Anxiety and panic attacks

March 7, 2003 by  
Filed under Health issues

Some causative factors

  • Caffeine sensitivity
  • Selenium deficiency
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • B vitamin deficiency
  • Sugar sensitivity (causing hypoglycaemia).

In a group of patients suffering from panic attacks, investigation of their caffeine consumption revealed that a higher consumption was associated with higher anxiety levels. Boulenger JP et al: Increased sensitivity to caffeine in patients with panic disorders. Preliminary evidence. Arch Gen Psychiatry 41(11):1067-71, 1984.

The effects of caffeine administration compared with placebo were assessed in 12 patients with general anxiety disorder. It was found that these patients are abnormally sensitive to caffeine. Bruce M et al: Anxiogenic effects of caffeine in patients with anxiety disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry 49(11):867-9, 1992.

Selenium levels in the food chain are very low in some parts of the world, including the UK. To ascertain whether selenium deficiency caused mood problems, 50 test subjects were given either supplements or placebo. Supplementation was associated with a general elevation of mood and decrease in anxiety. The lower the previous level of selenium intake, the more reports of anxiety, depression and fatigue decreased following 5 weeks of selenium therapy. Benton D et al: The impact of selenium supplementation on mood. Biol Psychiatry 29(11):1092-8, 1991.

20 patients with neurosis symptoms consistent with the early signs and symptoms of beri-beri were found to have abnormal red cell transketolase activity (a marker of vitamin B1 deficiency). In some (not all), this was probably due to the heavy consumption of sweets and sugary foods and drinks. All patients were clinically improved by the administration of vitamin B1, but improvement was slow. Lonsdale D et al: Red cell transketolase as an indicator of nutritional deficiency. Am J Clin Nutr 33(2):205-11, 1980.

Promising nutritional research

The brain has receptor sites for benzodiazepine tranquillizers, suggesting that the body may naturally contain similar substances. In animal trials vitamin B3 (in its nicotinamide form) has been shown to have anti-anxiety, anti-aggressive, anti-convulsive, and muscle relaxant properties, and to increase the body’s production of the sleep-promoting substance serotonin. This suggests that it has benzodiazepine-like properties, which may shed new light on the mental problems which are associated with vitamin B3 deficiency states. Mhler H et al: Nicotinamide is a brain constituent with benzodiazepine-like actions. Nature 278(5704):563-565, 1979.

21 patients with panic disorder (some of whom also had agoraphobia) were given 12 g per day of inositol for 4 weeks in a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Compared with placebo, inositol significantly decreased the frequency and severity of panic attacks and the severity of agoraphobia. There was no significant side effects. Benjamin J et al: Double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of inositol treatment for panic disorder. Am J Psychiatry 152(7):1084-6, 1995.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Linda Lazarides is Course Director of the School of Modern Naturopathy and author of eight books on health, nutrition and naturopathy.

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