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The-Okanagan-Naturopath

Natural Ativan in stressful times

Supplements to help anxiety

Like the oft-used idiom of the Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Just turn on the news and you are bombarded by negativity. The Covid pandemic, lockdowns, restrictions, the economy, interest rates, the stock market, inflation, job security, bills, taxes, the war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza and the list goes on and on. There are enough problems in the world to get even the most optimistic and positive person down. Worry, fear and anxiety are commonplace.

Up to 50% of illness seen in general practice is affected by stress and anxiety. High blood pressure, heart disease, arrythmias, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, digestion, headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and fibromyalgia are all affected, to some degree, by stress. Additionally, poor immune system, frequent infections and cold and flus are influenced by stress.

There are several effective naturopathic strategies that help to mitigate the negative effects of stress and anxiety. Eating healthy is important. The excessive use of stimulants like coffee, caffeine laden energy drinks and teas can perpetuate stress and anxiety. The increased consumption of sugar can negatively affect the adrenal glands that help deal with stress. Eating regularly and consuming whole foods can help the stress glands and nervous system function better.

Good quality sleep of seven to eight hours duration is recommended for rest and recovery. Regular exercise, especially outdoor aerobic exercise, can help the body deal with and recover from stress.

B vitamins and electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium can help the nervous function optimally.

Helping maintain GABA levels in the nervous system can help combat excessive stress and anxiety.

GABA is short for Gamma Amino Butyric Acid. It is a small amino acid found throughout the human body. It is made from another amino acid called glutamate. GABA acts as a neurotransmitter that affects the brain and nerves. It is the major inhibitory amino acid. It relaxes muscles and nerves throughout the body and brain. Chronic stress can deplete GABA levels.

Many of the most commonly prescribed drugs for anxiety artificially increase GABA levels. Benzodiazepine drugs like Ativan (lorazepam), Rivotril (clonazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are used to treat serious anxiety. They are considered “controlled” drugs in Canada because they are highly addictive and habituating. Sleeping pills, like Imovane (zoplicone) and Sublinox (zolpidem) also raise GABA artificially by preventing the breakdown of the hormone at nerve receptor endings. And finally, pain killers like Neurontin (gabapentin) and Lyrica (pregabalin) are used to treat both acute and chronic nerve pain by affecting the function of GABA in the brain and nervous system.

GABA also exists as a free-form amino acid and is available for supplementation from natural health food stores and complimentary pharmacies. It was originally thought GABA does not cross the blood-brain barrier, but more recent studies suggest that it can reach specific areas of the brain.

It can have a calming and relaxing effect throughout the body. It can help calm an overactive mind. It can reduce high levels of anxiety. It can promote relaxation of muscle tension. It can help reduce nerve pain in conditions. It can be used to treat insomnia by both decreasing the time to get to sleep and maintaining sleep throughout the night. It can be safely combined with other natural sleep medicines like melatonin, Valerian and magnesium.

It is also important to note that many other calming herbs work by stimulating and increasing GABA levels to some extent. Herbs like Valerian, Passion flower, Hops, Skullcap and Kava kava are believed to interact at various levels at GABA receptors throughout the body. Another amino acid called L-theanine is believed to interact at the GABA receptor and increase its activity.

GABA is not as strong as prescription medicines that artificially raise up its levels. But then again, it is also not addictive and habituating like many of these Rx medicines. It can be safely discontinued without fear of abnormal withdrawal symptoms.

I have used GABA by itself at various doses, or in combination with other nutraceuticals for added effects.

The use of it in adults and in teenagers is considered safe but its use by infants and young children should be used with caution and with medical advice. Its use by pregnant women is strongly discouraged as GABAnergic drugs can decrease fetal heart and breathing rates.

Side effects associated with its use are minimal. Occasional nausea, upset stomach and skin rashes have been reported. For some, paradoxical reactions have been reported. GABA can be stimulating for a small subset of individuals. Instead of promoting sleep, it increases arousal and anxiety. Unusual sleep patterns and dreams have been reported.

Also, the consumption of large amounts of GABA powder can directly cause tingling in the mouth and skin of some individuals and cause bronchial irritation.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Doug Lobay is a practicing naturopathic physician in Kelowna, British Columbia.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of British Columbia in 1987 and then attended Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle, Washington, where graduated with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine degree in 1991. While attending Bastyr College, he began to research the scientific basis of naturopathic medicine. 

He was surprised to find many of the current major medical journals abounded with scientific information on the use of diet, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.

Doug is a member of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and has practiced as naturopathic family physician for more than 30 years.  He maintains a busy practice in Kelowna where he sees a wide age range of patients with various ailments.

He focuses on dietary modification, allergy testing, nutritional assessments, supplement recommendation for optimal health, various physical therapy modalities, various intravenous therapies including chelation therapy.

An avid writer, he has written seven books on various aspects of naturopathic medicine that are available on Amazon and was also a long-time medical contributor to the Townsend Letter journal for doctors and patients, where many of his articles are available to view on-line. He has also given numerous lectures, talks and has taught various courses on natural medicine.

Doug enjoys research, writing and teaching others about the virtues of natural health and good nutrition. When not working, he enjoys cycling, hiking, hockey, skiing, swimming, tennis and playing guitar.

If you have any further questions or comments, you can contact Dr. Lobay at 250-860-7622 or [email protected].



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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