Stress & Anxiety

The ultimate guide to natural stress relief supplements

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: April 20, 2020
natural stress relief

Natural stress relief supplements = not drugs

natural stress reliefYou know what stress is. You’re dealing with it every day unless you are retired and totally healthy and wealthy. You likely know all sorts of natural stress relief techniques such as relaxation breathing. Perhaps, you are familiar with aromatherapy and meditation too.

On the other hand, you might be unaware there are entirely natural stress relief supplements including one very powerful mineral that will honestly surprise you.

So how common is stress anyway? So many people are stressed and anxious in our fast-paced society. Estimates are well over 50%. I think that is really a conservative estimate if you ask me.

Either that or I hang out with people who are stressed. At any rate, you are most definitely not alone.

The good news is that it is possible to live a life with minimal stress! In this article, I’ll cover natural stress relief supplements for stress and anxiety which are healthy alternatives to toxic drugs.

Can I reduce stress naturally? Really?

Yes! There are ways to “get” the brain chemicals you need naturally via “natural stress relief brain chemical precursor supplements.” That’s quite a mouthful isn’t it? This means “no drugs.” No Drugs? You may be taking medications now because they are prescribed like candy- UGH! First, I’d like to talk about stress in general. Second, about the reasons opposing drugs. Third, about the whys and hows of natural stress relief supplements for anxiety and stress. Okay?

how do you lose weight during menopauseTo learn more about stress symptoms and stress relievers search this website. I have discussed at length how many people eat due to stress. The #1 cause of emotionally based eating is stress. Natural stress relief would, therefore, need to include stress-eating. I get that.

So, your reason for learning about and using natural stress relief supplements might be due to your diet plans. That’s great! All of your brain chemicals are adjustable with natural stress relief or depression relief supplements.

We have natural stress relief supplements which can do fancy things like stop sugar cravings! And we have supplements which do so much more. People overeat when they are not even hungry due to anxiety, stress, depression, sleepiness and low energy.

I use eating as an example because most everyone can relate. Stress-eating is responsible for what many people call unexplainable weight gain, so again you are not alone.

Of course, we must manage stress, but that is far from the whole story. Just “managing stress” doesn’t cut it for many people. That’s why it’s perfectly fine to do everything you can to get in control of your life. Add in exercise, eating well, yoga classes, deep breathing, etc. But before thinking of popping a Xanax know there is a better way to keep the stress-gremlins away. Here is the explanation.

Emotions 101:

Brain chemicals called neurotransmitters emotionally rule us. Brain cells called neurons release them. Some people have less of what they need and some people have just enough released, but the chemicals don’t stay around in the brain long enough.

losing short term memoryBoth situations cause deficiency states which have their own set of symptoms. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter involved in cognition (thinking) and neural transmission speed (“sharpness of thinking”). It can be affected adversely when we are coping with depression or when we are stressed.

The adrenal glands make epinephrine and too much causes anxiety. This happens during periods of stress. Simultaneously, the adrenals also release cortisol which depresses our immune system and interferes with all sorts of physiological functions.Those functions include immune function and cognition. In fact, short term memory loss is a sign of cortisol excess much of the time.

Happy Chemicals

Serotonin is a “happy neurotransmitter” which helps mitigate anxiety. If your body makes it then yes, of course, it’s a form of natural stress relief. The problem is sometimes your body needs the “substrates,” but more on this to come. Most of it is made in the GI tract, remember? Also remember we can raise it by chewing gum, unbelievably enough? (If you don’t remember then welcome to my blog and don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter to “stay up” on things including special discounts).

Dopamine is another “happy neurotransmitter” and so is nor-epinephrine. We amp these up when we’re dealing with addictive behavior, irritability, anger, and depression. We don’t have to “mess with them” to relieve your stress. However, if you are not quite sure “what is wrong” please fill out a self-assessment questionnaire on mood (home page) or have a “consult” with me. We’ll figure it out together. But now, back to stress.

The brain chemical MOST involved in anxiety and the one we CAN fix to stop anxiety without drugs is known as “GABA.” This is what keeps you calm and prevents panic attacks as well as anxiety. We have really cool ways of increasing serotonin and GABA with natural stress relief supplements. No doubt I’ll tell you all about it after I get the “no drugs” information off my mind. I promise!

Why are anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals so bad?

If you are taking anti-anxiety medications, they are addictive and highly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They decrease your overall brain health. They numb you and rob your body of its ability to produce GABA. These drugs also significantly lower your cognitive abilities, but that’s in a different article.

act as appetite suppressants to lose weightThere is a DRUG called gabapentin, but we want to avoid drugs, right? This is not typically used for anxiety or stress. However, some doctors are using this “off label” and you don’t need this one either. It’s still a drug.

Anxiety/stress treatment does not need to involve drugs! If drugs are involved, you will not bother to learn stress management techniques. Also, there are greater chances of having the original issues plus cognitive (thinking) issues and “rebound anxiety”!

Drugs for stress and anxiety called benzodiazepines make anxiety conditions worse. These benzodiazepines are something you need to wean off if you are taking them.

Natural supplements can be useful during the weaning process. I will guide you through exactly how to do this, but this needs to be supervised by your physician. And maybe, just maybe- your doctor listened to your symptoms for 5 minutes and handed you a prescription you don’t need. If in doubt, check your symptoms out!

If you need to be weaned from drugs or have anxiety, I have answers. First, I suggest behavioral treatment simply to make sure you have a grip on everything you can do to “manage” your stress.

I also advise you learn many great techniques to “bust stress,” start eating healthfully, exercising, and do everything that works for you mentioned previously in this article. Then, of course, we have supplements. Let’s start with the three that do NOT directly impact GABA or serotonin levels which just might surprise you.

Vitamin D and stress:

Research indicates that individuals with low Vitamin D levels are at more risk of stress and depression.

Sunlight is rarely enough of a “fix.” To get enough usable vitamin D,  the amount of exposure would cause skin damage.

Check your Vitamin D levels by visiting your doctor. Aim to replace it to 45-55 ng/dl which takes about (usually) 2000-7000 IU’s daily of a good pharmaceutical grade supplement.

My average patient takes about 4000 IU’s day. The mechanism behind the reduction of anxiety with Vitamin D. is unknown. However, we do know it’s so beneficial for many reasons so why would you not take vitamin D?

Magnesium and stress:

Magnesium plays a very important role in biochemical reactions all over the body, yet up to 80% of us may be deficient. It is essential for over 300 different chemical reactions in our body to maintain energy. It aids in relaxation. Also, it’s vital to sustain the health of your heart and blood vessels.

Magnesium is the anti-stress mineral, used by the nervous system to prevent nerve cells throughout the body from becoming excitable and over-reactive.

The lack of sufficient magnesium in the body can cause anxiety. When emotional, mental or physical stress becomes a constant in our lives, the results of a continual state of hyper-vigilance is worsened by a magnesium deficit.

Chronic stress often leads to the production of excessive cortisol which eventually will damage the hippocampus (memory center) of the brain as well as the immune system.

Magnesium will lessen the cortisol increase and more importantly, help protect the brain from its toxic effects.

Magnesium l-threonate is the only form of magnesium known to cross the blood-brain barrier to increase the brain’s magnesium levels. Doing so helps prevent the entrance of stress hormones to the brain. This one and only form of magnesium has clinical studies showing it improves short and long term memory and concentration. It also likely helps with the reduction of anxiety. We know if stress is interfering with sleep initiation, magnesium threonate offers help falling asleep due to down regulation of glutamate. Glutamate is GABA’s evil Siamese twin.

Probiotics? Really?

Yes, really. We have learned a great deal about the role of the GI tract when it comes to things like the strength of your immune system and the health of your brain. We also know that you cannot lose weight efficiently if you have a disturbed GI microbiome, populated by toxic bacteria which actually slow down your metabolic rate. In addition, we know that a toxic microbiome leads to more anxiety and depression.

One well done study found a commonly used probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked “upping” effect on GABA levels. Other studies haven’t been as specific, but many studies do indeed point to the prebiotic/probiotic connection and the lessening of anxiety and stress.

How to directly increase GABA: The relaxation brain chemical

PharmaGaba: These are chewable supplements which are pure GABA. Do not be fooled into thinking that 99% of oral supplements will do a thing. Why? Because they will not pass across the blood-brain barrier. Chewables must be chewed, 1-2 at a time. Put them under the tongue, against the inner cheek and hold there for a minute or so for absorption before swallowing. You can repeat this as much as needed but after 6-10, people report sleepiness. Tingling is normal.

This is our #1 most popular supplement for stress and “sleep initiation” for both AWS annual consultation members and patients in my private practice too! Since menopause is a time when hormones and brain chemicals go awry and pounds tend to pack on a bit,  one of the ways how to lose weight during menopause is to use GABA supplementation to help with the usually inevitable stress-eating.

L-glutamine: This amino acid converts to GABA. You can take two 2-4x daily for a steady rise in GABA levels. It also helps increase lean body mass.

Do not take the above supplements WITH anti-anxiety medications or they reduce medication efficacy. There needs to be a two-hour “window.”

Two ways to increase serotonin’s effects

 Serotonin is the chill-out, feel happy brain chemical.

5-HTP=5-OH tryptophan: (Do not take if you are bi-polar or are on anti-depressants). As an aside, if you want to wean from anti-depressants onto natural brain chemicals I can make that happen for you. We call it treating depression naturally, but I call it treating depression correctly. 5-HTP elevates serotonin levels.

The dosage is one or two capsules 2-3x daily and depending on your GI tract, (we use this to heal – constipation, remember?) you will take three to ten more capsules at night. Watch for this “other effect”, stop when you notice it, and back off on the dose.

Note more than two caps at a time during the day will possibly make you sleepy. Here is a “cool thing” to remember…I mentioned we have things to suppress sugar cravings at the beginning of this article, remember? Well, this is the best non-stimulant natural appetite suppressant supplement and it also suppresses sugar cravings! Nice to know if you like that “side effect”, right? This is but on component of help in the stress and weight gain connection.

Inositol:  it is known as a sleep aid. It can also be used to boost serotonin’s effects with little attention to dosage since studies have taken almost 20 grams per day. It works by making serotonin receptors more sensitive. For a good boost take two to four caps 2x daily. If this dosage makes you sleepy during the day stop taking the daytime dose. Some people will experience loose bowel movements just so you know.

Please find many articles on this blog to help you relieve your stress and bring down toxic cortisol levels.




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