By Michael A. Smith, MDWe live in a fast-paced world that can inspire a lot of stress and anxiety. Take my sister, for example. Every morning, she struggles to get her two kindergartners out of bed, fed, washed, dressed, and out the door by 7:30. After dropping them off, she comes home to clean the kitchen, walk the dog, and rush to get ready for work. She’s out the door and fighting her way through traffic by 8:30.
Is your morning schedule equally as hectic? It’s no wonder that anxiety disorders are on the rise and more and more people are relying on dangerous, mood-enhancing drugs just to get through the day.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million American adults suffer from some form of anxiety in any given year.1
So where’s the good news in all of this? Well, research has offered some hope. In fact, recently, several novel methods for restoring balance in the face of stress have come into focus. In this post, we’ll take a look at three of them.
Lysine Promotes a Healthy Response to StressL-lysine is an amino acid. According to animal models, a lack of L-lysine in diets can precipitate anxiety.2 Armed with this information, researchers decided to study the effects of L-lysine supplementation on anxiety disorders in humans.
In one study, the combination of L-lysine and arginine was shown to decrease blood cortisol levels in response to stress. The result was a healthier response to the stress and reduced symptoms of anxiety.3 The researchers believe that lysine increases the amount of time serotonin remains active in the space between nerve cells, called the synaptic cleft.
If you’ve tried the mood-enhancing amino acid tryptophan without noticing much of an improvement, you may want to give L-lysine a try. A suggested dose is somewhere between 600 to 1800 mg a day.
Green Tea Offers Calming EffectsGreen tea’s amino acid theanine has been shown to produce a calming effect on the brain. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases the production of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter known for its calming effects.4
With the increase in dopamine offered by theanine, the brain’s activity is dominated by alpha-brain waves which reflect a more relaxed state.5 Ultimately, theanine is able to safely induce relaxation without making you feel drowsy.
But it doesn’t end there. Theanine was also shown in cell culture studies to reverse nerve cell damage caused by neurotoxic chemicals from our environment.6 This is why green tea and theanine are getting a lot of attention these days.
Kava Kava - The South Pacific’s Calming TonicUsed throughout the South Pacific as a calming tonic, kava kava has a number of properties that can help diminish the symptoms of anxiety. In one review of common herbs used to help with anxiety, kava kava was the only one shown “beyond reasonable doubt” to have anti-anxiety properties.7
Another team of researchers who compared the efficacy of 108 complementary and self-help treatments for anxiety found that kava was the most effective.8
But the most impressive evidence of kava’s effectiveness came from a review of six placebo-controlled, randomized trials. Here, the researchers found that kava kava was effective in reducing anxiety, especially in women and younger adults.9
Please Note: there are concerns about the potential liver toxicity form kava kava. Please use the herb under physician supervision only.
Remaining Sane in an Insane WorldIf you’re feeling anxious and could use a little relief, consider giving these suggestions a try. Although nothing beats a positive outlook and a healthy, balanced lifestyle for keeping calm and cool, a little help from the right nutrients can sometimes go a very long way.
Want to read more about supporting your brain with safe nutritional supplements? Check out our March, 2011 Life Extension Magazine article called The Chemistry of Calm.
Of course, be sure to speak with your doctor about your symptoms, as anxiety can be a truly debilitating disease.
Have you tried any natural products for helping to manage your own anxiety? What has worked best for you? Please let us know in the comments below.
- Archives of General Psychiatry. 2005; 62 (6): 617-627
- J Nutr. 2002 Dec;132(12):3744-6.
- Biomed Res. 2007 Apr;28(2):85-90.
- Neurochem Res. 1998 May;23(5):667-73.
- Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 2001,April; 7 (2):91-95.
- Neurotoxicology. 2008 Jul;29(4):656-62.
- Phytomedicine. 2006 Feb;13(3):205-8.
- Med J Aust. 2004 Oct 4;181(7 Suppl):S29-46.
- Phytother Res. 2005 Mar;19(3):183-8.
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