Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia,
with 1 in 4 people experiencing anxiety at some point in their lives (Beyond Blue, 2016).
Situational and occasional worry is a very common human experience, however, anxiety (or generalised anxiety disorder) is a much more complex and debilitating disorder that causes excessive worry that feels uncontrollable. Severe anxiety can affect a person’s ability to work and socialise.
Our Naturopaths take an extremely integrated approach to treating anxiety, meaning they consider all possible underlying causes, and work alongside other health professionals such as psychologists, counsellors, and GPs.
This is an extremely thorough model of health care.
In most mental health conditions, there is an imbalance in the body’s production of neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers produced in the body, which have specific actions that regulate our mood, sleep, and motivation. The key neurotransmitter imbalance that is common in anxiety is low levels of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). GABA is an ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter meaning it helps to keep us feeling calm and at ease. Low levels of GABA can cause anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and alcohol cravings. Individuals with low GABA often dwell on stressful situations. Many herbal medicines can help to modulate the GABA pathway, and for this reason they are termed ‘anxiolytics’, meaning they help to reduce anxiety.
Other neurotransmitters also play a significant role in anxiety disorder, including the adrenal hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Overproduction of cortisol and adrenaline can cause a heightened ‘fight or flight’ response, causing increased heart rate and a feeling of panic. Many individuals who have suffered long-term anxiety can eventually end up with fatigue, due to constant release of these stress hormones. Because of this relationship, many clients presenting with anxiety require adrenal function support.
How can we assess Neurotransmitter levels? Pathology Testing!
Most people with anxiety have a close family member who has also been diagnosed. Although you can’t change your genes, you can certainly negate the effects that genetic traits can bring about. Variations in the MTHFR gene are commonly seen in anxiety clients. The MTHFR gene plays a pivotal role in the production of neurotransmitters (such as GABA), and the production of antioxidants, which protect against illness, including mental health conditions. Individuals with MTHFR gene variations can still live a healthy life – they just require specific nutritional support to help the MTHFR gene work as well as it can.
Another gene we may look into assessing is the COMT gene. COMT alters adrenaline levels.
Pyroluria is also considered a potential underlying cause of anxiety, as it causes a deficiency of important nutritional cofactors that are needed for the production of neurotransmitters. Pyrroles bind to vitamin B6 and zinc, which are both needed to convert glutamate into GABA. Glutamate excess can cause agitation, thus exacerbating feelings of anxiety. Nutritional supplementation with a specific dose and form of vitamin B6 and zinc can ensure your body has sufficient levels to produce its neurotransmitters.
Whilst the underlying hormone imbalances and genetic links are always investigated, Naturopaths also consider significant traumatic events and the persons psychology that may have lead to the onset of anxiety.
Anxiety is extremely prominent in individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In these cases, Naturopaths help to provide symptomatic relief as well as correcting chemical imbalances, whilst a psychologist or counsellor may help to address unresolved emotions from past events. In any case, it is always up to the individual, and what treatment/s they believe will work best for them.
We offer a comprehensive approach to supporting anxiety this could be working along with your doctor or a psychologist. Naturopathy offers a holistic, nurturing and non invasive strategy. Identify and treat the cause.
Our team of health practitioners formulate an individualised treatment plan that may provide relief of symptoms while also addressing the cause, through scientifically-proven nutritional and lifestyle treatments and time-proven traditional naturopathic methods.
We encourage all new patients to book in for a free 15 minute phone chat.