Wednesday, May 1, 2019

10 Natural Anxiety Remedies

Anxiety is normal. It’s something we all have experience with—to one degree or another. Most people are anxious about something that hangs over them and follows them around like a personal rain cloud. Then there’s the deeper but still familiar anxiety many of us carry. The anxiety about our self-worth. The anxiety of performance, of social situations. This type can grip us in an uncomfortable, but hopefully not chronic, way.

But not all anxiety is run-of-the-mill—or manageable. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, for instance, might have trouble leaving the house, ordering a coffee from Starbucks, going to work. Anxious thoughts cycling through their brains often keep them up at night. When untreated, people with this level of anxiety can end up living in a state of perpetual fear.

The conventional approach is to take anti-anxiety meds, which can be genuinely life-saving for some people. Nonetheless, these can come with downsides that vary depending on an individual’s dosage and reactions—and the nature of the particular medication itself. Some meds result in few side effects, but others’ effects can be heavy. For instance, there are the benzodiazepines, highly-addictive tranquilizers with the potential for abuse. They make driving unsafe. They lower productivity. They sedate you. When necessary for the severity of the condition, these side effects may be worth it.

In other cases, a person might have more space to experiment and want to explore a different route.

In some cases, people choose to try natural anxiety aids. These are supplements, nutrients, and herbs that have been designed across millennia by nature (and maybe some input from green-thumbed healers). They might not always be enough for something as serious as a clinical anxiety disorder (please talk to your doctor before making any adjustment or addition to your medication), but at least some may be important complements to a prescribed regimen.

For those who want or need an alternative strategy for anxiety beyond meditative practices and general good health, these natural remedies may be worth a try.

First, the NUTRIENTS….

These are basic vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that your body needs to work. They are non-negotiable. You don’t have to get them through supplements—in fact, that should be a last resort after food—and I wouldn’t expect “drug-level” effects, but you do need to get them.

1. Long Chained Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Some human evolution experts maintain that the human brain wouldn’t be the human brain without steady and early access to coastal food resources—fish and shellfish rich in long chain omega-3s. If the long-chained omega-3s found in fatty fish and other sea creatures made our brains what they are today, it’s safe to assume that our brains work better when we eat them today. And if we’re talking about anxiety, that appears to be the case:

Studies in substance abusers find that supplementing with enough fish oil (and, yes, here’s what I use regularly) to raise serum levels of the long chain omega-3 fatty acid EPA reduces anxiety, while increases in DHA (the other long chain omega-3) reduce anger. Rising EPA levels after supplementation predicted the reduction in anxiety.

In healthy young medical students, omega-3 supplementation (2 grams EPA, 350 mg DHA) lowered inflammation and anxiety. Follow-up analyses revealed that reducing the serum omega-6:omega-3 ratio also reduced anxiety scores.

And in early pregnancy, high DHA levels predict low anxiety scores.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is a risk factor for anxiety. The evidence, considered by some to be low quality, nonetheless suggests that supplementing with magnesium can reduce subjective anxiety. The mechanistic evidence is stronger, as magnesium is one of those minerals that plays a role in hundreds of very basic and essential physiological processes—including the generation of ATP, the body’s energy currency. Without adequate energy production, nothing works well. One’s mental health is no exception.

Magnesium supplementation reduces subjective anxiety (the only kind that matters) in the “mildly anxious” and in women with premenstrual syndrome.

Magnesium L-threonate, a form particularly good at getting into the brain, is worth trying for more immediate, noticeable effects.

3. Zinc

Zinc deficiency is common in people with anxiety, including Chinese males and Americans. And although mainlining oyster smoothies probably won’t fix serious anxiety, a follow-up in the group of Americans with low zinc levels found that zinc supplementation did reduce anxiety levels.

4. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, helps regulate production of serotonin and GABA—two neurotransmitters that control depression and anxiety. In mice exposed to anxiety-producing situations, pyridoxine increases GABA, reduces glutamate, and reduces anxiety. In humans, correcting a magnesium deficiency with magnesium and vitamin B6 has a stronger effect on anxiety than magnesium alone. (Good to note: women on hormonal birth control may be depleted of vitamin B6 as well as other vitamins and minerals.)

The best sources of vitamin B6 are turkey, beef, liver, pistachios, and tuna.

Now, the NATURAL INTERVENTIONS….

These aren’t essential nutrients. Rather, they’re plant compounds with pharmacological effects and, in most cases, hundreds of years of traditional usage for dampening, inhibiting, or resolving anxiety.

5. Kanna

Kanna comes from a succulent plant native to South Africa. The story goes that an anthropologist noticed elderly San Bushmen nibbling on a particular type of succulent plant while displaying incredible cognitive ability and remaining calm, cool, and collected. The fact that they weren’t dealing with daily commutes, traffic jams, annoying bosses, and mounting bills probably had something to do with it, but it turns out that the succulent plant wasn’t hurting the cause.

Kanna has been shown to dampen the subcortical threat response, which is normally heightened in anxious states. It also increased well-being and resistance to stress in health adults who took it in a safety study.

6. Theanine

Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea and available as a supplement, isn’t going to obliterate your nerves before a big performance. One study showed that it (along with the benzodiazepine Xanax) reduced resting state anxiety but not experimentally-induced anxiety. Then again, neither did Xanax.

Theanine is instead a mild anxiolytic. If you get anxiety from caffeine, take 200 mg of theanine with your coffee. It will smooth out the experience, reduce/remove the anxiety, and leave the stimulation.

7. Kava

Kava is a plant native to the South Pacific. Traditionally, its roots were chewed fresh with the resultant liquid often spit into communal bowls for consumption, pounded to release the moisture, or sun-dried, ground, and steeped in water to make an intoxicating, relaxing mild sedative. Nowadays, the active kavalactones are also extracted and pressed into capsules.

I don’t use kava, but I have tried it a couple times in the past. For what it’s worth, I don’t have anxiety issues but it did seem to pair well with caffeine (similar to theanine).

8. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea is a longtime favorite adaptogen of mine. It hails from the barren wastes of Siberia, where for millennia people from all over the ancient world coveted it. There’s something about the harsh environment of the northern tundra that made rhodiola rosea incredibly resilient—and bestows upon those who consume it a similar type of mental resilience.

2015 study sought to determine the impact of rhodiola on self-reported anxiety, stress, cognition, and a host of other mental parameters. Eighty subjects were divided into either a twice-daily commercial formula (containing 200 mg rhodiola) group or a control group. Compared to the controls, the rhodiola group showed notable improvements in mood and significant reductions in anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and depression after 14 days.

Rhodiola rosea, along with theanine, features prominently in my anti-stress (and anti-anxiety) supplement Adaptogenic Calm. (If you’re interested, here’s a video of me talking about how I use it.)

9. Lavender

There’s a great lavender farm on the island of Maui. One of the favorite memories from that trip is strolling through the fields of lavender, brushing against the leaves and flowers, just basking in the relaxing scent that permeated the entire property. A very low-stress environment, to be sure.

One study gave lavender oil capsules to major depressive disorder patients suffering from anxiety who were already taking antidepressants. Not only did adding the lavender reduce anxiety, it also improved sleep.

Perhaps the most impressive study is this one, where generalized anxiety disorder patients either received lavender oil or a benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug. Patients receiving the lavender had the same beneficial effects as the benzo patients without the sedation.

Lavender oil aromatherapy also seems to reduce anxiety, at least in cancer patients. One weakness of aromatherapy research is the difficulty of giving a “placebo smell.” Essential oil scents are quite distinct.

10. CBD Oil

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.

Most recently, a large case series (big bunch of case studies done at once) was performed giving CBD to anxiety patients who had trouble sleeping. Almost 80% had improvements in anxiety and 66% had improvements in sleep (although the sleep improvements fluctuated over time).

In a five-year-old girl with PTSD (a category of patient that just shouldn’t exist) in whom pharmaceutical anxiety medications did not work, CBD oil provided lasting relief from anxiety.

Here’s how to find a good CBD oil.

What do you folks like for anxiety? What’s worked? What hasn’t? What did I miss?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.

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References:

Cunnane SC, Crawford MA. Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development: implications for brain expansion during human evolution. J Hum Evol. 2014;77:88-98.

Boyle NB, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety. Magnes Res. 2016;29(3):120-125.

Mccarty MF. High-dose pyridoxine as an ‘anti-stress’ strategy. Med Hypotheses. 2000;54(5):803-7.

Walia V, Garg C, Garg M. Anxiolytic-like effect of pyridoxine in mice by elevated plus maze and light and dark box: Evidence for the involvement of GABAergic and NO-sGC-cGMP pathway. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2018;173:96-106.

De souza MC, Walker AF, Robinson PA, Bolland K. A synergistic effect of a daily supplement for 1 month of 200 mg magnesium plus 50 mg vitamin B6 for the relief of anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study. J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2000;9(2):131-9.

Lu K, Gray MA, Oliver C, et al. The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004;19(7):457-65.

Terburg D, Syal S, Rosenberger LA, et al. Acute effects of Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin), a dual 5-HT reuptake and PDE4 inhibitor, in the human amygdala and its connection to the hypothalamus. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013;38(13):2708-16.

Nell H, Siebert M, Chellan P, Gericke N. A randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial of Extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) in healthy adults. J Altern Complement Med. 2013;19(11):898-904.

Fißler M, Quante A. A case series on the use of lavendula oil capsules in patients suffering from major depressive disorder and symptoms of psychomotor agitation, insomnia and anxiety. Complement Ther Med. 2014;22(1):63-9.

Woelk H, Schläfke S. A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine. 2010;17(2):94-9.

Shannon S, Opila-lehman J. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. Perm J. 2016;20(4):16-005.

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Bravery Brand Interview with Lindsay Riley

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Lindsay Riley, the creator of the Bravery Band. The Bravery Band represents the fearless and unstoppable person you can be. It’s just one word and five digits, but involves countless stories. Whether you’re a hero in the military or a hero within yourself conquering life’s everyday battles, there is someone brave in all of us. The Bravery Brand represents the American Dream that anything in life is possible. Wearing the band is a constant reminder of your bravery.

Lindsay kindly gifted me a rose gold Countless Band, which I’ve worn non-stop since receiving it. It’s a great reminder to be brave in my everyday life, especially with regard to Carrots ‘N’ Cake and putting myself out there. I’ve struggled with confidence in the past, so it’s a nice reminder to put those anxieties aside. I love that the message on the band is subtle, using the digits 27283 to represent the spelling of the word BRAVE on your phone pad. 

The Bravery Bands come in a number of styles for both women and men. They’re available in three Macy’s locations for a limited time (Northstar in San Antonio, TX, Lenox Square in Atlanta, GA, and Northshore Mall in Peabody, MA) as well as online, along with the bravery bag (it’s super cute!) at braverybrand.com, and also at Lindsay’s style lounge, The Cue, in Dorchester, MA. I love everything that the bands stand for as well as Lindsay’s story and connection to the brand. Read on for my interview with her!

What’s the story/inspiration behind Bravery Brand?

The Bravery brand was started back in 2014 when my Grandmother passed away. She was the Barber Walters of Boston, a socialite and media guru promoting and supporting designers, athletes, and politicians in the area. When she passed I had got a call from David Josef, Yolanda Celucci and a few others saying “Your Grandma helped us, so now its our time to help you.” That’s when I got asked to design the official bag for Boston Medical’s Catwalk for Cancer. I asked myself “What was I going to design that represented both men and women overcoming something that made them so brave? That’s when the American Flag came to me. Something both men and women could both carry as well as the greatest symbol of Bravery.

In 2014, I launched our FIRST “Bravery Bag” for Boston Medical’s Catwalk For Cancer. It was then out of nowhere people kept sending me their stories of where they were wearing their bags, what they were carrying it for and how they were seeing other people with them.

Then, in 2015 I reached out to military non-profits and teamed up with the USO New England and started to give back to our active duty military. The Bravery Bag was born to represent the brave and strong person within all of us whether you were wearing it for yourself or someone you knew!

What’s your background?
I graduated from Lasell College in 2013 with a degree in Fashion Merchandising. While studying at Lasell, I also attended London College of Fashion.
I’ve also been sewing since I was six years old and selling handbags since I was fourteen, which gave me a better understanding of manufacturing and what it took to produce a product. At the age of 20, I was producing and manufacturing my first line of handbags right here in Massachusetts.
Being an entrepreneur, I need to immerse myself in every aspect of the business. I currently go from manufacturing products, listening to peoples stories, to being a buyer and stylist for The Cue, to running the back end of both businesses day in and day out.

Is there a particular bravery story from customers that has stuck with you as especially memorable?
I’ll never forget a few stories that always hit near to the heart but one that I always remember was a girl from college whose card read: “I am brave to have chosen the school I wanted to go to and no where my parents wanted me to go. I now am a freshman at the school of my choice, on the deans list and my parents aren’t talking to me. I am brave for being strong for myself.” – I’ll never forget speaking at that school and reading that story and how much I could feel that girl feeling alone but achieving her own happiness all at once.
Where do you see the brand going in the future? 
In my eyes, The Bravery Brand is creating a brand that brings people together as one, and my hope is that our band will be on every wrist in the US.
In the future, I’d like The Bravery Brand platform to be connected to multiple non-profits and companies to help bring awareness and “band together” to create powerful connections. Every wrist and every story!
What’s your favorite band style?
I love them all because they all represent a little piece of me. But if I had to choose, my favorite band would be the rose gold flags. I love how it shows our patriotic side on the outside with a constant reminder of the word written inside “I Am Brave” for that little reminder within all of us!
What’s the inspiration behind the Countless Band?
When I first started the Bravery bag, I knew how powerful it was and what it meant to people. What I realized in that process was that it wasn’t everyday people wanted to say that THEY were brave or that they were wearing it for themselves. Fast forward a few years later when I was creating the Bravery Bands, I knew I wanted one that represented our mission without saying it. I remember thinking up all sorts or logos or symbols that could represent BRAVE, but nothing seemed to resonate with me. It wasn’t till I was driving on the highway one day and a big military truck was in front of me with those giant bumper numbers. It was right than when I was like how do I spell the word brave in numbers? I immediately got out my phone and realized it was 27283 and immediately every bone in my body was like THAT’S IT!!! One word, five digits, countless stories. 27283 is the digits of BRAVE for those who are wearing it for themselves or wearing their band because of someone else it’s a code.

Bravery Band Giveaway

Head over to @carrotsncake Instagram and share what makes you brave for a chance to win a Bravery Band of your choice!
P.S. If you’re local, the Bravery Kick-Off Event will be held on May 23rd at Granite Links with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the USO. Link to tickets here!

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10 & 2 Q: Workout Recovery: Sauna vs Ice Bath

Do you DREAD ice baths but power through in the sake of recovery? Or maybe you’ve considered doing them but are too scared to dip your little toe in a tub as cold as Antarctica…

In this week’s 10 and 2 Q I go into the research on hydrotherapy for training recovery. As well as, the alternative: HEAT! Saunas…

Depending on your personal preference, heat and cold therapies have research backing both of their benefits.

If you do cold therapy, I recommend not doing it soon after your training if you really want to see the benefits of your therapy.

Transcript:
Nicki: Robb, what do think about all of the cold water immersion stuff, and the popularity of people jumping in ice baths and whatnot?

Robb: Hydrotherapy and everything? It’s good stuff. I mean, it’s definitely cool. The thing about the ice baths, in particular … If you do it post-workout, it appears to blunt the adaptation for the workout. If you’re a CrossFit Games competitor and you need to … or some sort of high-level competitor and you need to be ready to go again quickly, and you don’t really have time to allow the normal inflammatory process to occur in between a training session, then I could see the benefit. But the point of training is not really the training, it’s the adaptation that occurs. This cold immersion can really shut that down. It appears to be somewhat similar to taking NSAIDs.

Robb: It’s funny, physical activity, the adaptation that occurs with that is more in the heat shock protein family versus the cold shock protein families, which all of these things are hormetic stress responses. All of them have great benefit. But the heat shock proteins are more specific to actual physical activity. So I could make a case, and maybe it’s just my bias because I don’t actually like cold water immersion too much. Nicki likes it better than I do. But I would rather a sauna, a hot immersion, than a cold one. I kind of feel like even if I did a hard weight training session, if I did a hard jiu-jitsu session and then I do heat exposure, I just feel better after that. I don’t know. I’m sure that, again, the poison’s in the dose on all that stuff. I think there’s benefits to both sides of this temperature extreme exposure. There’s clear research that supports that.

Robb: But, I guess at being almost 50 and I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life because I thought I should do it, and now I look at what are some things that are potentially beneficial? Cold immersion, heat exposure. Okay. I fucking hate cold immersion so I’m not doing the exposure. So there’s a little bit of personal bias on that. But I think also just something to keep in mind, again, is if you are doing the cold exposure, you probably want to get it as far away from physical activity as you can, maybe even hours before versus hours afterwards. Because it’s that after time that, again, is when the adaptation occurs. But I could also chalk a fair amount of this up to just kind of personal preference.



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Fitness Update: Six Months In

It’s been six months since I had a baby completed the biggest fitness event of my life and I’m here to share an update on fitness!

Previous posts on postpartum fitness

Postpartum Fitness: Easing In

What’s New In Fitness (February)

My Treadmill

Aaptiv v. iFit

So what’s new?

I’m running a LOT.

Both inside and out! The old treadmill is gone. A nice couple came to haul it away. I also turned my new treadmill around so that it faces in. This was the smartest solution for us to be able to use both doors in there. And luckily there is an outlet inside the water heater closet there. It’s not quite a fun to run facing a door, but most of the time I’m watching the iFit screen anyways so it’s fine. How am I liking the Nordictrack a few months in? LOVING IT.

I’ve finished my first 24-run iFit program and definitely felt my running ability improve. When I first got this treadmill, running at or above a speed of 8.0 felt like a full on sprint. At the end of my program (which I think took me about five weeks because I didn’t run everyday) 8.0 felt like a fast run but not a sprint.

Most of the Fast + Fit in French Polynesia runs were 20-25 minutes, which I loved. They would leave me sweaty and spent. I just started a new series – Fast + Fit in Portugal – and the runs are a little longer. The program is slightly different, and I’m excited to get going on it.

Kids Zone

Now that the yucky winter sickness epidemic is over, I’ve been taking Birch to KidsZone once a week for strength class. Honestly that’s the only class that is worth it to me to haul him there for, mostly because I’m almost as happy working out at home while he naps. It’s just easier than packing up to go out. But it’s been nice to get back to strength class a little. The last time I went I had to wake B up from his nap and he was pretty grumpy about it, so I’m not sure I’m going to be able to go every week, but my plan is to go whenever he wakes up and the timing works.

Typical Week

Here’s what my typical weeks look like:

Sunday: Soccer!! Favorite day.

Monday: Run (sometimes outside if sitter or Thomas are home)

Tuesday: Run

Wednesday: Strength

Thursday: Run

Friday: Run

Sat: Athletic conditioning class

That’s a lot of running and not a lot of diversity.

I know. Ideally I would have a different kind of workout every day of the week! I’m definitely lacking in strength, although sometimes on indoor run days I do a 10 minute quick strength session with Aaptiv. I’m totally lacking in yoga. Zero cycle. I just can’t focus through long classes right now, and short sprint workouts are much preferred. I’m actually enjoying all the running because it’s just so easy to zoom out the door or onto the treadmill. And in this season I need workouts that are super efficient. I will get back into strength eventually.

I remember at the Survivor Retreat – which was summer 2015 – I was doing a ton more strength training with heavier weights and my arms showed that. (Watch this video! I want to get back to that strong of an arm!) I also know that when Birch is older and my life is more flexible, I’ll be able to devote more time to strength.

Throwback to 2015

Running –> Races?

While I’m doing more running, however, I feel like I should sign up for a race! I used to run a lot of races when I first started the blog and then I got out of the habit of running when I started taking Mazen to Kids Zone. (You can’t leave the gym to run outside while the kids are in there.) Maybe I will sign up for the women’s four miler at the end of the summer!? I feel like if I ran a race now I would be faster than my old self, but I think that I would actually be way way slower! Sometimes I feel like I’m running really fast and I look down at my watch and I’m running a 10 minute mile :mrgreen:

Throwback to 2010!

2x Soccer

Spring soccer is going great. It’s wonderful to get back into the sport, and soccer days are always my favorite workouts because it’s so FUN! I’m also signed up for two weeknight soccer leagues this summer. Women’s indoor at the YMCA (the same one I do in the winter) and also co-ed summer soccer on Thomas’s team!! I’m excited to play co-ed again, and we’re glad to be on the same team. We will have to rely on babysitters a bit more than we used to and/or we might have to trade off pushing the stroller at the soccer field, but we will make it work! Since Thomas and I technically met for the first time playing on a summer league together, it kind of feels like full circle!

Throwback to 2016!

You know what’s most important about fitness?

HAVING FUN! And that I am!

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