One important note before we start: Please keep in mind that this article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, or to diagnosis, treat or cure any illness of any kind – a full disclaimer can be found here. Okay, let’s jump in!
Does your heart pound, arm pits sweat, feel light headed and shaky when you are about to do something, talk to someone or even just think about a potential stressful situation? Do you jump to conclusions or assume before having all the facts? Is anxiety interfering in your life?
While some fight or flight hormone responses are normal, for many it is a real hindrance and is disabling. Irrational responses to everyday situations seem to negatively affect 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety disorder each year and more women are affected than men, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (
While the physiological response can be extremely powerful, it's your brain's perception of a negative situation that is most likely instigating it. Anxiety is the way of having your inner alarm signals triggered. We don't want to turn the emergency situation into our everyday way of living.
You might wonder, how can one person easily stand in front of a large audience and be calm, cool and collective and another person clearly be anxious. It depends on the thoughts they hold in their mind about the situation. How can we avoid anxiety in those situations? Change your thought pattern about the situation and you can change your response including your fight or flight response. I heard an amazing quote from a doctor a while back and it resonated with me very deeply “Most health issues are between your ears.” –Dr. Versandaal
Changing your perception and thoughts you hold in your mind might sound simple, however, we know that anxiety is also driven by the health of your gut bacteria, immune system, your diet and your hormones.
There is also a connection between stress, anxiety and depression. A deficiency in your all important neurotransmitters could be linked.
Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.” The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest. They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance.
Some Symptoms of Low Neurotransmitters
Alcoholism/addictions, allergies, anxiety, diarrhea, depression, worry, fear, restlessness, hair loss, blood sugar imbalance,insomnia, RUMINATING THOUGHTS, short temper, phobias, impulsiveness, frequent urination, skin issues, flushing/blushing, excessive sweating, salt cravings, muscle tension, especially in shoulders, neck and jaw, disorganization, reflux, IBS, hypertension, tinnitus, chronic pain, migraines, PMS, schizophrenia and OCD.
The Brakes and the Gas Pedal
There are differences between neurotransmitters Serotonin (using l-Tryptophan) and GABA. Tryptophan is used for low serotonin, symptoms such as mental/emotional symptoms such as worry in the head, ruminating thoughts and GABA is used for low GABA symptoms such as physical anxiety such as tight tense neck, shoulders and muscles.
Gaba and Serotonin are considered the calming or “braking” neurotransmitters, while Dopamine and Acetylcholine are the energizing or “accelerating” ones.
Very few doctors understand neurotransmitters and do not know how to support it without prescribing drugs such as Xanax, Klonipin, etc.. But GABA imbalance is easily helped with GABA, Passion Flower, Valerian and other calming herbs. I also love Lemon Balm because it grows as a perennial year after year. It is so super affordable and is a calming neurotransmitter, it makes a great calming tea.
Not Sure Which Neurotransmitter You May Be Deficient In?
Here is a simple way to help you figure it out:
- If you have to eat (sugar) when you haven’t eaten in awhile it’s likely low blood sugar and glutamine on the tongue stops the sugar desire on the spot. I can personally attest to the POWER of this one!
- If you stress-eat your sugar cravings are likely due to low GABA, and GABA will stop the stress-eating and calm you down.
- If you eat sugar or carbs to feel happy (and especially from late afternoon onwards) then your sugar cravings are likely due to low serotonin, and l-tryptophan stops the cravings and boosts mood and reduces anxiety.
- If you eat sugar for an energy boost then it’s likely due to low catecholamines and tyrosine will stop those cravings and give you a mood and energy boost.
- If you are a comfort-eater then it’s likely due to low endorphins and DPA will stop that “I deserve-it-reward-eating” and also give you a hug-like mood boost.
- NOTE: check with your doctor, pharmacist or practitioner regarding the best dosages for you. The rule of thumb is always to start slow and slowly increase.
Hormones that Are Involved in Triggering Anxiety
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
The good news is that there are natural ways to support your body and correct imbalances
- Use the questionnaire above to help you determine which neurotransmitters may be helpful.
- Steer clear of any stimulates; including caffeine (not even one cup of coffee), tea , energy drinks, pop, cigarettes and avoid all sugar. These provoke the stress handling glands thus creating even more stress.
- Eat and drink probiotic foods and beverages daily. These contain beneficial bacteria that will help your brain function properly
- Eat grass fed red meat and salmon at least 3-5 time per week. That is one of the best ways to replenish neurotransmitters. Click HERE, HERE and HERE for the best sources of grass fed meats and wild caught seafood.
- Optimize your diet with lots of good fats (supports the adrenals and nervous system) and proteins (butter, bone broth, coconut oil, eggs, meat, nuts) and green vegetables. Click HERE, HERE and HERE for the best sources of grass fed meats and wild caught seafood. Read my post on what to eat for optimal health
- Avoid processed foods at all cost
- Get a full 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Lack of good quality sleep interferes in balanced stress hormones
- Live in the present moment and avoid thinking about the past or worrying about the future. The Power of Now is an excellent book
- Be sure your lifestyle and your actions are congruent with what you believe in
- Change your thought pattern. Affirmations are so helpful! For example, instead of saying in your head, “I’m going to mess up ______, and I’m going to look like _____,” you could say “I know my information, I am confident and capable of this.” Many times your emotional brain is in charge, but by saying your affirmation, you can put your intellectual brain in charge, instead
- Turn off the tv and the news
- Know when to say no. Overextending yourself will surely create anxiety and stress
Supplements that are helpful
- The gut runs the show, even regarding our emotions, thoughts and perceptions. Read my post on how to help heal the gut.
- Strong probiotics. These will help optimize beneficial bacteria and will help purge pathogenic bacteria. Read more on the gut-brain connection here.
- Probiotic beneficial yeast. These help balance yeast flora which can affect brain function.
- Magnesium orally, topical-mg oil spray and in a fizzy drink form.
- Mood Boost and Anxiety Relief. This is an excellent combination product with
5-HTP, Passion Flower, L-Tyrosine, Suntheanine, Ashwagandha and GABA. Go slow with this product: adults 1/2 caps with food and slowly ramp up over a week or two.
- Fermented cod liver oil – extremely important for optimal brain function.
- Bone broth.
- Passion flower herbal extract. GABA neurotransmitter support.
- Valerian Root. I highly recommend MediHerb's Valerian Complex. It is a combination of high quality Valerian and Passion flower. Must order this through me. GABA neurotransmitter support.
If you are not taking an SSRI, you can try St. John’s Wort herb for a few months and see if its Serotonin support is enough for you. Passion Flower works in about 20 minutes so it is effective and supportive quickly. Take it night and day in incremental doses of drops. Experiment with all the above and find the right combo that works for you.
Caution: Do not take GABA support if taking anti-epileptics or Benzodiazepines or other sleep medication or if you have too much alcohol.
Remember, while anxiety is real and can be driven by deficiencies and toxicities, we are in control of a majority of our fight or flight response simply by staying present, peaceful, calm and letting go of our perceptions of circumstances. Because in the end…it always works out, so hold that in your mind when anxiety sets in.
The Link between Anxiety and Depression and Our Gut Ecology
There is a direct link between brain activity and how healthy our gut is. Read more here.