women stress anxiety

Naturopathic Treatment for Anxiety

by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Anxiety disorders can range in severity from simple situational anxiety, for example feeling anxious about making a presentation, to more complex anxiety or panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  Causes of anxiety problems can include home environment, work stress, personality traits, imbalances in neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin and dopamine, vitamin/mineral or essential fatty acid deficiencies and trauma like marital separation, job loss or car accidents.

Symptoms of anxiety:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Nervousness, feeling jumpy or on edge
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Loose stools or diarrhea

Anxiety can become a vicious cycle.  You are under stress and so you feel anxious and so you put extra demands on your body’s ability to cope with stress.  This further depletes your coping resources and so your ability to deal with stress goes even lower and your anxiety level goes even higher.

The Naturopathic Approach to Anxiety Disorders

There are several things that need to take place to calm anxiety disorders:

  1. Remove or reduce sources of stress
  2. Exercise – you will cope with stress better if you are exercising than if you are not
  3. Stress reduction techniques – yoga, tai chi, massage therapy, breathing exercises, meditation, psychotherapy
  4. Nourish the body’s stress glands or adrenal glands
  5. Nourish the brain with B vitamins, magnesium and essential fatty acids
  6. Calm the nervous system – herbs can help calm the nervous system to help with sleep, reduce daytime anxiety and allow you to restore your stress adaptation mechanisms
  7. Balance neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and GABA
  8. Balance hormones.  Hormones play a significant role in how the brain works. Many of the women I see are suffering from hormone related anxiety.

The Benefits to Naturopathic Treatment for Anxiety

  1. Better ability to cope with whatever life throws you
  2. Lasting improvement versus recurrence as soon as you stop the medication
  3. A stronger system
  4. More restful sleep
  5. Better hormonal balance
  6. Better brain and nervous system function

Anxiety Medications

Benzodiazepines: Valium, Ativan.  These medications temporarily calm down the nervous system while taking them and act fairly quickly.  Common side effects of Valium and Ativan are: emotional blunting or numbness, drowsiness, lack of energy, clumsiness, slow reflexes, slurred speech, confusion and disorientation, depression, dizziness, lightheadedness, impaired thinking and judgment, memory loss, forgetfulness, nausea, stomach upset, blurred or double vision.

SSRI’s: Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Effexor.  These medications artificially raise the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin and/or norepinephrine.  They may provide relief during periods of acute stress or anxiety, but the effects are only temporary while taking them. Common side effects of SSRI’s include: Nausea, nervousness, headaches, sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, dizziness, stomach upset and weight gain


DISCLAIMER: The information provided here may not apply precisely to your individual situation. Diagnostic and therapeutic choices must always be tailored to the individual patient’s circumstances, and consultation with a licensed naturopathic physician should be undertaken before following any of the treatment strategies suggested in this web site.

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Whether it is situational anxiety or more severe generalized anxiety, naturopathic treatment offers many ways to address the root of the problem naturally.