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Anxiety Disorders: What Are Your Options?

Anxiety Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Anxiety Disorders: What Are Your Options?

 

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND

 

Anxiety disorders affect 1 in 4 Canadians at some point in their lives, making anxiety the most common mental illness in Canada. Psychotherapy and benzodiazepine medication are the conventional treatment options for anxiety. However, benzodiazepine drugs carry a high rate of addiction potential, can make people feel sedated, and carry a long list of side effects. So what can be done about anxiety if you want to pursue other treatment options?

 

First and foremost, it’s important to identify the source(s) and trigger(s) of your anxiety. What makes it better or worse? Is it a social setting that triggers a panic attack? A big test that you’re studying for that’s causing general anxiety? The importance of understanding your anxiety, rather than avoiding it, carries with it a significant mental and physical benefit. Our brains have the ability to tell the difference between suppressing our emotions versus addressing and labelling them. It is okay to feel anxious. Learning from our anxieties offers the opportunity for better self-understanding. When we understand why we react with anxiety, we learn from our thoughts, behaviours, and actions. Identify and label how you are feeling and you’ll find that your mood won’t have as much of an impact on your daily function. Proper sleep, a healthy diet, good social support, and a lifestyle that includes plenty of physical activity all factor into your wellbeing when dealing with anxiety.

 

A diet deficient in certain amino acids, vitamins, and/or minerals can have a negative impact on your mental-emotional wellbeing. Certain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals can help to calm an overactive mind through calming your nervous system, and correcting vitamin and mineral deficiencies that might worsen anxiety. In fact, even low iron can contribute to anxiety. An adequate intake of protein from both animal and vegetable sources can help with amino acid intake, and improved blood sugar control. Stable blood sugar levels can be achieved through the consumption of healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Fibre from fruits and vegetables can stabilize blood sugar, and add vitamins and minerals to your diet. It is important to avoid packaged foods that contain high amounts of simple sugars when trying to control your blood sugar.

 

Lavender is an excellent anti-anxiety herb, acting on your nervous system to calm your body and mind. In trials involving adults with anxiety, lavender was found to be as beneficial as benzodiazepine medication in alleviating feelings of restlessness, and improving sleep. You can even stuff lavender buds in your pillowcases to help with restlessness during the night. Green tea also helps with feelings of anxiety thanks to theanine. It’s an amino acid that can help reduce feelings of stress, promote relaxation, and help with attention. Green tea and lavender are just a couple of the many alternative treatments for anxiety.

 

Other factors that can contribute to anxiety include (but are not limited to): thyroid disease, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, digestive diseases, substance abuse, allergies, depression, and other mental illnesses. It’s important to speak with your doctor to determine the underlying factors influencing your individual anxiety, and discuss what treatment alternatives are right for you.

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