Supplements to Reduce Anxiety in Recovery
Being clean and sober from alcohol and drugs doesn’t mean you can’t take natural, homeopathic supplements to improve your mood and reduce anxiety. A wide variety of natural anti-anxiety remedies are out there to try. They’re non-addictive and non-habit forming. Some impact the brain in ways similar to alcohol, but without the addictive effects. You won’t feel intoxicated, but you may feel relaxed and ready to take on the day.
Stonewall Institute supports holistic and natural recovery, but understands that every patient is different. Proper medication, supplements, and intensive therapy are important for a successful recovery. Please consult with your doctor before taking any of the supplements mentioned below.
Theanine is an amino acid that has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. It’s found in high quantities in green tea leaves. When you’re recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol, the brain may need a little encouragement to return to normal neurotransmitter production. Theanine is an amino acid analog of two critical neurotransmitters: L-glutamate and gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA).
When glutamate activity in the brain is high, and GABA activity is low, anxiety can become worse. Taking theanine as an oral supplement can promote the expression of GABA in the brain by suppressing the expression of glutamate.
Theanine also increases levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the brain (BDNF). BDNF is critical for rebuilding damaged neurons, something that’s often desperately needed in the brain of someone seeking substance use recovery.
Theanine increases alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are one of several ranges of frequency that characterize the brain depending on whether you’re sleeping, feeling energized, or in a state of calm. Alpha waves are present during meditation and REM sleep.
Before there was serotonin, there was 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is an amino acid that serves as a primary building block for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Rave culture is familiar with 5-HTP as an ecstasy (MDMA) hangover cure. MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) induces feel-good effects by triggering the brain to produce serotonin in large quantities.
Serotonin has many functions throughout the body and is closely involved in digestion. The majority of the serotonin produced in the body is made by bacteria deep in the intestinal tract. In the brain, serotonin is responsible for producing a feeling of peace and general well-being.
Supplementing with 5-HTP can help you sleep better. Recovery from addiction can make it hard to sleep at times. Poor sleep can further throw off neurotransmitter and hormone levels as you try to recover. While you’re awake, the brain converts 5-HTP into serotonin. While you sleep, it converts it into melatonin. Without adequate melatonin, the brain doesn’t know to shut off and get some rest.
By promoting restful sleep and increasing serotonin expression during the day, 5-HTP can be an excellent addition to your recovery toolkit.
GABA, full name gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is a non-essential amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA’s job is to calm overactive brain activity and reduce anxiety. When you drink alcohol, you can thank increased GABA production for the relaxation component of the alcohol buzz.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Gaba reduces anxiety by decreasing glutamate activity.
GABA supplements don’t work for a large percentage of the population. For some, it can be very useful at inducing feelings of calm without being sedative. Individuals with anxiety tend to be low on GABA.
If you’re deficient in GABA, it can be helpful to stock your body up on B-vitamins. The vitamin-B family includes all the essential water-soluble vitamins besides vitamin C. You have to get them through diet because the body can’t make them on its own. B-vitamins include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and the cobalamins. Pyridoxine, also known as B6, and the cobalamins, also known as B12, are especially helpful for treating anxiety and depression.
B6 and B12 are cofactors in many of the body’s metabolic processes. Being deficient in these essential nutrients can cause a host of cognitive problems, including anxiety and brain fog. It’s important that your body’s vitamin B profile is balanced. Taking a B-complex multivitamin is a safe way to restore optimal brain activity following addiction. B-vitamins help balance hormone production, increase energy, support the adrenal gland, and maintain the health of nerve cells.
Valerian root is one of several herbs that achieve their anxiolytic effects by increasing GABA production. This is another good one to take if you’ve been having a hard time sleeping at night. Valerian is a common ingredient in many herbal sleep tinctures along with kava, lemon balm, passionflower, and chamomile. Many of these share valerian’s GABA-promoting effects.
Xanax reduces anxiety by dramatically increasing the expression of GABA. If you’re recovering from addiction to Xanax, supplements like valerian that boost GABA may be especially helpful. Because valerian can be so sedative, it’s best to avoid taking it during the day.
Studies indicate that valerian root may slow the reuptake of GABA in the brain, thereby increasing its effects. This is the same way the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) treat depression by slowing the reuptake of serotonin.
Several recent research studies have linked magnesium deficiency to increased rates of anxiety. In animal studies, test subjects display reduced anxious behavior when administered magnesium. Researchers believe that magnesium achieves its effects by modulating the HPA-axis, the body’s stress response system.
Being deficient in magnesium can have widespread negative effects on overall health. It’s involved in over 600 different processes in the body and brain. In addition to increasing anxiety, magnesium deficiency can contribute to low energy, brain fog, and depression.
Magnesium is used by the mitochondria in your cells to turn food into energy. It also helps repair damaged strands of DNA and RNA.
Although supplements can be helpful in your recovery, seeking proper treatment for substance use is also essential. Stonewall Institute’s 10-week Intensive Outpatient Program allows for holistic recovery in a comfortable and flexible environment.
As a recovering addict, your brain has most likely been through a lot of stress. As you progress in recovery, your brain chemistry will stabilize and mood will improve. Along the way, the supplements covered in this article can help manage symptoms of anxiety. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, Stonewall Institute Treatment Center is more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 602-535 6468 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.