Anxiety. Not only can it feel debilitating and overwhelming, stressing out about treatment options can serve to merely compound your anxious feelings. With all the information out there now, where do you start? With us, right here, one step at a time.
In integrative medicine, you’ll find lots of non-medication remedies to treat your anxiety. But, sometimes they don’t work fast enough for you to go about your daily life. That’s why we love to recommend considering how conventional medicine and natural medicine can work together. Both can be powerful tools to immediately manage anxiety in your daily life and guide you to finding the root cause.
Conventional vs. Natural Medicine Options for Anxiety
We have a lot of patients who find great relief from using a conventional medicine prescription to treat their anxiety. These medications work by making the brain neurotransmitter serotonin more available, which can help ease anxiety and calm you down.
On the other hand, some patients come to see us because they’ve had their fill of conventional prescriptions that don’t do enough to manage their anxiety or cause too many side effects to be worth it. Then there are are patients who want to help ease their anxiety with a medication in the short-term, while finding ways to utilize natural treatment methods and in-depth diagnostic workup in the long-term strategy—and that’s where we’re experts!
Here’s the truth: There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing how to treat your anxiety. You have to determine what’s best for you. In the end, we recommend choosing whatever allows you to live life happily and healthfully—that’s the only goal.
Natural Medicine Techniques for Anxiety
Regardless of your choice of which path to start down to treat your anxiety, what’s important is that we step back and look at the big picture—what’s the root cause of your anxiety? We’ve talked about this before (and we dive deeper into root causes in this blog post), but anxiety can be caused by more than just an imbalance in your brain.
In natural medicine, we focus on treating the root, so we can alleviate all the symptoms. We like to start with bloodwork and focusing on a few areas to try to get to the bottom of anxious feelings. A few of the common causes are:
- Hormonal imbalances: In women, estrogen dominance (caused by your body not detoxifying estrogen correctly or producing too much estrogen) can lead to anxiety. We can help figure that out with blood tests, and supplements like DIM or I3C that can help push estrogens down the detoxification pathway, and alleviate anxiety.
- Brain neurotransmitter imbalance: This is the most commonly known cause of anxiety, and what many conventional medications seek to remedy. But non-prescription supplements can help boost these imbalances too. Nutrients such as 5-HTP can help boost serotonin and herbs such as mucuna pruriens can help boost dopamine. Glycine and green tea extract can also be helpful at calming down the excitatory glutamate neurotransmitters and calming anxiety.
- SIBO: We see this one causing a lot of anxiety. Your gut is always talking to your brain and when there are imbalances of bad gut bacteria, it signals your brain that there’s distress, hence the anxiety. With SIBO specifically, patients are also often not absorbing vitamins and nutrients that are necessary to creation of brain neurotransmitters. Treating SIBO first can alleviate anxiety.
What You Can Do Today to Manage Anxiety
If you need some tools to manage anxiety right now, let’s start first with identifying what kind of anxiety you’re feeling.
Is it situational anxiety? Do you have a big work presentation coming up? Are you fretting about something a friend said to you? If those sound like the kind of anxiety you’re facing, try sniffing lavender essential oil, or taking Bach Remedies’ Rescue Remedy. Both provide instant calm feelings and help you manage anxiety.
Is it daily, low-grade anxiety with racing thoughts? Do you find that you can’t slow your brain down, it’s got a mind of its own and the racing thoughts are causing anxiety? Try kava kava, or passionflower, both of which can be really effective to help slow down those thoughts. Adding 12 to 24 ounces of tea with chamomile, tilia, or passionflower into your daily routine can also be calming to the mind, but non-sedative.
Is it daily, low-medium grade anxiety with body manifestations (jittery, sweating, can’t stop moving around)? If you have racing thoughts and you find you’re jittery, any of the above tactics can help, but you can also try adding glycine, L-theanine, or GABA to your daily supplement ritual. CBD can also be good for all kinds of anxiety, no matter how it presents.
What You Can Do Long-Term to Treat Anxiety
When it comes to anxiety, a multi-pronged approach is often the most successful. If you’re ready to start down a path to treating your anxiety long-term, you can start with a few of these tips.
- Meditation: We’re huge fans of meditation because it’s completely customizable to whatever you need. If you have racing thoughts, you can do an active meditation. Sit with your thoughts and write them all down. It’s similar to journaling, but it’s specifically without purpose. The goal of active meditation is to let whatever has been circling around you spill out, in a stream of consciousness. If you’re feeling amped up, nervous, or shaky, you can take three to five minutes to do some deep breathing. This slow, restorative meditation can help ease anxious feelings.
- Analysis of your external triggers: What could be contributing to your anxiety? Could your job, your time management, your finances, your family be adding to your anxious thoughts? Once you figure out where those triggers come from, you’re in a better place to create a plan to overcome each trigger.
- Analysis of you diet: With your gut and brain being so intimately connected, it’s clear that what you eat has a direct impact on how you feel. The easiest place to start is by eliminating stimulants (coffee, herbal tea) to see if that alleviates your anxiety. Then, you can play around with decreasing your sugar and processed food intake (frozen dinners, take-out/fast food), to see what impact each of those might have.
Anxiety isn’t a one-size-impacts-all struggle. Combining conventional techniques with natural medicine, and looking at treatment in terms of both short and long-term tactics can help you manage your anxiety today—and overcome it tomorrow.
Looking for support in your anxiety journey? We can help! Schedule a 15-minute consult to see how natural medicine can be your guide to an anxiety-free life.
Dr. Cassie Wilder is a registered Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) and founder of MIMC. Her passion is empowering her patients through education, understanding, and support through their healing journey. After graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Health, Dr. Wilder earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, a fully accredited and nationally recognized institution in Phoenix, AZ. During her clinical training, she received extensive hands-on training with many leading experts in the field of functional medicine and developed a passion for treating hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and adrenal fatigue.