Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety Attacks



by Andrew W. Saul

Many, many millions of prescriptions are written every year for emotional illness. Two out of three visits to family physicians are for stress-related illness. Way back in 1990, the annual cost was already $75 billion. It is many times that today.

More can be done for those experiencing anxiety.  That "more" includes some good, natural remedies and regular practice of a stress reduction technique. 

When I was an undergraduate at the Australian National University, my anxiety over schoolwork (and being 13,000 miles from home at age 18) caused me actual pain. I felt it in the center of my chest and down the side. The university physician, a rather young fellow himself, did an appropriate examination, got out his prescription pad and started to write. Here it comes, I thought: take thou a tranquilizer

Not so. This doctor had written down the name of a book: Relief Without Drugs, by Ainslie Meares, M.D.  (This title might be difficult to find in the United States; try an interlibrary loan through a public library.) 

I was being told to relax and I did not like that. To top it off, the doctor (correctly) assumed that I did not know "how" to relax. He provided a reference so I could learn.  The novelty of this drugless approach is what persuaded me to try it. It worked; the pain went away. For the first time in my life I had a prescription filled not at the drugstore, but at the bookstore. 

While studying at the nearby Canberra Hospital, I learned other stress reduction techniques such as imaging, self-hypnosis, and auto-relaxation from as many staff and consulting psychiatrists as I could locate. Many people I knew and respected began Transcendental Meditation, with evident beneficial results. Attending the church of your choice and personal, private prayer are very powerful assists. Years later, I have come to better understand why many Roman Catholics pray the Rosary and Orthodox Christians practice the Jesus prayer of the heart. As Lincoln said of the little girl as she put her foot in her stocking, "It strikes me that there is something in it." There is. 

Some alternatives to pharmaceutical sedatives and similar products might include: 

NIACIN - vitamin B-3 is so effective against actual psychoses that half of all mental ward inmates in the South were able to be released once a depression-era deficiency of this vitamin was corrected. Niacin in appropriate doses acts as a natural tranquilizer and induces relaxation or sleep.  It is non-addictive, cheap, and safer than any pharmaceutical product. Dosage varies with condition. The best author on the subject is Abram Hoffer, M.D., whose experience dates back to the early 1950's. He routinely gave at least as much vitamin C as he did niacin. This somewhat reduces the flush that all persons taking supplemental niacin should expect to have. Dr. Hoffer, Harold D. Foster and I wrote NIACIN: THE REAL STORY to help you learn more, especially about tailoring the dose. If you cannot afford the book, a search at this website will bring up a considerable amount of information.

Niacinamide does not cause a flush. For many, it may work even better for reducing anxiety than regular niacin. Niacinamide is also nearly as inexpensive.

SUGAR: avoid it. If you are really serious about reducing anxiety symptoms, this is a must. The swings from high to low blood sugar result in corresponding mood swings. Sugar is not your friend.  Eat complex carbohydrates instead. Some will choose to eat fewer carbos in general. However, complex (unprocessed) carbohydrates do help to relax you. It is probably the carbo overload at Thanksgiving that calms more than the tryptophan in the turkey.

CHROMIUM may help even out the sugar mood-swings and perhaps even sugar craving. Chromium deficiency (daily intake under 50 micrograms) affects 9 out of 10 adults. Somewhere between 50 and 400 mcg of chromium substantially improves your cells ability to use insulin. Don't gnaw on the bumper of a '54 Cadillac because that kind of chrome is toxic. Chromium polynicotinate or chromium picolinate are safer and better absorbed. 

B-COMPLEX VITAMINS also help even out your blood sugar if taken thoughout the day.  In addition, the metabolism of just about everything you digest hinges on one or more of this group of B-vitamins. Taken together, they are especially safe and effective. The body needs proportionally more niacin than the other B's, so extra niacin as mentioned above is still valid. 

MAGNESIUM as magnesium citrate, chloride, gluconate or other well-absorgbed form is likely to aid relaxation. Try some at bedtime, and between meals. Dividing the dose gives you better utilization. Keep each individual dose small at first), and gradually work up to whatever amount you can take without a laxative effect. You may not need nearly as much as, say, I do: I take about 1500 mg/day or more.

EXERCISE tremendously reduces anxiety.  Is it because you are too pooped to worry? Who cares; it helps. Exercise has many other health benefits, too, so there is no way you can lose by trying it.  Start easily and work up. 

HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES such as Aconite, Coffea Cruda and Kali Phos. have been used to treat symptoms of anxiety for nearly 200 years.  These very dilute natural remedies are safe and can help significantly. I recommend that you get a copy of The Prescriber, by J.H. Clarke, M.D.  This very practical book concisely explains this healing approach and helps you easily select the most appropriate remedy. Homeopathic remedies are non-prescription. Many health food stores carry them. I know people who carry a bottle of Kali Phos 6X tablets in their pocket or purse, just in case.

HERBS such as passion flower and valerian root may be of great benefit. They have been safely used for centuries, and are inexpensive and non-prescription. Chamomile and catnip make a soothing tea. There are certainly other useful herbs to consider as well.  An internet search, or a good health food store will have articles and books that will help you learn more. 

BACH FLOWER REMEDIES Dr. Edward Bach, a graduate of London's University College Hospital, was a bacteriologist with a successful practice on Harley Street. That is the English equivalent to having a Fifth Avenue professional address in New York City. In 1930, he left medicine irretrievably far behind when he went out to the country to study, and heal with, flower blossoms of all things. He floated them in spring water (but never in "dead" tap or distilled water) in glass containers, placed in the sun. The energy from the flowers was thus collected, and dropped onto patients' tongues and wrists. Dr. Bach believed that disease was, at its root, a matter of diseased temperament. He researched a dozen common flowers known as The Twelve Healers (also the title of his first book). Over two dozen more were to follow, bringing the total to 38. Impatiens seemed to cure impatience, Mustard ended black depression "like a dark cloud has overshadowed life, blotting out all enjoyment." A combination of remedies, known as Rescue Remedy, was a first aid preparation for shock and trauma to the mind. Clematis relieved suicidal tendencies and Holly dissipated hatred. Honeysuckle dissipated excess nostalgia, and there were several remedies for fear, classified as to whether fear was from known or unknown causes, worldly or unfounded, or otherwise. All this taken together, Dr. Bach is especially easy to dismiss. Flowers to treat anxiety? Yes: White Chestnut, Gorse, Sweet Chestnut, Star of Bethlehem, Mimulus, and Rock Rose, among others, may be extremely helpful. The flower remedies seem to work. Medical doctors would follow in his footsteps, leaving a broad trail of case notes, published articles, and textbooks in their wake. It is a bold move to dismiss all these physicians as quacks without at least trying the remedies first. I have seen first hand how they helped the people who had come to see me.

My favorite book on the subject is Bach, Edward and Wheeler, F. J. The Bach Flower Remedies (New Canaan, CT: Keats, 1998; orig pub 1979). This volume is a compilation is three short books in one: Heal Thyself and The Twelve Healers by E. Bach and The Bach Remedies Repertory by Wheeler. Both were medical doctors. Wheeler's repertory (an index of symptoms and appropriate remedies for each) is simplicity itself to use. This is the best introduction available. If you cannot obtain one on the used book market, ask your librarian to help you locate and borrow a copy.

Acetylcholine is the end neurotransmitter of your parasympathetic nerve system. This means that, among other things, it facilitates good digestion, deeper breathing, and slower heart rate. You may perceive its effect as "relaxation." 

Your body will make its own acetylcholine from choline. Choline is available in the diet as phosphatidyl choline, found in lecithin. 

Lecithin is found in egg yolks and most soy products. Three tablespoons daily of soya lecithin granules provide about five grams (5,000 milligrams) of phosphatidyl choline. Long-term use of this amount is favorably mentioned in The Lancet, February 9, 1980.  Lecithin supplementation has no known harmful effects whatsoever.  In fact, your brain by dry weight is almost one-third lecithin! How far can we go with this idea of simply feeding the brain what it is made up of?   In Geriatrics, July 1979, lecithin is considered as a therapy to combat memory loss. As early as 1981, studies at MIT showed increases in both choline and acetylcholine in the brains of animals after just one lecithin meal. Supplemental choline has even shown promise in treating Alzheimer's Disease. (Today's Living, February, 1982) 

Your body can make much of its own lecithin. Ample amounts of B-complex vitamins, especially B-6 (pyridoxine) must be present for this to occur. B-6 deficiency is very common in Americans, and that "deficiency" is measured against an already ridiculously low US RDA of only two milligrams. The amount of B-6 needed for clinical effectiveness in, say, rabbits is the human dose equivalent of 75 mg daily. That is over 35 times more than the RDA! 

Really enormous doses of B-6 taken alone have produced temporary neurological side effects. It usually takes between 2,000 and 5,000 mg daily for symptoms of numbness or tingling in the extremities. Some side effects have been reported as low as 500 mg daily, but these are very rare indeed. Therapeutic doses between 100 and 500 milligrams daily are commonly prescribed by physicians for PMS relief. A few hundred milligrams of individual B-6, especially if taken in addition to the entire B-complex to ensure balance, is very safe indeed. 

Such cannot be said for anti-anxiety drugs. Tranquilizers and the like tend to abound with side effects, be less and less effective over time, and are highly addictive. WITHDRAWAL FROM ANTI-ANXIETY DRUGS IS A SERIOUS MATTER AND SUDDEN CESSATION CAN BE DANGEROUS. Working with your physician, consider the liklihood that nutritional supplementation may make the process safer, easier and faster.

For example, here is a case study of a middle-aged male who had success rapidly reducing fast-acting alprazolam (Xanax) dosage by taking very high doses of niacin, along with gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and vitamin C. The individual had been on 1 mg/day Xanax for two years, a moderate dose but a long duration. As a result, he had been presenting increased anxiety, personality changes, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus), all side effects likely due to long-term alprazolam use. Typical withdrawal from this drug would involve substitution medication, about a 10% dose reduction per week, and take a matter of months. A fast withdrawal is a 12.5 to 25% reduction per week. On very high doses of niacin, vitamin C, and also GABA, this individual reported being able to cut the dose 60% down to 0.4 mg in one week. The dose was reduced by 90% (to 0.1 mg/day) in less than a month. He reported residual anxiety, but that it was substantially less than when fully medicated. After a total of five weeks, the medication intake was zero. By continuing to take niacin, he no longer required medication.

Copyright 2023 (revised), 2003 and previous years Andrew W. Saul.

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )


Andrew W. Saul


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