Our modern lifestyles of chronic stress can create so many problems related to the nervous system such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, hunger cravings and obesity, learning disabilities, headaches, hypertension, hormonal problems and much more.
There are many ways to reduce anxiety and depression. One of the most important is to spend some time every day being in nature, exercising, and practicing meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or other disciplines to tap into the “greater whole” and into our own calm center. When we anchor into this awareness and experience of inner peace, then our activities in this chaotic world can emerge from and reflect this space of peace and strength.
Supporting the needs of the physical body is also important. Of course eating an organic diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, and adequate protein and healthy fats is the cornerstone of good health and feelings of well-being. Daily supplements of vitamin B complex (50-100 mg), vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and EPA-DHA fish oil helps insure optimal brain and nerve function. Alkalizing minerals are very important and are abundant in green vegetables, beets, black cherries, seaweeds, and “super greens” like chlorella and spirulina. Watch out for sugar, coffee, soda and alcohol, which are acidic, and can leach minerals out of the body causing increased anxiety and muscle tension.
Medicinal herbs are also effective allies. Nervines like chamomile, lemon balm, linden flowers, passion flower, hawthorn berries and St. John’s wort help restore and relax the nervous system. Sedative herbs induce sleep and help anxiety and hyperactivity. These include skullcap, valerian, and hops. Herbs specific for depression are St. John’s wort, lavender, rosemary, and holy basil. Stress also takes its toll on the adrenal glands. Herbal adaptogens restore adrenals by helping the body deal with stress and lowering cortisol levels. These include Panax and eluthero (Siberian) ginseng, holy basil, licorice, reishi mushroom and ashwagandha.
For many people these suggestions create noticeable improvements. But for more chronic and severe problems, successful results may also come from laboratory testing of adrenal function and neurotransmitter levels. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that regulate brain and nerve function. They are either excitatory (elevate mood and energize) or inhibitory (relaxing and sleep-inducing), and must maintain a dynamic equilibrium for optimal health. Lab tests show the imbalances, and then supplements such as tryptophan, 5-HTP, and GABA may be used to restore balance. This type of therapy can be quite effective and safer than pharmaceuticals, but it requires guidance by a health professional.
Susan Clearwater, R.N. is a Holistic Nurse Practitioner and herbalist at the Center for Wholism, 2401 N. Walnut.