Muriel Cooper
Psychologist in Mornington

Stress, anxiety and depression

 

Herbal supplementsHave you had the experience where you have gone on a weight reducing diet, cutting out carbohydrates, protein and fat, only to find you feel irritable and people are accusing you of being a grump?

It’s common these days to think that fat and carbohydrates are bad for you and make you fat and in sufficiently high quantities, of course that’s a fact.

But here’s another fact.

Protein, carbohydrates and fats are absolutely essential to our mental health!

The brain is mostly made of water and fat.  Omega 3 fatty acids such as those found in fish oil and flaxseed oil richly nourish the brain and keep it healthy.

Carbohydrates and protein help to make Serotonin, your major feel-good neurotransmitter, so after a meal containing both, you feel calm and sometimes even a little sleepy, as you do after Xmas lunch! An afternoon snooze is common in cultures where people eat their main meal in the middle of the day. If you are watching your weight, portion size is the most important thing, but please, please do not cut out mood-nourishing protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Low GI foods are best, such as nuts, whole grains like raw rolled oats, or seeds like pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Yoghurt and all dairy foods are a rich source of Tryptophan, the main building block for serotonin, as well as fish, meat and poultry and bananas.

Herbs and supplements are often suggested for stress and anxiety and some of them have proven to be helpful, although the consensus seems to be that a really good multi-vitamin and fish oil is effective and doesn’t involve taking handfuls of pills.

However, for those going through a period of high stress and anxiety, here are a few suggestions you could try.

Kava Kava

People in the Pacific Islands have been using this plant for anxiety treatment for a long, long time.  As with all supplements, make sure you buy a quality product and take it as directed.

Valerian

The story says he tranquiliser Valium was inspired the calming properties of Valerian.  Valerian can be drunk as a tea (a little but helpful), or as a supplement, especially to aid sleep.

Again make sure you buy a good quality one.

Vitamin C

Mood studies have shown people who are depressed are often low in vitamin C.  You can get this from you daily multivitamin or take it as a supplement on its own.  You can’t overdose on it but taking too much might send you scurrying to the loo (where the money you paid for it will be going too).

Vitamin B

You will probably get enough from your multi, but if you’re in a high stress/anxiety state, a high potency Vitamin B supplement (like Blackmore’s Executive B with added herbs), may be helpful.  Sometimes I suggest Berocca (a fizze, palatable combination of B & C) to replace seperate  supplements.

Selenium

Again you will probably get enough of this from your multi – a lack of selenium in the system has been linked to anxiety.

Melatonin

May help you sleep.  There is a medical grade melatonin you can obtain by prescription from your doctor, or consult a qualified natural medicine practitioner.

Herbal teas

Generally herbal teas only help a little at most, but they are a nice alternative to tea and coffee and a nice soothing hot drink.

Camomile tea can be very effective as a bedtime drink but use a high quality pure camomile tea.

 

Natural medicine practitioners and medically trained  nutritional doctors can also prescribe special supplements and herbs such as SAM-e and 5HTP

Finally, here’s a warning.  There are many herbs and potions around and some of them can be dangerous for some people, e.g. pregnant women.  Also some of them can hurt your liver or kidneys in sufficient quantities.  Be sensible and try one at a time, if it works – great!  Also beware of buying drugs or supplements via the internet, get advice first.

(Please note, I am not an expert in this area but widely read and I have had some training in nutritional medicine for mood disorders.  Consulting your pharmacist, doctor or natural medicine practitioner is recommended).

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