We'll break your anxiety guide into three cascading sections based on up-to-date NIH research (available through links in more detail):
- The Causes of Anxiety
- The Effects from these Causes
- The Natural Toolkit to address both short and long term drivers of anxiety
Let's start with the drivers of anxiety...You may be surprised by some!
(You can click on most pictures for deep dives!! Periscope down!!)
Trauma and Infection
Can even be In-utero (3rd trimester)
Reduces stress response
Reduces GABA (brain's "brake" pedal)
Reduces serotonin (stress responder)
Reduces BDNF (brain's fertilizer)
The immune system is the future of mental health and early trauma or infection can tilt the brain's immune response into overdrive.
Anxiety and depression are two key results from this continuous assault.
Read more here.
- Eats up GABA
- Exhausts serotonin
- Activates Fear area of the brain
- Increases inflammation
- Activates HPA axis (fight or flight)
Constant Stress basically exhausts our key stress system buffers.
First goes GABA. Longer term is serotonin. Anandamide (backup master stress player) follows suit.
Without these key players, anxiety can result and damage occurs from excess cortisol (stress hormone) and glutamate (brain's gas pedal) longer term.
Read more here.
Loss of Steroidal Hormones
- Estrogen supports our brain's repair/rewire side
- Testosterone supports this same pathway
- Progesterone supports GABA (brake pedal)
- Progesterone calms brain inflammation and histamine
- Vitamin D is a steroid we get from the sun; many are deficient
This includes all the key components tied to anxiety including GABA, serotonin, BDNF, and anandamide.
Synthetics are NOT the same thing as bio-identical! There's NO band-aiding loss of these powerful players.
- Gut acts as inflammation thermometer for brain
- Gut bacteria directly produce key neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA
- Change in gut make-up directly drive anxiety states
- Vagus nerve act as hub between gut and brain
All the exciting news in mental health revolves around the immune system and our gut acts like a canary in the coal mine there!
It's the primary site of interaction with outside pathogens (beyond our skin).
Certain types of bacteria can directly affect anxiety states and more.
Hyperactive Immune Response
- Brain inflammation = anxiety (and eventually depression)
- Microglia are the brain's immune sentinels
- Too much glutamate (brain's "gas" pedal) can be toxic in the brain
- Early trauma and/or infection can hyperactivate immune response
Our immune system has two roles in the brain: fight infection and manage the actual architecture! In states of heightened vigilance, the latter takes a hit.
BDNF, the brain's fertilizer is a huge player here longer term. Calming this "storm" is key to reducing anxiety.
Okay...that's the list of "instigators". Let's look at the players that get affected before diving into how to right the ship!
Some of these are familiar from above. Let's explain more!
GABA and Anxiety
Many current tools for GABA build tolerance which is bad news longer term.
Serotonin and Anxiety
Serotonin is the master regulator of ALL human behavior so we need it range bound.
BDNF and Anxiety
- The brain's fertlizer
- BDNF has to counter all the damage from elements above!
- Testosterone and Estrogen both drive BDNF
- BDNF and stress levels were key to addiction relapse
This really is the secret weapon for all mental health. Neurogenesis or brain repair is the result.
Serotonin drives BDNF and if BDNF is blocked, SSRIs lost their effects!
Anandamide and anxiety
- Named after the Hindu goddess for "bliss", Anand
- Stress buffer back-up
- THC mimics it but too strong and for too long (tolerance)
- Major player in the endocannabinoid system which balances other system including neurotransmitters (GABA and serotonin)
When GABA and Serotonin get exhausted, anandamide is called in on-demand.
Key balancing agent across the body and brain.
All these players are drawn down by....STRESS. Early trauma can affect how we respond to stress later in life.
Let's turn to the natural toolkit.
A few requirements...
No Tolerance! Tolerance is the enemy with any intervention
We can't express how important this is since tolerance will actually make pathways worse over time.
This includes benzos, SSRIs, and a range of supplements such as ashwaghanda, 5HT, etc.
No Histamine response!
40-60% of the population has histamine issues and histamine is excitatory in the brain. This is a huge issue for anxiety and many supplements can make this worse.
Where does that leave us?
This is a safe go-to for anxiety, insomnia, and any issue related to GABA and histamine. Space it out. Mag is a laxative so you know when you're taking too much.
- Immediate effect with GABA support
- Longer term effect with serotonin support
- Acts like feedback mechanism when those levels are low
- Calms histamine and brain inflammation
- Calms oxidative stress
CBD isolate has both a fast (GABA) and slow (serotonin) effect.
Isolate calms histamine response while full/broad spectrum can actually trigger this response and make anxiety worse.
CBD does not build tolerance based on how it supports endocannabinoid system (including anandamide, our "bliss" molecule).
Different levels here.
Berberine and Anxiety
- Powerful gut balancing agent
- Boosts pribotics which help anxiety
- Calms brain inflammation via vagus nerve
- Supports healthy metabolism
So much of our mental health is actually managed in the gut. Gut inflammation translates into brain inflammation via the vagus nerve and serotonin and GABA are both made by gut bacteria!
Berberine is a powerful force to calm gut inflammation via bacteria species like Akkermensia (the rock star of probiotics).
Berberine available here.
NAC and Anxiety
- Supports glutathione; key detox system
- Reduces oxidative stress - key to anxiety
- Acts like sink for excess glutamate
Too much glutamate, from hyperactive immune response or past trauma, can eat up GABA (calming pathway). NAC keeps glutamate in check.
Medicinal Mushrooms and Anxiety
- Supports BDNF and neurogenesis
- Calm inflammatory pathways in gut and brain
- Aids serotonin and GABA function (in gut)
- Balances immune response
New research on this front is very fascinating! Different species affect separate pathways that directly tie into anxiety. Everything from serotonin/GABA production in the gut to balancing overactive immune response which can be triggered by prior infection/trauma.
Steroidal Hormones and Anxiety
- Estrogen/Testosterone drive serotonin
- Progesterone drives GABA
- Steroidal hormones manage immune response
- Vitamin D is a hormone we get from the sun!
There's no bandaiding loss of steroidal hormones or imbalances therein.
Get your numbers tested and if older, supplement! The "your numbers are fine for your age" doesn't cut if you're feeling anxiety, depression, or more. Must be bioidentical!
Choline and Anxiety
- supports acetylcholine, "rest digest" pathway
- Supports "calm and focused"
- Critical for brain function and key to vagus nerve
There's so much focus on GABA and serotonin with anxiety but we're missing an entire part of how the brain works...the autonomic nervous system!
CDP choline is a great way to support both the vagus nerve and pathways directly tied to panic attacks and anxiety.
Learn all about acetylcholine here.
The heart of this system is the vagus nerve and there's lots of ways to stimulate it here.
We like this one here.
Okay...that's a wrap!
We covered most of what current research shows as the drivers of anxiety with pathways and tools available which DON'T build tolerance!
We have tons of research on many different aspects of anxiety at a system level. We're happy to send over specialized research based on your situation via email@example.com or the chat option bottom/right.
We well. Take care of each other. Take care of yourself!
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.