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Helpful sanity supplements for the stressed out

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Posted: Friday, January 25, 2008 10:00 pm

Q: I had a hard time with the holidays this year, and I am still very stressed out. I exercise routinely and eat well, but I'm always worried about something and my wife says I'm "cranky and unreasonable." It's true. I wish I could relax more, but I don't know how. I'd like to try something over-the-counter before I see a doctor. - K.Y., Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

A: Magnesium: This mineral makes adrenal hormones, lowers blood pressure, relaxes sore muscles and eases fatigue. I feel safe recommending it to people with anxiety, panic attacks, depression and fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Since magnesium works within an hour, consider taking it when your team loses in the playoffs and crankiness sets in. Magnesium lifts serotonin, a 'happy' chemical, so taking lower doses throughout the day is better than taking one large dose. Some types of magnesium (citrate or oxide) tend to cause diarrhea. Dosage: Magnesium "chelate" or "glycinate" 100mg three or four times a day, every day. Add 25 - 50mg vitamin B6 for added punch, once daily.

GABA: Our brain naturally produces GABA while we sleep. In fact, GABA is released in our brain when we take sleep drugs like Ambien, Lunesta, temazepam or Nytol. GABA is the calming sister of an excitable, hyper chemical called glutamate. The balance between GABA and glutamate in our brain makes the difference between calmness and crankiness. A deficiency of GABA may be linked to seizures and panic attacks. GABA may help relieve tension (in smaller doses) and put you to sleep (in larger doses). For anxiety: 100 - 250mg two or three times a day. For sleep: 750 - 1000mg at bedtime.

Green Tea: L-theanine is found naturally in green tea and this amino acid is very relaxing. After sipping green tea, you'll need about 30 minutes for it to kick in, so think ahead and start sipping it before the presidential debate begins. It lulls your brain into producing alpha brain waves, the same type of brain state as when you meditate, that's why I call it 'meditation in a tea cup.' Green tea sparks production of GABA and protects against cancer. Dosage: 100 - 200mg L-theanine daily, or sip some green tea throughout the day. Any flavor.

Rhodiola: This herb has been used for centuries in arctic and alpine regions to help people cope with the bitter cold and stressful environment. A 2003 study of Russian cadets found that those taking Rhodiola rosea had less fatigue and better cognitive performance in their activities.

Studies have shown it also regulates blood pressure and pulse. If it helps them deal with arctic conditions, it can certainly help keep you from sweating the small stuff. Dosage: 50 to 100mg two or three times daily.

Readers Alert

The FDA has received about 30 reports of sudden hearing loss in people taking erectile dysfunction drugs (PDE5 inhibitors) which include Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. The hearing loss usually involved one ear, and was sometimes accompanied by tinnitus, vertigo, or dizziness.

This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is the author of "The 24-Hour Pharmacist." For more information, visit



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