Holistic Anxiety Treatment

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

One of the challenges of doing multiple things together is how to know what is working and how to keep track of everything without becoming overwhelmed. This is where a system for measuring and tracking is so important.

We use a simple resilience and quality of life score metric that you can track in a simple app, including measurements of anxiety/stress, mood, energy levels and mental clarity. This helps you track how you are feeling as you go on your healing journey.

Validated rating scales for anxiety such as the GAD 7 and sleep assessments can also be useful.

We track these metrics over time and put you in charge of your data with easy to read metrics so both you and your medical team can see what’s working and tweak the plan over time.

The Integrative Medicine View Of 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
  • Genetics
  • Hormone changes
  • Microinflammation
  • 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.

How medical Cannabis Helps Anxiety

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.

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​

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine and sertraline, are commonly prescribed as first-line treatments for generalized anxiety disorder.

Alternatively, Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) like venlafaxine and duloxetine may be prescribed to modulate both serotonin and norepinephrine neurotransmitters, which may work better for some people for contributing to mood regulation (low moods).

For short-term relief or situational anxiety, Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam or lorazepam, can provide rapid relaxation; however, their potential for dependency and side effects warrants cautious use and are not a good long-term solution in most cases.

Beta-blockers, typically used for heart conditions, have also been found to be effective in some people in managing the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as palpitations and tremors but sometimes cause fatigue limiting their use.

Some patients with anxiety have tried many of these medication options and found them either unhelpful or having intolerable side effects. In these cases, novel therapeutics such as medical cannabis can help as part of a holistic approach, alongside other integrative therapies when first line drugs have failed or not been appropriate.

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
  • Ashwagandha
  • Valerian (10 % of people will have an opposite reaction, so use cautiously)
  • Passionflower & Hops extract
  • Inositol
  • Mitochondrial support if this is a factor in your anxiety
  • Gut support including specific pro and prebiotics in some cases

Resilience Environment for Anxiety

Our environment also interacts with our genes to influence how we respond to our external environment. For example, if you have the genotype for certain enzymes not working as strongly as they could, you may be more sensitive to the effects of pollutants in the environment, which can influence a wide variety of health symptoms including potentially anxiety.

A simple way to influence your environment at home is by having Indoor plants. They have been shown in several studies to lower anxiety levels. Having plants which clean the indoor air and also have been shown to have positive mood benefits is a good way to start, including plants such as snake plants, spider plants and ferns.

Other simple first steps include creating a calming indoor space in a corner of the home can also help if you suffer from anxiety as a place you go to when you are feeling stressed to take even 5 minutes of meditation or relaxation breathing.

Reducing clutter especially in the bedroom and at workstations may also help reduce anxiety levels.

Our relationships and inner ‘environment’ can also impact anxiety and are taken into consideration with a holistic approach.

Functional Testing for Anxiety​

There is no standard blood test to diagnose anxiety, it is a clinical diagnosis.

From stress tolerance and resilience testing to looking at the gut microbiome for biomarkers, circadian rhythm dysfunction, and factors like COMT gene mutations which affect neurotransmitter levels in anxiety, functional medicine testing can also play a role in the holistic treatment of anxiety.

These tests are optional. In some cases, they can help further personalize treatment based on genes and biomarkers.

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.

Next step

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.