There’s a reason why despite all the bad things we know about them prescriptions for benzodiazepines—anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax, Ativan, Valium and Klonopin—continue to be written at a record pace.
Fueled by a 24-hour gloom-and-doom news cycle and today’s fast-paced society our fears have been steadily climbing since the 80s.
And unfortunately our appetite for anti-anxiety drugs to relieve some of that fear has shot up right along with them.
But you CAN relieve your anxiety without drugs. We’ll have more on that in a few moments, including specific solutions you can implement starting today.
But first let’s take a closer look at anti-anxiety drugs.
Anti-anxiety drug use has skyrocketed
Conservative estimates are that 40 million of us in the United States alone are suffering with anxiety. And that means a whole lot of us are on medications to help relieve that anxiety.
In fact, according to experts an astounding 11 percent of middle-age women are on an anti-anxiety drug, and nearly 7 percent of men in the same age group are too.
Seniors fare even worse. According to the NIH benzodiazepine use is highest among seniors 65 to 80 who, unfortunately, are also at the highest risk for some of the drug’s worst potential side effects including memory problems, confusion, a loss of inhibitions and balance problems, which can lead to devastating falls.
Even more troubling, 31 percent of those seniors are on long-term prescriptions raising their risk for side effects even more.
Our children aren’t even safe. It’s not just adults taking benzos, use by kids aged 10-19 skyrocketed 50 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to the America’s State of Mind Report analysis by Medco.
In other words, a whole lot of American’s are on benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines enhance relaxing GABA
In a nutshell, here’s how the drugs work.
Benzodiazepines basically turbo-charge the effects of a neurotransmitter that’s already present in your brain called gamma amino butyric acid (GABA).
GABA’s job is to relax and calm, but the benzos cause it to perform more effectively.
Unlike SSRI drugs that take weeks to kick in, benzos offer almost instant gratification, making them very attractive and easily abused. But the instant relief they provide comes with a hefty price tag.
Benzodiazapines are practically a set up for addiction.
First of all the longer you take them the more tolerance you build and the more of them you need to get the relief you’re looking for. And should you ever make the decision to stop taking them without drugs physical withdrawal is a very real possibility.
(This is why if you’re taking a benzo you should always work with your doctor to wean yourself off of them rather than trying to quit them on your own.)
That’s the bad news, especially if you’re one of those 40 million suffering with anxiety and desperate for a little relief.
But now for the good news.
11 foods to help relieve anxiety without drugs
There’s a safe, natural, non-additive solution that can deliver essentially the same sort of GABA-supporting anxiety relief without you having to take a risky drug. And believe it or not you’ll find it in the grocery store.
It turns out there are a number of foods that can help ramp up your natural GABA production.
Here are our top 11 choices for GABA enhancing foods to help you relieve anxiety without drugs:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Oolong tea, green tea, or chamomile tea
- Citrus fruit
- Fermented foods such as kefir and kimchi
7 nutrients to enhance natural GABA production
As we explained earlier your body naturally produces GABA. But to do this effectively a number of nutrients are needed. If you want to make more GABA you’ll need to have enough of each of them in your system..
Following are seven nutrients your body needs to manufacture this important anxiety-reducing nutrient:
Your body needs the amino acid L-glutamine (or glutamine) to produce GABA. Your body first converts the glutamine to glutamic acid. Next a special enzyme, we’ll just call it glutamate-D, then converts the glutamic acid into GABA.
L-glutamine is found in animal meats, dairy foods, beans, raw spinach, parsley and cabbage.
2. Vitamin B6:
For the enzyme we just talked about, glutamate-D, to work effectively and increase the production of GABA you need a sufficient supply of vitamin B6. In fact, B6 is required to produce the other mood-related key neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, as well. Low levels of B6 have been associated with depression and ADHD.
Foods rich in vitamin B6 include tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach and bananas.
Another amino acid, taurine helps that same enzyme we spoke of earlier, glutamate-D, do its job. Taurine increases the enzyme’s productivity and communication. Studies have linked taurine deficiency to anxiety.
Beef, poultry, fish, shrimp, eggs, and Brewer’s yeast are all good sources of taurine.
The mineral zinc has two roles to play when it comes to mood. Like vitamin B6 your body requires it to produce other important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. In addition, the mineral enhances the release of GABA from its receptor sites.
The best food sources of zinc are oysters, red meat, poultry, nuts, beans, crab, lobster and dairy.
This plant based amino acid is a real superhero when it comes to supporting mood and wiping out anxiety. Theanine bumps up GABA levels in your brain.
But it doesn’t stop there, it also increases alpha brainwaves. These are the brainwaves that show up when our brain is relaxed such as during meditation, mindful relaxation or daydreaming. In addition, theanine supports GABA receptor response.
Interestingly the only place you can get more theanine in your diet is in tea. If you’re typically a coffee drinker you might try switching to tea.
The mineral magnesium binds to and activates GABA receptors. When we’re deficient in magnesium it can trigger anxiety, irritability, nervousness, panic disorders, depression, insomnia, apathy and attention issues.
Magnesium deficiency is frighteningly common with up to 70 percent of men and 80 percent of women in the Western world being affected according to some experts.
You can raise your magnesium levels by eating more dark leafy greens, nuts, fish, beans, seeds, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas and dark chocolate.
Another B vitamin inositol helps GABA bind to the benzodiazepine receptors in your brain. And yes, those are the very same receptors that benzo drugs bind to, so it’s easy to see how inositol could help relieve anxiety without drugs.
Good food sources of inositol include whole grains, wheat germ (for those not sensitive to gluten, of course), meat, nuts, citrus fruits and legumes such as beans and peas.
Make a move to rid yourself of anxiety
Physical movement can literally drive down your anxiety levels too. So don’t forget to get some kind of movement in every day, a 20 minute walk after dinner for example.
And schedule in some exercise at least three to five days a week. Yes, the fun stuff counts as exercise too no matter whether its square dancing or riding a bike.
If you haven’t been active for awhile and are looking for something easy to start with we like chair yoga. In this video physical therapists walk you through a gentle chair yoga routine that can help you relax, and as a bonus you’ll be gaining flexibility and driving away any nagging aches and pains.
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