Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health. This week we’re going to talk about some of my favorite supplements for ANXIETY.
As a family doctor you see patients with anxiety everyday. Most likely everyone is going to experience it, and if not treated, it can lead to serious medical problems, such as Heart Disease and Cancer.
Stress and anxiety (two peas in a pod) can make your life miserable. We all have different tolerances to stress. Genetics, diet, lack of sleep and exercise, obesity all play a role. Infections can also trigger feelings of anxiousness. Look at what Covid has done to people’s nervous systems!
But there is a way out. The first step is simply to admit you are anxious or overstressed, and the second is to seek help. I’m a big believer in counseling.
My Approach To Anxiety
When a patient comes in with anxiety, there’s a certain way I approach the visit. The conversation usually begins with me saying, “You are a unique individual, however, your problems are not unique.” My goal is to get to the root of the problem. Anxiety is fear based, meaning you are fearful of something. The solution to the problem is always found in telling the truth.
Note: watch Ben’s podcast with Jamie Winship about this on Outside The Box.
I think Psychiatrists over prescribe medications (even though there are some people who need heavy duty medications). It’s not their fault. It’s the system’s fault. They just don’t have time to talk to you. The mental health system is breaking down because there aren’t enough providers (as well as some other reasons, like bureaucracy and because they’re overwhelmed.)
I love supplements more than I love medications. Much different than the psychiatric world which lacks the time it takes to help patients figure out what is causing their own anxiety (which is the approach I’m a biggest fan of!). Integrative medicine is all about getting to the root cause of disease.
Depression usually follows prolonged anxiety. That’s why we’re going to focus mainly on the supplements that help with anxiety. They are safer, and they work well combined with getting to the root of the problem. With supplements you’re not going to see anyone overdose.
Note: some people, however, need prescription medications for anxiety.
My Favorite Supplements For Anxiety
It’s not a supplement, but it’s my number one treatment for anxiety or depression. Recently there was a huge study out of Harvard on anxiety and depression. It was a multiple year study with 50,000 people in it exploring the benefits of exercise in decreasing cardiovascular disease.
What they found was that those that had a diagnosis in their medical records for anxiety or depression benefited from exercise (as far as decreasing cardiovascular disease) twice as much as people who didn’t have that diagnosis. This was for people who actually have the diagnosis in their medical record, which is probably a fraction of those that really have anxiety and depression.
Exercise is number one.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found mostly in green tea, and sometimes in black tea and mushrooms. It’s known to help with insomnia and that “mind chatter” we sometimes get at night when we can’t turn our brain off.
Note: A lot of people will combine L-Theanine with caffeine in the morning to help with Adult ADD.
It may help with cancer. It was found to decrease ovarian cancer in Chinese women who drank a lot of green tea. It definitely helps with your immune system. I take it before I get on an airplane because it helps me relax. Typical dose is around 200 mg.
This is a hidden gem. It’s one of my favorite supplements for anxiety and also for weight loss.
It works better than Zoloft, in my opinion, and without the side effects. With a lot of the psych drugs you get side effects. You can get apathy, and increased suicide rates on these drugs as well as sexual dysfunction. You don’t get this with Saffron.
Saffron comes from the crocus flower and is probably the world’s most expensive spice. It takes 75 flowers to make one pound of Saffron. The supplement, however, is not expensive. It’s powderized. It’s been used for thousands of years. It works well for depression. It’s also been found to work for memory. It works as well for Alzheimer’s Disease as the medications for it without the side effects.
Saffron helps with PMS and weight loss, as it kind of suppresses your appetite. It increases libido. It helps even out mood swings. It increases memory and is also anti-cancer. I take Saffron. The dose is 88 mg once or twice a day.
Cortisol is the only hormone that goes up as you age. We are always checking cortisol levels on patients. The only problem is that it changes at different times of the day.
Your Cortisol level should be higher in the morning and lower at night. The way we check this is through a Salivary Cortisol Curve. It measures your saliva 4 times during the day (8AM, 12 PM, 5PM, and 10PM). This helps us check for adrenal dysfunction. Whether your cortisol levels are too high or too low we use adaptogens, which are plants that help even out cortisol levels.
There are a lot of adaptogens out there, but the most well known ones are Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Ginseng. My favorite is Ashwagandha because it works better for anxiety than the others. It’s a plant so it’s safe. It takes time to work though. It may take days to weeks before you notice a difference. It also helps with memory.
Note: Rhodiola works better for physical stamina and energy. Ginseng increases your memory and reaction time. It helps with overall brain function. It can improve erectile dysfunction and increase immunity. It helps with blood sugars. It works quickly. The quality control of Ginseng varies. It really depends on where it comes from. A lot of people think about Korean Ginseng, which is stronger. The American form, Panax Ginseng, is milder and probably the form you will find around here.
CBD definitely helps with anxiety. The problem is where you get it from. The CBD industry is still much like the wild west. I recommend Full Spectrum, which has the whole plant (including some THC). In severe cases it’s best to combine CBD with THC. This combination has great effects for people who really need it. I like it for anxiety, pain, PTSD, and mental function. I don’t like THC for kids and young adults. It demotivates them.
Other supplements for anxiety:
- Magnesium L-Threonate (Neuromag from LifeExtension) – Take at night. This form is more potent and crosses the blood brain barrier. I also like Magnesium Glycinate.
- Valerian Root
These supplements are helpful, but remember, you need to look at the root of the problem. Try and figure that out. If you need a counselor, I’m all for that! The root cause may be lack of exercise or poor diet. It could be stressors that you’re putting on yourself. It could be that you need to decrease your sugar intake.
Also, look at your hormones! Hormones have a lot to do with anxiety, especially females that enter those perimenopausal years when your progesterone gets low and causes sleep problems and anxiety. Progesterone is great for relaxing you. Middle aged men who come in for anxiety and depression often have Low Testosterone. They don’t have a Prozac deficiency! Most of the time it’s a testosterone deficiency.
That’s it for this week! Check out Saffron!