As a mental health focused naturopathic doctor, one of the most popular questions I get is “what are natural remedies for anxiety?” This question is usually well-meaning but the problem with it is that it assumes a quick fix for a deeply complicated issue. In my experience, natural remedies like herbs, vitamins and minerals have an important role to play in managing anxiety. However these are often just one small part of a broader solution.
Patients with anxiety often say that they’ve already tried “natural stuff” and are completely discouraged because they haven’t noticed an improvement in their symptoms. The problem is usually that they haven’t had anyone help them use natural remedies in a strategic way. When patients seek help for their anxiety, holistic health care providers should go beyond simply throwing an anti-anxiety herb or supplement at them and sending them on their way. Time needs to be spent digging deep to figure out the root causes that could be contributing to the anxiety.
One person who has anxiety alongside premenstrual syndrome, hair loss and acne will likely benefit from a very different treatment plan from someone who has anxiety accompanied by irritable bowel syndrome and bloating. If each person were to grab the same natural anxiety remedy off the shelf, there’s a good chance they won’t experience the same benefits.
When investigating anxiety, here are just a few of the factors that we need to look at…
Diet and Eating Patterns
The specific foods that we choose to eat or not eat as well as the timing of our meals and possibly even our food combinations can impact our mood throughout the day. Diet can affect our mental health by influencing our blood sugar, inflammation, and levels of nutrients in the body.
Health and Social History
The body is not separated into compartments. A health condition that affects one system of the body can impact mental health. For example, diabetics are at a higher risk of mental health conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome is often correlated with anxiety. Menopausal women can experience more anxiety. Treating anxiety should involve treating the whole person. Social factors have a huge role to play in anxiety levels as well. The influence of culture, upbringing, workplace or school environment, unhealthy relationships etc. are often worth discussing in cases of anxiety.
Daily activities like exercise, quiet time, hobbies and morning or evening routines can have a profound impact on anxiety levels.
The things that we say to ourselves in our minds on an ongoing basis can color the way that we look at the world and ourselves. Treating anxiety involves working on the mind as well as the body.
Signs of Hormonal Imbalances
Everything from premenstrual syndrome, to abnormal thyroid levels to low testosterone levels and so much more can influence our mental health.
There is mounting evidence that chronic inflammation is associated with higher anxiety and depression levels.
Anxiety has been associated with less than optimal gut conditions. The microbes in our gut have been shown to affect our nervous system and alter mood and behavior. Natural remedies for anxiety in this case could be incorporating a probiotic supplement into your diet.
Environmental and Toxin Burden
The research on environmental and household toxins in relation to mental health is still growing and in its early stages. We have evidence that environmental chemicals can influence hormones. There is the potential that this could in turn impact anxiety and other mental health conditions.
Natural Remedies For Anxiety Don’t Need To Be A Last Resort
When anxiety is being treated, questions need to be asked, physical exams need to be done and relevant tests need to be ordered or reviewed. Then, we can get a clear picture of factors that could be causing or worsening the anxiety. Once that information is sorted out, then natural remedies like herbs, supplements, dietary and lifestyle changes can be individually applied.
This approach is much more helpful than a less strategic method that consists of sporadically trying every “anxiety supplement” on the market with a good review. It’s an approach that is more tailored, comprehensive and often leads to more satisfying results.
The holistic medicine world can be confusing with all of its options and claims. To get the most out of it, we need to have our root causes investigated more fully. We also need to have step by step plans that will treat those potential causes. When we dig deep for root causes and combine this with a clear treatment strategy, we can start to see real improvements.