Although all of us experience worry from time to time, some people live full-time with chronic anxiety. In fact, at least 10% of the population suffers from some form of chronic anxiety, ranging from long-term generalized anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. While some of the symptoms of these disorders are similar, the triggers often vary. Luckily, lifestyle changes as well as nutrients can have a beneficial impact on this growing problem.
What Triggers Anxiety?
People dealing with anxiety disorders are often hypersensitive to changes in their body. This hypervigilance can lead to fear, causing the release of adrenaline which can further intensify fear, resulting in a snowball effect. Anxiety can be triggered by a variety of factors. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), mitral valve prolapse, hyperventilation, hot flashes, hyperthyroidism, and caffeine sensitivities may all be potential triggers.
Lifestyle Changes for Managing Anxiety
The factors that trigger anxiety differ, but a few suggestions can help allay symptoms. For example, meditation, yoga, and cognitive therapy are all known to help relieve stress. Caffeine avoidance may also help. Many people with anxiety are unusually sensitive to the effects of caffeine. They should avoid coffee, cola, Mountain Dew, black tea, green tea, maté, and chocolate. Even decaffeinated coffee and tea should be avoided since they often contain small amounts of caffeine.
Anxiety Calming Supplements
1. Boost your "calming" neurotransmitters Many natural supplements have a calming effect on the mind and body. They help the brain synthesize calming neurotransmitters. Popular ones to choose from include niacin, calcium, magnesium, L-theanine, and the amino acid L-tryptophan. The connection between tryptophan and serotonin explains why tryptophan supplementation has been found to help reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. Serotonin has a calming effect on the brain. L-tryptophan reduces markers of stress, particularly the hormone cortisol that has many deleterious effects in the human body. Acute tryptophan depletion in people with anxiety disorder or with post-traumatic stress disorder leads to a temporary worsening of their symptoms.2-4
2. Correct mineral imbalances Correcting mineral imbalances may help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Higher blood levels of copper, manganese, and iron (and lower levels of zinc) have been found in people with generalized anxiety disorder.1 High copper levels can be relieved with zinc. Usually it takes three to four months of zinc supplementation to reduce copper to normal levels.
What about You?
Has anxiety interfered with your daily life or the life of someone you care about? If so, start with something simple like L-tryptophan. It’s relatively cheap but can have a dramatic impact on controlling anxiety symptoms.
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- Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Jul 1;66(1):17-24.
- Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009 Nov;34(10):1590-4.
- Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Jul;37(8):1963-71.