Anxiety affects 18 percent of Americans. If you’re female, you’re 60 percent more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
Even though younger adults are more stressed because they’re under pressure from performing well at school or getting used to their careers, the age bracket with the most clinical anxiety is between 30 to 44 years old. Anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals can carry harmful side effects, but natural anti-anxiety remedies can be effective while also being holistically healthy for you.
Mainstream Medications and Their Problems
Your doctor may diagnose you with an anxiety disorder if you experience any of the following symptoms for longer than a month:
- Feeling restless all the time
- Tiring easily
- Having trouble concentrating or focusing
- Becoming easily irritated
- Muscle tension
- Trouble sleeping
- Episodes of suddenly becoming extremely afraid without any immediate reason
- Feeling stressed around others so much so that you avoid places you know many people will be
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the common medications for anxiety disorders are benzodiazepines, like Clonazepam, Lorazepam, and Alprazolam, which have all been approved by the FDA.
Alprazolam, which you may know as Xanax, binds to receptors in your brain that affect your sleep, muscle relaxation, and safeguards against muscle convulsions.
Despite Alprazolam’s effectiveness, it also poses significant risks. Some common side effects are clumsiness, depression, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, and muscle coordination loss. The uncommon and worse side effects include coughing, eye paralysis, memory problems, painful urination, and seizures! If you take the drug long-term, you could also experience a lowered sex drive, erectile dysfunction (in men), constipation, and weight loss. In fact, last year researchers linked long-term use of Alprazolam with the development of dementia!
It doesn’t stop there – taking Alprazolam while you’re pregnant can harm your baby because the drug can cross the placenta and permanently weaken your baby’s developing muscles. When your baby is born, Alprazolam also gets into your breast milk and is ingested by your newborn during breastfeeding, which can harm your newborn’s developing respiratory system.
5 Healthy Natural Alternatives
If you want to avoid the potentially devastating side effects of common anti-anxiety drugs, you can try these natural remedies. Always remember to do further research and check with your doctor before taking any medications.
1. Garcinia Cambogia
You’ve probably heard the famous Dr. Oz flaunt how garcinia cambogia can burn your fat. Researchers have also found it may help ease anxiety. Its hydroxycitric acid (HCA) content has been found to boost your serotonin levels. Since low serotonin levels can cause anxiety, taking garcinia cambogia may help treat your anxiety.
It’s best to eat the natural fruit rather than take HCA supplements. Garcinia cambogia supplements can cause serotonin toxicity, which can lead to rapid beating of the heart and high blood pressure because the amount of HCA is more concentrated than that of the actual fruit.
The well-documented side effects of taking garcinia cambogia supplements are mild headaches, dizziness, and diarrhea. But these are associated with the supplements and not the actual fruit. If you stick to the natural fruit, there may be little to no risk of any side effects.
Almost all fruits are loaded with antioxidants, and garcinia cambogia is no exception. Its xanthones, benzophenones, and flavonoids have antioxidant properties, including lowering your overall inflammation. Abnormally low antioxidants levels have been found to cause dementia, so regularly eating antioxidant-rich foods may help protect your brain. Garcinia cambogia’s antioxidants have also been found to protect you from cancer.
Dogbane (formally named Apocynum cannabinum) is a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Native American remedies. It’s actually a poison that acts on the heart, but it’s mostly fatal to grazing livestock. For people, the plant was actually used as a heart stimulant.
It’s used to alleviate fevers, rheumatism, asthma, and many other ailments. Researchers also found it has mild dementia-preventing properties. It also has anti-anxiety properties because it produces a small amount of morphine and is a mild opioid.
Don’t take dogbane regularly unless directed by your doctor or a certified alternative health practitioner. Its toxic properties can harm you if taken without professional guidance.
3. Probiotic-rich Foods
Scientists have discovered that probiotics are beneficial for more than just your tummy. Doctors have found that probiotics can also help alleviate anxiety. In a survey of college psychology students, it was found that students prone to high anxiety who ate more probiotic-rich foods experienced fewer social anxiety symptoms.
Remember that probiotics’ well-known health benefit is alleviating gastrointestinal symptoms, like upset stomachs and diarrhea? Psychology professor Matthew Hillmire, Ph.D., says that since anxiety is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms (like butterflies in your tummy before giving a big speech), probiotics help directly alleviate some of anxiety’s physical symptoms.
He also says that probiotics have been found to help your body respond to stress better, which also helps ease anxiety. How well your body responds to stress affects how susceptible you are to anxiety and other mental disorders.
You can take probiotic supplements or eat probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt and buttermilk.
4. Tryptophan-rich Foods
Just like garcinia cambogia’s HCA, tryptophan raises your body’s serotonin levels, which is one way it protects you from anxiety. Studies also show that directly ingesting tryptophan lowered participants’ bad behaviors and boosted their moods. They also found that tryptophan is an “effective antidepressant.”
Where can you get your tryptophan? You might automatically think turkey, but plenty of common foods contain twice the amount or more tryptophan than turkey. A serving of light or dark-meat turkey has between 250 to 270 milligrams of tryptophan, but a serving of spinach or eggs has between 600 to 700 milligrams.
Would you rather take a potentially dementia-causing pill or go for a nice, relaxing walk? Researchers have found that exercise has antidepressant and anxiety-relieving effects. They also found that exercise boosts your brain’s serotonin levels and boosts your tryptophan levels long after you’ve finished your workout.
In fact, the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published a physician’s depression treatment guide that recommends telling patients with mild clinical depression to exercise rather than prescribe antidepressants.
Does it work? Here’s a convincing case study:
Sixty-four social anxiety college patients stared at a dotted outline of a person. The researchers said that people suffering from social anxiety would think the outline is facing them and perceive it as a threat. After walking or jogging on a treadmill for 10 minutes, the participants perceived the outline as staring at them less and their anxiety levels dropped down to the same levels as that of an average person. In fact, they felt far less threatened by their environment in general!
If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, conventional anti-anxiety medications are costly and can have serious side effects, like dementia, if taken long term. Some of these natural remedies cost less than a dollar a day and not only help treat anxiety and depression, but some help prevent dementia and cancer too! Plus, they’re good for your overall health. If you give them a try and they don’t work for you, simply go back to your previous medications!