Naturopathic medicine offers an individualized approach to anxiety. Anxiety affects at least 1 in 10 people in Canada (1), but each person's experience and story with anxiety is slightly different.
As with many mental health concerns, anxiety is a multifactorial condition that ranges in severity. Symptoms of anxiety can include excessive worrying, irritability and difficulty concentrating, physical symptoms of muscle tension and racing heart, as well as insomnia and panic attacks that greatly affect quality of life.
As a naturopath, I emphasize the importance of understanding the causative factors of each person’s anxiety. Treatments for anxiety are targeted at the underlying cause in order to create sustainable change. Because these changes can take time, managing symptoms is also an essential part of a treatment plan.
So how do we understand the underlying causes of anxiety? Using a thorough health history, relevant physical examinations, and lab testing, can help decipher what contributing factors are present in each person’s anxiety.
Contributing factors to anxiety may include:
Once we have a better understanding of the underlying factors, naturopathic doctors like to use a least to most invasive treatment approach depending on the severity of symptoms and how long someone has been struggling with anxiety.
Tools for anxiety in a least to most invasive order include:
Lifestyle modifications such as sleep hygiene, decreasing stimulation and screen time, incorporating mindfulness activities (yoga, meditation, time in nature)
Emotional counselling is necessary to work through emotions and thought patterns
Dietary recommendations to reduce inflammation and balance blood sugar may include increasing protein and healthy fats, and decreasing sugar and simple carbohydrates. We also look to promote growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Nutritional supplementation will depend on an individuals needs, but may include iron, magnesium, B vitamins, probiotics, and others.
Herbal medicine may be used to address hormonal imbalances or symptom management. For example, a review of clinical trials indicates that lavender shows promise in reducing anxiety (2).
Medications may be necessary in moderate to severe cases of anxiety
A little known fact about naturopathic doctors is that many of us maintain pharmaceutical prescribing rights, meaning we have the ability to prescribe medications such as antidepressants that often double as treatment for anxiety. Because naturopathic doctors emphasize an evidence-based approach, sometimes this means including medications as part of a treatment plan if they are the most effective option for a person. However, we also look to alternatives methods when appropriate or preferred. For example a more mild case of anxiety may be managed through lifestyle, dietary modifications, and supplements.
Along with an evidence-based approach, naturopaths also emphasize an integrative model for mental health concerns such as anxiety. For example, counsellors are an important part of a healthcare team when it comes to mental health. Additionally, we prefer to have an open dialogue with a person’s medical doctor or psychiatrist, especially if medications are involved that are outside the scope of naturopathic prescription (such as benzodiazepines). In these situations, we are able to provide adjunctive care including managing side effects of medications.
Here in Victoria, BC, I maintain a network of counsellors that I recommend if this is not already part of someone’s anxiety care. My goal is to ensure each person has the appropriate resources to navigate their concerns.
My approach is empathetic, individualized, and evidence-based with the intention to create sustainable change so you can lead a healthier, fulfilling life.
Interested in approaching your anxiety from a naturopathic perspective?
1. Government of Canada (2015). Mood and anxiety disorders in Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/mood-anxiety-disorders-canada.html
2. Perry, R., Terry, R., Watson, L., and Ernst, E. (2012). Is lavender an anxiolytic drug? a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine, 19, 825-835. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2012.02.013