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Episode Info: The Case:  Lauren is 32 and has been dealing with anxiety most of her life She noticed that her anxiety can be worse during stressful times and during the winter. She was  on anti-anxiety medication but they made her feel flat. She tried meditation for anxiety but this wasn't enough and didn’t completely resolve the panic attacks.  The Investigation Lauren’s situation is pretty common and I knew that we had to get to the root of the problem if we were going to help her deal with her anxiety. I suspected her neurotransmitters were part of the solution so that’s where I started investigating.   Trudy Scott is a certified nutritionist and food-mood expert. She’s the author of The Anti-anxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood and End Cravings and is the host of The Anxiety Summit.  Neurotransmitters Role in Anxiety While anxiety is seldom only caused by neurotransmitters, there are several that can play a role. In this week’s episode, and for Lauren’s case, we look at two neurotransmitters - serotonin and gaba - which are both proven to impact our ability to handle stress and deal with different types of anxiety. Can Low Serotonin Causes Anxiety? Most people understand the relationship between serotonin and depression but they don’t realize that it also impacts anxiety. Low serotonin results in a specific type of anxiety, according to Trudy. She explains that it is linked to anxiety that may present as negative self talk, low mood, lack of confidence and self-esteem. Low serotonin can also result in panic attacks, phobias, ruminating thoughts (where you replay past events or constantly re-processing things) obsessive behaviors or obsessive thinking (often lying awake at night thinking about things). Another tell tale sign of low-serotonin-anxiety is afternoon and evening cravings were the only way to calm the anxiety is with eating (fulfilling the craving). Because serotonin naturally slows down during the darker winter months, anxiety can be seasonal.  Low GABA Triggers Anxiety Anxiety triggered by low GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) presents differently than anxiety caused by low serotonin. Low GABA anxiety is physical. This might present as general stiffness and tension in the body. You may lay awake at night feeling physically tense which stops you from being able to sleep. Often, low GABA suffers will feel tension in the gut, they may even feel sick to their stomach. Unlike those with low-serotonin anxiety who may self-medicate with food, those with low-GABA anxiety are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol.  Diagnosing Neurotransmitter Triggered Anxiety There are a few tests (like urinary neurotransmitter tests and platelet serotonin tests) that can determine serotonin or GABA levels that can help determine if this might be the root cause of the anxiety. However, Trudy prefers to use a questionnaire to pinpoint the symptoms and then do a trial. For this, she h...
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