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- Public health officials say a group of anti-anxiety medications could be the next U.S. drug epidemic.
- Antidepressant use has gone sky high—with one in eight Americans reporting use in 2014.
- Psychiatric medications are notorious for having numerous side effects—and they don’t address the source of the anxiety.
- Anxiety and depression can team up with chronic illness.
- Pathogenic diseases and chronic illnesses often play in a role in triggering, exacerbating, and furthering mental disorders.
- There are simple and effective ways of dealing with anxiety and depression without medication.
- Understandably, patients diagnosed with a life-threatening disease or chronic illness can become anxious or depressed.
- People with chronic illness such as Lyme disease are often diagnosed with anxiety or depression and put on medications when it’s actually the pathogens causing inflammation and neurological symptoms.
- Mold toxicity, parasites, pathogens, food sensitivities, autoimmune conditions, toxicity, genetics, and EMR/EMF exposure can all contribute to brain inflammation and nervous system dysfunction and may lead to mood issues and anxiousness.
- EMR/EMF exposure may be one of the biggest triggers for neurological and psychiatric disorders in our modern technological age.
- Studies conclude that nutritional supplements and herbal remedies are effective for addressing anxiety and other mood imbalances without the risk of serious side effects.
- Magnesium is a master mineral with many whole-body effects. It plays a major role in mental health and mood stabilization.
- Essential oils are a superb tool for addressing the symptoms of anxiety, altered mood, and depression.
- There are many nutritional strategies you can employ to reduce anxiety and depression.
- Anxiety and depression respond favorably when we calm, redirect, and refocus the mind.
- Exercise and movement can improve anxiety and depression.
- Reducing or eliminating certain substances can help decrease or block anxiety and depression symptoms.
- Alternatives to psychiatric medicines aren’t a substitute for treatments or talk therapy recommended by healthcare professionals, but they generally can be an adjunct to those treatments.
- Remember, medications typically don’t address the root cause of anxiety or mood instability, so finding a long-term, drug-free solution is a worthwhile undertaking.
Public health officials say anti-anxiety medications, a group of drugs called benzodiazepines, could be the next U.S. drug epidemic. Using them for even more than a few weeks can cause tolerance and addiction, and discontinuing them can lead to long-term withdrawal symptoms, seizures, and even death.1
There’s an ongoing discussion about antidepressants and depression as well. According to a government survey, the number of Americans who take antidepressants increased by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014.2 Consequently, by 2014, about one in every eight people in the United States over the age of 12 reported recent antidepressant use. Plus, the number of women using antidepressants is nearly twice that of men.
In addition to the risks and numerous side effects, anxiety medications and antidepressants suppress symptoms without addressing the root cause of the issue.
Anxiety & Depression Can Team Up with Chronic Illness: What Should You Do?
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions are complex disorders that can have many contributing factors. For instance, have you ever considered the role pathogenic diseases and chronic illnesses play in triggering, exacerbating, and furthering mental disorders? You may be surprised to find out that those issues are not just “all in your head” or problems with what you think and how it makes you feel.
Correcting the source of the issue may take some time. But it’s pretty safe to say that most patients experiencing the worry, agitation, apprehension, fearfulness, insomnia, lack of motivation, nervousness, sadness, pain, and tension associated with anxiety and depression need help sooner than later. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways of dealing with anxiety and depression without medication.
Mental Illness Developing from Chronic Illness
It makes sense that patients with a life-threatening disease or chronic illness diagnosis could develop a psychological disorder. A patient with chronic disease frequently has to adjust many aspects of their life and outlook for the future. Grief, fear, anxiety, and sadness are common initial reactions to such a situation. Those who can’t or don’t adjust easily may have sustained anguish and may develop psychiatric conditions, most commonly anxiety or depression.3
At times, the standard treatment for a medical condition may affect a patient’s state of mind, since many treatments and pharmaceutical protocols can have psychological side effects. The disease process itself may also impact a patient’s mood. Disabling restrictions, pain, and functional limitations that come from a disease may result in an anxious or depressive disposition. It may be difficult for both patients and their healthcare professional to differentiate these reactions from mental illness.
So-Called “Mental Illness” with Chronic Illness
Frequently, people with Lyme disease, co-infections, parasites, mold exposure, toxicity problems, and other chronic illnesses go to their medical professionals for help with severe anxiety and depressive symptoms. Once the physicians have reviewed lab work, scans, etc., they may give them the “all clear.” But–what about the anxiety or depression?
Well…many times patients are told it’s “just anxiety” or “mild depression,” and out comes the prescription pad. Then, they end up taking anxiety meds or antidepressants for “maintenance,” and very likely for the rest of their lives. But in truth, it’s common that the chronic illness or Lyme disease bacteria or other pathogens are causing the inflammation and nervous system disruption that lead to the symptoms that are now dubbed as “mental illness.”
Play the Long Game to Defeat Anxiety and Depression
As they are often symptoms of many chronic illnesses and disease processes, anxiety and depression can be enigmatic opponents. You may benefit by looking into these sources of depression and anxiety:
- Mold toxicity—a negative reaction to the build-up of mold toxins in the body. Mold toxins create chronic inflammation and are highly indicated in neurological issues including brain fog, depression, and anxiety.
- Parasites—in a human host, a parasitic infection can lead to mental health symptoms like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.
- Pathogens and infections—inflammation and chronic stress from pathogenic infections can lead to mood instability and anxiousness.
- Food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities—anxiety attacks and symptoms of some types of depression can result from food allergies. Eliminating food allergens can clear up unwanted mental and emotional symptoms.4
- Autoimmune conditions—abnormal autoimmune activity has been implicated in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders.5
- Toxin and heavy metal buildup—an array of common mental health disorders that can mimic many psychiatric “diseases” result from toxin and heavy metal overload.
- EMF exposure
Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMFs) and Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR)
It is prudent to say a bit about EMR and EMF exposure in any discussion about sub-par mental health. EMR/EMF exposure may be one of the biggest triggers for neurological and psychiatric disorders in our modern technological age. Both Western and Soviet literature shows that the brain and peripheral nervous system are impacted by non-thermal microwave exposures in animals.6
Recent studies show substantial evidence that microwave EMFs from cell phone base stations, excessive cell usage, and from wireless smart meters can each produce neuropsychiatric effects. Additionally, several of these studies show a clear dose/response relationship, i.e., high and/or long duration exposures create more varied and severe responses.
EMFs activate pathways called voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs). Large populations of VGCCs are found throughout the nervous system. They have critical roles in the release of neurotransmitters and neuroendocrine hormones.
The cells and tissues in the brain and nervous system show changes that are both substantial and varied in scope after EMR/EMF exposure. These may be due to VGCC activation producing excessive neurotransmitter release, neuroendocrine hormone release, oxidative stress, nitrosative stress, and other responses.
Researchers outlined multiple neurological and psychiatric effects from EMR/EMFs.
Clearly, as more and more evidence points to EMFs and EMR as causative agents in anxiety, depression, and cognitive disorders—not to mention a significant role in immunosuppression and inflammation—interventions that reduce those harmful energies become increasingly necessary.
Mount an Aggressive Offense
To score anxiety and depression relief, consider adding these suggestions to your playbook:
Herbal and Nutritional Supplements
Clinical research studies conclude that nutritional and herbal supplementation is an effective method for addressing anxiety and other mood-related conditions—without the risk of serious side effects.7 There is strong evidence exists that herbal and mineral-rich supplements can help to score anxiety and depression relief. Consider adding these suggestions to your playbook:
- Valerian root (herbal)
- Chamomile (herbal)
- St. John’s Wort (herbal)
- GABA (amino acid/neurotransmitter)
- B complex vitamins (vitamins)
- 5-HTP (amino acid/chemical precursor to neurotransmitter serotonin)
- Melatonin (hormone secreted at night to induce sleep)
- Homeopathic remedies
- Kava (herbal)
- Magnesium (mineral)
- Aromatherapies (essential oils)
Interestingly, substantial research supports the use of kava for anxiety. Kavalactones, the active ingredients in kava root, appear to promote relaxation. They may improve the production of neurotransmitters GABA and dopamine, and prevent norepinephrine reuptake, all of which are extremely valuable for controlling anxiety.8 Be cautious with this remedy if you have liver disease or poor liver function, though.
A master mineral with many whole-body effects, magnesium plays a significant role in mental health and mood stabilization. It addresses anxiety and depression through multiple mechanisms.
Notably, increasing neuroplasticity should be a goal when neuropsychiatric symptoms are present. Simply stated, neuroplasticity the brain’s ability to heal and create new brain cells. Magnesium helps support the production of brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF). BDNF improves the brain’s ability to rewire itself.
Furthermore, magnesium is one of only a few nutrients that have been shown to support the production (neurogenesis) of nervous system cells (neurons). A form of magnesium that can cross the blood-brain barrier, called magnesium L-threonate, may be the best supplement to support neurogenesis.9
Aromatherapy. Essential oils are a superb tool for addressing the symptoms of anxiety, altered mood, and depression. When used properly, they are free of side effects. Take some time and experiment with essential oils and find what works best with your unique body chemistry.
Orange essential oil is excellent for boosting mood, as are other bright and refreshing citrus essential oils including lemon, lemon balm, and bergamot. Ylang ylang and lavender essential oils are calming and can ease anxiety. Frankincense essential oil has a grounding effect and works well in concert with other essential oils. A blend of these mixed into a carrier oil and applied to the pulse points will provide a mood-balancing pick-me-up.
Eating a balanced diet and drinking enough water to stay hydrated are important dietary considerations. But there are other nutritional strategies you can employ to reduce anxiety and depression.
Balance Blood Sugar. Blood sugar imbalances have a heavy hand in almost all chronic disease. This is because rapid blood sugar fluctuations produce harmful consequences, including:
- Chronic inflammation
- Neurotransmitter imbalances
- Hormone imbalances
- Weight gain
All of these, individually and collectively, can lead to low mood, difficulty handling stress, and an increased likelihood of experiencing anxiety. And although balancing blood sugar is a whole conversation in itself, adjusting your diet toward the low carbohydrate or ketogenic end, or employing intermittent fasting, can go a long way toward blood sugar stabilization.
Magnesium-rich foods. An essential mineral for the body—magnesium is naturally present in many foods including leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocado, and whole grains.
Zinc-containing foods include oysters, cashews, grass-fed beef and liver, and pastured eggs. A low zinc level in the blood is a biological marker for depression, and zinc supplementation has been shown to have both anxiety-lowering and antidepressant effects in humans.10
Omega-3s. When your levels of omega-3 fatty acids are low in the brain, neuroinflammation and ongoing disruption of signaling between nerves can result, which can lead to a compromised mental state. Oily fish, like salmon, are high in Omega-3s. Eating wild-caught fish or other foods high in Omega-3s is a better option than taking a potentially rancid fish oil supplement.
B vitamins. Taking B-complex vitamins can lead to significant and more continuous improvements in depressive and anxiety symptoms.11 Foods high in B vitamins include avocado, almonds, leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains.
Asparagus. Steroidal saponins, the main biologically active constituents of asparagus, have been shown to have anxiety reducing properties.12
Dark chocolate. Flavonoids in cocoa are known for their antioxidant properties and have been shown to provide several beneficial actions on the brain. Chocolate flavonoids can also improve mood and have a positive effect on cognitive abilities in the aging.13
Meditation and Mindfulness Strategies
Anxiety and mood issues respond favorably when we calm, redirect, and refocus the mind. Techniques involving conscious relaxation and mindfulness practices have been in use for thousands of years. Here are a few methods along those lines that can help counter depression and anxiety:
- EFT Tapping
- Naming techniques
- Breathing techniques
- Listening to music
- Engaging with the natural world (outdoors, companion animals)
Exercise and Movement Strategies
Symptoms of anxiety and depression can improve with exercise. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals into your bloodstream. It can also divert your focus so that you aren’t consumed by negative thoughts.
Even mild physical activity, such as regular walking, may help improve mood. You can also choose forms of exercise like yoga, tai chi, or qigong that combine the practices of breathing and mindfulness with the physical movement.
Deploy a Bold Defense
Things that many of us put in our bodies on a daily basis–like coffee and food flavorings– can have stimulating or excitatory effects. Reducing or eliminating these substances could help decrease or block anxiety and depression symptoms, including:
- Excitotoxins (i.e. MSG & glutamate-containing additives)
- Food allergens, such as:
Long-Term Mental Health Strategies
You may want to consider trying some of these alternatives before committing to a life of psychiatric medicines. While these suggestions aren’t a substitute for the treatments or talk therapy recommended by a professional psychiatrist or psychotherapist, they generally can be an adjunct to those treatments.
Remember, medications typically don’t address the root causes of anxiety and mood instability, so finding a long-term, drug-free solution is a worthwhile undertaking. Anxiety and depression are cagey opponents, yet they can be conquered with an aggressive offense, a bold defense, and the tenacity and support to play the long game.
My At-Home Program has a lot of great information for Lyme disease and chronic illness sufferers. It could provide the help you need to support your healing journey. With support, you may be able to live drug-free, anxiety and depression-free, and free of the chains of chronic illness.
- Lader, M and Kyriacou, A. “Withdrawing Benzodiazepines in Patients With Anxiety Disorders.” Current Psychiatry Reports, vol. 18, no. 1, 6 Jan 2016. Web
- Pratt, Laura A et al. “Antidepressant Use Among Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2011–2014,” NCHS Data Brief, no. 283, August 2017. Web
- Turner, J and Kelly, B. “Emotional Dimensions of Chronic Disease.” West J Med, vol. 172, no. 2. Feb 2000. Web
- ”Can Anxiety Attack Symptoms Be Caused by Food Allergies?” cchrflorida.org, Citizens Commission on Human Rights, n.d. Web
- Kayser, MS and Dalmau, J. “The Emerging Link Between Autoimmune Disorders and Neuropsychiatric Disease.” Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences, vol. 23, no. 1, 1 Oct 2011. Web
- Pall, ML. “Microwave Frequency Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) Produce Widespread Neuropsychiatric Effects Including Depression.” Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, vol. 75, Part B, Sep 2016. Web
- Lakhan, Shaheen, E and Vieira, K. “Nutritional and Herbal Supplements for Anxiety and Anxiety-related Disorders: Systematic Review.” Nutrition journal, vol. 9, no. 42, 7 Oct 2010. Web
- Sarris, J and Kavanagh, DJ. “Kava and St. John’s Wort: Current Evidence for Use in Mood and Anxiety Disorders.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 15, no. 8, 2009. Web
- Abumaria, N et al. “Effects of Elevation of Brain Magnesium on Fear Conditioning, Fear Extinction, and Synaptic Plasticity in the Infralimbic Prefrontal Cortex and Lateral Amygdala.” Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 31, no. 42, 19 Oct 2011. Web
- Ranjbar, Elham et al. “Effects of Zinc Supplementation in Patients with Major Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Iranian journal of psychiatry, vol. 8, no. 2, Jun 2013. Web
- Lewis, JE et al. “The Effect of Methylated Vitamin B Complex on Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms and Quality of Life in Adults with Depression.” ISRN Psychiatry, 21 Jan 2013. Web
- Cheng, Long et al. “Evaluation of Anxiolytic-Like Effect of Aqueous Extract of Asparagus Stem in Mice.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM, vol. 2013. Web
- Nehlig, Astrid. “The Neuroprotective Effects of Cocoa Flavanol and its Influence on Cognitive Performance.” British journal of clinical pharmacology, vol. 75, no. 3, Mar 2013. Web