Since I posted last I’ve been continuing to experience some symptoms of anxiety, but I’m learning to manage them. Just knowing you have the ability to manage is very powerful in reducing anxiety. The knowledge from the AnxietyBC website, and techniques including relaxation and calm breathing, along with, probably, the beneficial effects of St John’s Wort, which I’ve been taking 2-3 weeks now, and also my new supplement, 5-htp, which you can read about here and here, and which appears to have helped in the two days I’ve been taking it.
The St John’s Wort I am taking is this one – it’s combined with ginseng and ginko. Now, I’d thought that St John’s Wort took a while to work, but I felt benefits in my overall mood within a few days (though sadly not the anxiety) so I don’t know if this could have been the ginseng or ginko I was feeling the benefits of, but either way, it’s been a good supplement. The one big downer is that St John’s Wort (henceforth referred to as StJW) renders the contraceptive pill ineffective. On the upside, it has many reputed benefits, including even for ADHD, and more studies show it is effective than not – so don’t just go by the latest headlines.
I wonder if the 5-htp might be a substitute for the StJW without the effects on the pill, but there’s not enough information available on whether or not 5-htp affects the pill to be sure. For now while things are rough though, I’m taking both supplements. Some people recommend against taking both StJW and 5-htp because of the perceived risk of seratonin syndrome (read about it here) but Michael Murray, a naturopathic doctor, assures us that in severe cases, taking both is what he would recommend.
So, caution is recommended, but for now I am taking BioBalance 5-htp as well as StJW. Because 5-htp works quickly in the system, many people only take it as needed, not long term. This seems to be mostly because of the concern of overdose. I have felt slightly nauseous the couple of times I’ve taken it, which is not an uncommon symptom, and some people avoid the nausea by taking it before bed, but Michael Murray has advice on his website on dosage and managing initial nausea. 5-htp is also reputed to help with migraines, and insomnia, and in fact, one side effect is that it can cause drowsiness, in which case taking before bed is prudent. However I don’t find it makes me drowsy on the 150mg dosage. As my husband suffers frequent migraines, I will let you know if it helps him. Watch this space.
I am also taking magnesium. Magnesium is an excellent all-round supplement, supporting among other things, sleep and stress, as well as migraines. I’m trying a different form this time, as the last brand I used didn’t seem overly effective. I have been sleeping quite well since taking it, but it’s early days yet to see effects on mood. This is best taken in the evening to assist with sleep.
Other herbs and supplements known to help depression and anxiety are passionflower, kava, or the amino acids theanine or tryptophan. This is worth knowing, as different bodies respond differently to medications.
It’s also worth looking into diet when treating depression and anxiety as there is some evidence that foods we eat may aggravate or even cause many maladies, physical and mental. Tabitha at Tabitha’s Gluten Free Dishes has some information on that, and AlternativeMentalHealth.com has some thoughts on how allergies may affect the brain. Yvonne at The Reluctant Archaeologist has a great post about sugar here. Be aware, though, that changes in diet will probably take weeks if not months to show benefits in how you feel, so don’t give up too soon if you try it!
I’d also add that there’s nothing wrong with medications if they work for you. I had an SSRI which really helped with the anxiety, and the only reason I came off them was that I figured I would need something for the rest of my life, and I doubted the docs would prescribe meds that long, so I needed to find an alternative.
Well, that’s me – I hope sharing my experiences may help some people. But when using drugs, whether natural/herbal or synthetic, please use caution, as we are talking about substances which affect brain chemistry, and don’t take SSRIs alongside supplements such as I’ve reviewed above. There are also contraindications with StJW and 5-htp which you should be aware of as with any other medicine. Ideally you would find a naturopath or a medical doctor who is naturo-receptive to advise you about some of the things I’ve mentioned, especially if you’re wanting to try something new, but also be aware that many in the medical community are not open to natural/alternative remedies though they are available and have been found to be effective in many people, so don’t be shy to talk to a few different professionals before giving up. And usually the friendly and knowledgeable staff at alternative health shops will be able to advise in your individual circumstances.