Health news you can use

February 25, 2012

Anxiety, Diet, Fruits and Vegetables, Stress

If you eat seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables, you also can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight.

by Dr. Alan Christianson — 

Many of us are experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress. Recent research has studied the effects of various natural supplements to reduce these disorders. A randomized controlled trial has studied the use of a commercial vegetable juice as a practical means of increasing vegetable intake.

Natural treatments for anxiety

The most common mental health disorders are the anxiety states. These can manifest as intrusive fears, persistent worry, compulsions and irritability. For many, they can also cause numerous physical symptoms, including back pain, headaches, poor digestion and tingling hands. Although the vast majority of those with anxiety do not seek treatment, it responds well to meditation, biofeedback, exercise, talk therapy and anxiety-reducing supplements.

A recent literature review evaluated the anxiety-reducing effects of various natural supplements including L-lysine, L-arginine, kava-kava, Passiflora, magnesium and St. John’s wort. The studies did not show magnesium and St. John’s wort to be effective against anxiety. Yet evidence showed that L-lysine, L-arginine, kava-kava and Passiflora were effective treatment options. At low doses, kava-kava can eliminate anxiety without sedation. It also acts as a gentle muscle relaxant. It has been safely used in the Polynesian islands for centuries as a social beverage, much like the Europeans use wine.

Although numerous alerts have linked kava-kava to liver damage, this reaction has been isolated to products made from the root, leaves and stems of the plant. Historically, only the root has been used. Some manufacturers have used the whole plant to get more product per pound of crop, exposing customers to liver-toxic alkaloids known to be found in the leaves and stem (but not in the root). When using kava-kava, avoid products that do not specify root extract only.

Easiest way to get your veggies

We know five servings of fruits and veggies daily lowers our risk for many cancers. Further, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has shown that if you eat seven to 10 servings, you also can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight. Despite numerous messages and ad campaigns, most American adults get fewer than two servings daily.

A study completed in November 2010 demonstrated that commercially available vegetable juices can help close this gap. The study examined participants’ adherence and health changes in response to one daily serving of V8 juice.

Rather than being told to target a certain number of servings of a large food category, participants were given one recommendation: drink 8 to 12 ounces of V8 daily. Unlike the poor responses to the Five a Day or DASH campaigns, nearly all were able to follow this simple suggestion.

One of my reservations about V8 juice has been the high sodium content. Since it does provide vegetables and nearly as much potassium as sodium, I often wondered whether the good might outweigh the bad in terms of blood pressure effects. In this study, it did. None saw blood pressure elevate, and some even saw dramatic decreases in blood pressure in the first few weeks.

Humans evolved to thrive on foods found on the prehistoric African savannah, such as produce and lean game. I call fast food restaurants and convenience stores the modern American savannah: You cannot always find organic berries, but you can always find a can of V8.


Lakhan S, Vieira K. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:42doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-42. Shenoy, S, Kazaks AG et al. The use of a commercial vegetable juice as a practical means to increase vegetable intake: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:38doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-38.


Alan Christianson, N.M.D., has been practicing in Scottsdale, Ariz., for more than 14 years and focuses on helping diagnose hidden thyroid disease. He is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease. He practices at Integrative Health. or 480-657-0003.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 6, Dec 2010/Jan 2011.

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