because of these negative consequences it’s really important to think about ways to calm down that anxiety.
Some things that can be very helpful to use– meditation, deep breathing, yoga. A lot of the things people may think of as “foo foo” kinds of things, but they really work. And when done consistently over time, these practices don’t have to be time consuming. Spend just five or 10 minutes doing guided meditations or relaxation exercises, deep breathing, or yoga. We know these have a calming effect on anxiety. Of course, getting to the root of that anxiety is also very important. If there was some post-traumatic stress or event that happened, that triggered the anxiety, we need to also address this directly. This may be best done through different forms of therapy, not even necessarily just talk therapy, which can be very effective. One of the things that’s worked well for a lot of my patients is something called EMDR, which is a specific technique to reprogram the brain around those events that cause anxiety.
Finally, effective sleep can be a huge help to anxiety. When we sleep, we go through different stages of sleep. During the stage of sleep called REM sleep, also known as dream sleep, the body processes a lot of our emotions throughout the day. If you’re not getting enough REM sleep or you’re not able to get into the dream state of sleep, you don’t process that anxiety, and it can build on itself from day to day. When we haven’t slept well, the next day, anything that happens seems to trigger us a lot more or make us upset or emotional or anxious or irritable. Sleep is so important it can almost be thought of as detoxing that anxiety out of our body, and that alone can be very helpful.
Finally, you can also use various herbs and supplements to help with sleep, and a lot of the choice of those herbs and supplements depends upon the reasons that the anxiety exists or if there are deficiencies in the body.
Some things for anyone to try generally are things like magnesium, valerian root, rhodiola, GABA and ashwagandha.”
Lauren Loya MD
Vital Magnesium Lean