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Stress and Anxiety - Dr. Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman MD The UltraMind Solution: We are a stressed-out society. And our habits of overwork, not enough sleep, too much coffee, too much sugar, refined foods, junk food that we use to temporarily relieve our stress, exposure to environmental toxins, and silent infections push us to burnout.
Your adrenal glands produce powerful chemicals (cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) that help you respond to stress. These chemicals are excitatory hormones, neurotransmitters that get our bodies ready for dangerous situations (which is what the anxiety response was originally designed to do).
However, with your foot to the gas pedal like this all the time, you burn out and feel stressed, you get anxious and exhausted, you can't sleep, and you are either tired or wired constantly.
Thankfully our brains have an antidote to these stress hormones.
It is called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), and it calms the brain from an overload of the neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine. It is like a brake on overstimulation in the brain. When you have low levels of GABA, it is harder for your body and mind to relax after these excitatory neurotransmitters have been released in your body.
Valium works by imitating GABA, our natural brain relaxant. Many use alcohol or marijuana to self-medicate for anxiety. These, too, act like GABA in the brain. People with anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, seizures, and schizophrenia all have low levels of GABA.
Who likes the feeling of tense muscles, a pounding heart, dry mouth, sleeplessness, fatigue, and sweaty palms? No one. That's why so many self-medicate with the medications mentioned above.
But using alcohol, marijuana, or tranquilizers backfires because they are all addictive and produce diminishing returns over time, so you need more and more to "relax."
Why not just take GABA? Well, thankfully, you can, and you can use other natural substances to boost GABA levels to overcome the anxiety that millions of you experience every day.
One study showed that within just 60 minutes of taking GABA, alpha brain waves (a sign of relaxation) were increased on EEGs. Taking GABA also boosted the immune system, which functions best when you are relaxed.
You can take GABA supplements directly or supplement your diet with the raw materials from which GABA is produced. For example, another key amino acid helper called taurine boosts the production of GABA and helps relax the nervous system. It can even reduce seizures1.
Other helpful brain relaxants that boost GABA in the brain include theanine from green tea and a few others, including inositol (a B vitamin); other B vitamins such as B3, B6, and B12; and magnesium. Calming herbs such as kava, valerian, hops, and passionflower can also be helpful.
To find out more about how to relax and overcome the effects of stress, see Dr. Hyman's new book, The UltraMind Solution.

El Idrissi A, Messing J, Scalia J, Trenkner E. Prevention of epileptic seizures by taurine. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2003;526:515-25.