The Holistic Treatment Of Anxiety
Resilience Medicine is a Holistic and Integrative Approach to medicine. In this article you will learn about the Resilience Medicine treatment approach to anxiety.
Holistic Anxiety Treatment Overview
Intro To Holistic Anxiety Treatment
Occasional feelings of anxiety can be normal, since it’s how our bodies react to stressful dangers using our fight or flight response. However, when the state of heightened alertness becomes chronic and happens on a daily basis, it can overwhelm the nervous system, impact your quality of life and lead to an anxiety disorder.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, but the most common one is GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder. Other forms of anxiety include OCD, PTSD and cPTSD (a complex form of anxiety and trauma) and specific phobias. It can be confusing to tease apart on your own which type of anxiety you may be suffering with, which is key to using a personalized holistic approach.
Anxiety is often suffered in secret before people seek help and may also be accompanied by low moods, sleep disturbance and gut symptoms too and these can all .
Just doing one thing, whether it’s a diet change, starting to meditate or taking a medication often doesn’t work for anxiety completely, which can be incredibly frustrating. You often need to do multiple things at the right time to create the optimal long term healing outcome. Unfortunately this is not the way standard medical care works and why treatment often fails patients.
Chronic Illness & Anxiety
As with many chronic health conditions, anxiety often comes alongside other symptoms and conditions too, such as low moods, sleep issues or a chronic pain condition.
All of the symptoms can start to overlap and be confusing to tease apart, especially since standard specialists only treat symptoms in their area and rarely consider cross-field research. This often leads to multiple ineffective or high side effect drugs to treat each symptom and fragmented care.
Chronic pain, for example, can ramp up the brain anxiety networks so treating pain and anxiety together is key if you have both, instead of trying to keep treating every symptom in isolation.
When you have anxiety, it can impact other areas of health and life. Without addressing these things together, it can be a frustrating cycle of worsening symptoms and feeling your life getting smaller and losing hope of being well again.
This often comes along with trying to manage your condition yourself, trying and researching treatments on your own which is exhausting when you are already not feeling well.
A holistic approach helps connect the dots and removes overwhelm so you can find your path back to health again.
Measuring Quality of Life in Anxiety
The Integrative Medicine Understanding of What Causes Anxiety
Anxiety has what is known as ‘multifactorial’ causes, which is why a holistic approach works since it’s not just caused by one thing. That’s also why symptoms can vary so much, ranging from physical symptoms to more ‘cognitive’ ones like not being able to relax on a deep level and not being able to shut off worrying even when you feel exhausted. The exact mix of factors is slightly different for different people and involves:
- Cognitive brain neural networking
- Hormone changes
- Neurotransmitter levels
- sleep-wake cycle regulation.
- Lifestyle factors such as sleep patterns,
- exercise and diet
- Toxic chronic stress
- The Microbiome and Gut-Brain Axis
- Environmental influences including toxin exposures
- Anxiety secondary to pain & brain changes
The Resilience Medicine Toolkit for Anxiety
The Resilience Medicine Holistic approach to treating anxiety includes considering cannabinoid (cannabis-based) medicines, mindbody approaches, diet and microbiome, prescribed combinations of supplements, nutraceuticals & medications, and creating a resilience environment.
These things when stacked together results in a synergistic effect, where the overall result is bigger than the the sum of each part
In the clinic, we also use functional medicine tests and approaches to further personalise treatment based on biomarkers, gut markers and genomics in some cases.
These categories were chosen based on Dr Dani’s 15 years of experience using this holistic treatment framework with her patients.
It’s also worth remembering that even if you have tried some of these things before on your own, it is often getting the right combination of things done at the right time that makes the biggest difference.
It can be very overwhelming and confusing trying to navigate all of the pieces of a holistic treatment plan on your own. Having expert guidance and a system to measure your progress helps remove this confusion and overwhelm and makes sure you are on the best treatment path.
This is a new way of thinking about medicine that goes beyond a ‘disease management’ system but aims to enhance quality of life, energy, mood and reduce the total brain and body stress burden to stay well.
Medical Cannabis for Anxiety
Medical cannabis is a legal medicine in the UK, now available on private prescription from a specialist doctor. Medical cannabis are whole plant medicines which contain over 100 active cannabinoid compounds, which are thought to work together to deliver the medicinal effects although the main cannabinoids used for dosage currently are CBD and THC.
The different strains or chemovars, can produce different therapeutic effects for anxiety, making it a highly personalized medicine.
Often people have tried recreational high doses of THC and found that this worsened anxiety or caused a panic attack. That is because THC does opposite things in the brain at different dosages and with vs. without CBD. Medical cannabis for anxiety is very different to recreational cannabis. For anxiety, specific strains and types of medical cannabis are chosen for day vs nighttime, based on minor cannabinoid and terpene profile and the mode of delivery into the body so it is most effective for the anti-anxiety effect without making you feel sleepy during the day and then able to get a deep restful sleep at night.
Medical cannabis can be incredibly helpful for anxiety, including GAD, OCD, PTSD, phobias and other forms of anxiety like panic disorder especially where the standard medications and/or Psychotherapy approaches have not been effective on their own.
It can be combined effectively with brain relaxation and brain training simple techniques to make them ‘stick’ faster and provide more relief while changing brain anxiety networks.
Medical cannabis can also help with more global mood and sleep disturbances, including trouble falling asleep and staying asleep (not waking up in the night) even when sleeping pills have not worked or made you feel hungover.
Medical Cannabis works on our endocannabinoid system (ECS) dysregulation, our HPA axis stress response system as well as our serotonin system and inflammation pathways. All of these mechanisms are involved in anxiety according to the latest research.
Medical Cannabis can help patients who have failed other approaches, to get a quick win in terms of anxiety symptom relief and starting off a positive neurological ‘cascade’ leaving them more able to engage with other aspects of a holistic treatment plan.Most patients see a significant improvement within the first month of therapy across multiple symptom clusters that often go along with anxiety including improved mood, stress, pain symptoms if present, sleep and mental function. This is possible because medical cannabis works on our endocannabinoid system, involved in all of these functions.
Hemp CBD oil wellness supplement products available over the counter at health shops are not the same as medical cannabis. Hemp CBD oil non-medical products do not contain any measurable THC and are not made as medicines. For mild stress, they can be helpful for some people. However, for more severe anxiety disorders or PTSD, medical cannabis which contains other plant cannabinoids including small doses of THC is usually needed to get the best medicinal effect.
Dr Gordon is the most experienced cannabinoid medicine physician in the UK, has trained the first UK psychiatrist physicians in the prescribing of medical cannabis for anxiety and has treated thousands of patients with medical cannabis first in Canada and in the past few years in the UK since it has become legal. She also uses a more holistic individualized approach to cannabinoid therapy due to her expertise in Integrative & botanical medicine in addition to her conventional medical qualifications.
Altered States and Psychedelics for Anxiety
Currently, there are clinical trials and studies ongoing for the use of psilocybin and other plant compounds for the treatment of anxiety, OCD, end-of-life anxiety and PTSD with promising early results, but they are not yet available outside of a research study in the UK.
Mindbody Medicine for Anxiety
Relaxation response techniques can lower stress, stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce brain ‘noise’ levels substantially to lower baseline anxiety levels. Techniques to activate the Relaxation Response, based on Dr Gordon’s experience studying these techniques at Harvard University with Dr Benson who discovered the Relaxation Response nearly 50 years ago, can make a huge difference.
Other specific techniques such as mindfulness-based programs and techniques to reduce ‘body noise’ such as PMR are chosen based on your specific symptom profile.
There are also medical devices, some of which are FDA approved which can be used in the non-drug treatment of anxiety as part of a holistic approach often with very good effects that we consider as part of the treatment plan. These involve cranial electrostimulation devices CES and vagal nerve neuromodulation which are safe and non-invasive home treatments done with physician oversight.
To be most effective, the mindbody techniques should be tailored to each patient, especially because some people in the beginning can experience what is called paradoxical anxiety when they attempt to do some of these techniques on their own. These issues can be overcome with guidance.
Diet and Microbiome for Anxiety
Certain types of diets may influence and improve anxiety, due to the effects on factors such as the microbiome, affecting neurotransmitter levels and hormone pathways including insulin and stress hormone regulation. It’s important to tailor the diet based on things like symptom cluster profile, anxiety type, gut and blood biomarkers and other factors which are assessed as part of the treatment plan.
However, starting by balancing blood sugar and insulin levels by reducing ‘free’ sugars in the diet, eating low glycemic index whole foods and dramatically reducing processed foods and processed carbohydrates is a good starting point if you suffer from anxiety.
Changes in the microbiome can be see via dietary change and can affect neurotransmitter function and anxiety symptoms through a myriad of chemical messenger pathways in the brain-gut axis. This is rarely considered as part of ‘standard’ medical care for anxiety despite the huge body of evidence for this area.
Medications for Anxiety
Supplements for Anxiety
Supplements and Nutraceuticals may play a role in the holistic approach to anxiety. Often it’s important to get the dosage and combination right and personalized to you in order for these approaches to be effective. For example, most drug store supplements have ineffective dosages or single ingredients that lack the synergist effect and are usually ineffective for clinical levels of anxiety. Some supplements used in holistic anxiety protocols may include:
- L theanine
- Magnesium in glycinate, biglycinate or threonate form
- Valerian (10 % of people will have an opposite reaction, so use cautiously)
- Passionflower & Hops extract
- Mitochondrial support if this is a factor in your anxiety
- Gut support including specific pro and prebiotics in some cases
Resilience Environment for Anxiety
Functional Testing for Anxiety
Anxiety Case Study
Gemma, 38 years old, suffered on and off from anxiety since her early 20s but became worse after the birth of her first child
Goal: Conquer anxiety to feel more confident and at ease with socialising and parenting
History: After trying medication as well as CBT, she was looking for a different approach
The plan: after a thorough integrative assessment, Julie was started on a specific medical cannabis plan to reduce anxiety during the day and get to sleep at night. She was also started on a personalised diet and nutraceutical protocol and started a simple breath-based nervous system relaxation practice done alongside her medical cannabis dose.
Outcome: 3 months later, she was no longer having regular panic attacks, felt much happier (improved moodd, less lows), and felt calmer during the day. She no longer had issues getting to sleep so she woke up feeling more rested and had more mental bandwidth to handle stress.
Anxiety can be really difficult to navigate on your own but you can start feeling better and stay well.
Dr. Dani has helped thousands of patients with difficult to treat symptoms like chronic anxiety over the past 15 years using this approach, first in North America where it is more developed and now in the UK.
Using a specific, personalized holistic approach to anxiety and related symptoms can dramatically improve your quality of life even if you have failed multiple treatments in the past.
To take the next step in your journey, book an initial consultation with our expert physicians.