Anxiety and depression may be the result of shortages of key brain chemicals that can be restored naturally. Give the brain the amino acids it needs and feel your mind start to glow again.
If you're one of the millions who suffer from anxiety or depression, the next time you reach for the Valium or Prozac, consider amino acids as an alternative instead. these protein building blocks may be the key to reversing long-standing anxiety and depression, according to Harold Whitcomb, M.D., and biochemical nutritionist Phyllis Bronson. They regularly prescribe amino acids for their clients at the Aspen (Colorado) Clinic for Preventive and Environmental Medicine.
Mood, behavior, and brain biochemistry are intricately linked. Depression and anxiety may be the result of flawed message-sending in the biochemical brain, flawed because key brain chemicals called neurotransmitters are in short supply. They're short because the body's amino acid pool (from which they're made) is itself low. For example, deficiencies in the amino acid GABA are strongly correlated with states of anxiety. Add to this the negative effect of high levels of heavy metals commonly found in the body. Aluminum, mercury, lead, and copper can make the body toxic, interfere with brain function, and contribute to depression and anxiety, say Whitcomb and Bronson.
Shore up the amino acid pool with the deficient or missing elements and flush the toxic metals out of the body and you start seeing dramatic improvements in both depression and anxiety, report Whitcomb and Bronson. "By using supplements of the amino acids that make up specific neurotransmitters, you can actually change the nature and intensity of the brain messages they carry and thus the emotions they affect."
Even better, you don't get the roster of serious side effects commonly associated with standard medications. These can typically include blurred vision, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, nausea, headaches, constipation, memory loss, impaired concentration, and fogginess. In contrast, the clinical use of amino acids produces no side effects or health risks and generates better, more lasting healing results, says Bronson. Bronson's field - she's been practicing it for 20 years - is called orthomolecular medicine and was first established in the 1950's.
CAUTION: Bronson and Whitcomb strongly advise patients against self- prescribing GABA for anxiety conditions. In fact, amino acid precursors should only be taken under supervision so that the amounts and ratios can be precisely prescribed.
THE SCIENCE OF BRAIN CHEMICALS.
Patients generally have positive results in 3 to 4 weeks, Bronson reports, but in acute cases, there is often a significant improvement in a matter of days. Many patients who come to the clinic are on powerful drugs (called psychotropics, which include Valium and Prozac) to control their anxiety or depression. The goal is to bolster the patient's amino acid reserves so they can eventually discontinue these drugs. However, this is not possible or advisable in all cases, so then the goal is to reduce the potential toxicity of the psychotropics which will often reduce the side effects. It all comes down to brain chemicals. "When people take Prozac for depression, they're actually trying to biochemically elevate their serotonin levels." Bronson notes. "When people take Valium and the other benzodiazepene drugs for anxiety, they're trying to elevate their GABA levels." People with deficiencies in serotonin tend to be depressed while people without enough GABA suffer anxiety, says Bronson. "What we do is substitute the natural neurotransmitters or their amino acid precursors for the psychotropic drugs." The result is more thorough healing with no side effects.
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM.
The first step in reversing anxiety and depression is to do a complete patient workup to see which factors are at play. Bronson explains. For example, there may be a genetic factor involved in which a person is somewhat predisposed at birth to be lacking in a specific neurotransmitter. Faulty, inadequate diet and nutrition is another factor that can leave one's system deficient in key minerals. The stress of today's fast-paced lifestyle may also deplete the body's reserves of amino acids and vital nutrients.
After conducting a thorough interview with the patient, Bronson and Whitcomb use electro-dermal screening to find out more detailed biochemical information about the patient's health, nutrient needs, possible heavy metal toxicity, and the presence of food allergies that affect the brain.
One of Bronson's clients had a previously undiagnosed toxic response to baked potatoes, which she ate every day thinking they were good for her. "Some people have brain allergies to foods they eat regularly, and these can show up like depression when it's actually a chronic food allergy response instead."
Bronson often uses hair analysis and blood profiles to gain further information about amino acid levels. The treatment goal is to correct the biochemical pathways associated with anxiety and depression. "Our approach uses biophysics, through the electro-dermal screening, and biochemistry, through supplementing the amino acid pathways. We come up with a precise prescription that has 'molecular compatibility' with the patient's individual needs," Bronson says.
In other words, through electro-dermal screening, Bronson and Whitcomb are able to pinpoint precisely how much of a nutrient the body needs and can tolerate. Generally, Bronson and Whitcomb elevate levels of key nutrients with natural amino acid precursors (chemical building blocks) to the neurotransmitters. Then the body does the rest naturally. In most cases, about 50% of their patients require a continued maintenance level of amino acids to keep their anxiety or depression under control, while other patients are able to eventually discontinue them.
MORE GABA, LESS ANXIETY.
Consider the case of Roberta, aged 48. A designer and intellectually highly active, Roberta was subject to frequent panic attacks which occasionally sent her to the emergency room thinking she was having a heart attack, relates Bronson. She never understood what brought on these panics but suddenly everything would start to feel "as if it were happening too fast," she told Bronson.
Roberta had suffered from "random, free-floating anxiety with intermittent panic" since puberty. Biochemically, anxiety is a state in which the brain is over-firing - sending too many messages at once, Bronson explains. The levels of nerve-signal-blocking chemicals in the brain, such as GABA, are not sufficient to offset the onslaught of information that gets randomly triggered.
Electro-dermal screening indicated that GABA and magnesium were principally involved in Roberta's anxiety and that supplementation with both would be compatible with her system. Bronson and Whitcomb prescribed GABA at 500 mg, 3 times daily (taken with food) and magnesium oxide at 400 mg, taken once in the morning and evening.
Roberta felt the good results of GABA supplementation within an hour. Her bouts of panic lessened over the next 33 months and when they did start, Roberta would take an extra 500 mg of GABA (at least 3 hours after her earlier dose).
As her anxiety attacks seemed to have their own cycle, Bronson discovered they were related to Roberta's low levels of the female hormone progesterone and with a variety of PMS symptoms. She had Roberta apply 1/2 teaspoon of natural progesterone cream (5% progesterone) to her skin twice daily for the 2 weeks preceding menstruation. This resolved Roberta's PMS problems while the GABA and magnesium oxide eliminated anxiety attacks from her life.
MORE SEROTONIN, LESS DEPRESSION.
Depression is a different biochemical pathway in the brain, which is why, in most instances, a depressed person does not suffer from anxiety, says Bronson. In general, deficiencies of serotonin or other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, are linked with depression. Through the strategic use of amino acids and other nutrients, the drug pathways in the brain can be stimulated naturally, thereby dissolving anxiety and lifting depression.
Bronson relates the case of Elizabeth, who was deeply depressed. Electro-dermal screening and other tests indicated that she was deficient in the amino acid taurine, which is needed to produce serotonin, and in sulfur, a key component in amino acids. As a result, Elizabeth did not have enough sulfur- bearing amino acids in her system, and this deficiency helped to generate her depression, says Bronson. In addition to supplementing her with taurine, Bronson and Whitcomb instructed Elizabeth to eat more fertile eggs and Brazil nuts, both high in sulfur, to lift her depression.
THE PERSON BEHIND THE BIOCHEMISTRY.
Somehow, the use of amino acids rather than conventional medicine seems to empower, even inspire, the patient to get well. "People who take nutrients under proper guidance seem to have a sense of dominion over what's happening to them whereas many people taking strong medications, especially for depression, often feel that they're surrendering to some mystery that is quite frightening."
It's important to keep in focus the fact that there is a person behind the biochemistry, Bronson stresses. Mind and body coincide in a complex biochemistry of mood and neurotransmitter pathways. Psychotherapy, such as that in the depth style of C.G. Jung, is helpful in bringing forth the buried or forgotten psychological components of a patient's depression and anxiety. "A person needs to heal the biochemical aspect and to get underneath it and see what drove them to have that pattern," Bronson says. "Shifting the biochemistry puts people in the position to deal effectively with the psychological issues connected to anxiety or depression."
For more information on electro-dermal screening, contact:
(Reprint, Alternative Medicine Digest, Issue 11)
Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.
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