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  • Writer's pictureAlison Cowell

Anxiety and Insomnia

During the past eight months I've seen more clients with stress related conditions than ever before. Anxiety, depression and insomnia have increased dramatically. Hardly surprising given the impact of the pandemic on so many aspects of our lives.

Many people feeling hopeless and helpless understandably turn to medications to alleviate their symptoms but there are natural ways to take control.


Firstly, I want to put the spotlight on a particularly powerful ally - your microbiome. I've mentioned this before in previous blogs, but I make no apology for focusing on it again because it plays and integral role in our mood and sleep patterns. A reminder that the microbiome is a collection of healthy bacteria in your gut, also known as your second brain. There are many species of healthy bacteria, each responsible for different elements in our body. The particular species of healthy bacteria that we need to help us feel happy and sleep well is helveticus. Studies on people with chronic sleep and anxiety problems revealed a depletion of helveticus in their microbiome. You can boost your helveticus ‘army’ by purchasing a probiotic supplement that contains it. Pop into your local health store (or Holland and Barrett) and check the label states helveticus is included (better still, ask the assistant to do it for you!). If you're already taking an antidepressant you can take helveticus probiotics as there’s no interaction.


There are foods that can lift your mood, calm your mind and help you sleep due to the properties they contain. Here are my top picks:

· Tryptophan: bananas, nuts, seeds, honey, eggs, turkey, oats, milk

· Melatonin: cherries, corn, asparagus, olives, red grapes, broccoli, walnuts, flaxseeds, milk

· Vitamin D3: Mushrooms, salmon, mackerel, sardines, egg yolks

· Magnesium: Almonds, avocados, dark chocolate, tofu, seeds

· Complex carbs: oats, quinoa, wholegrain bread, brown rice, popcorn

So, an ideal day might look something like this:

· Hot water and lemon

· Probiotic containing helveticus

· Breakfast - porridge oats

· Snack - nuts, seeds, banana

· Lunch – poached eggs on wholegrain toast

· Snack – dark chocolate

· Evening meal – turkey, brown rice, broccoli

Drink plenty of water throughout the day as there is a link between dehydration and depression


Ideally, we should get all the nutrients we need from our food, but digestive issues, food intolerances and depleted soils often interfere with absorption, so supplements are required from time to time. The following have been proven to improve mood and sleep:

· 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan)

· B vitamin complex

· Omega-3: look on the label and check the DHA (docosahexaenoic) level is at least 400mg

· Zinc

· Magnesium

· GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)

· CBD oil

Check side effects of medications

There are many common medications that adversely affect our moods, so it’s worth checking the side effects of any that you are taking. Here are some examples:

· (for asthma) Prednisone: severe depression, personality changes, extreme sadness

· (for underactive thyroid) Levothyroxine: anxiety, depression, sleep disruption

· (for diabetes) Metformin: panic attacks, anxiety, depression

· (for high cholesterol) Atorvastatin: depression, nightmares, nervousness

Quite shocking really! Happily, all the above conditions can be managed/prevented with nutritional support.

Other helpful tips

· Exercise – it releases endorphins that will boost your mood

· Breathe – diaphragmatic breathing calms the adrenals and lowers blood pressure

· Laugh – it’s been proven that laughing (even if you don’t feel like it!) releases endorphins. Try laughter yoga!

· Talk it over – a problem shared really is a problem halved

· Complimentary therapies – whilst current restrictions might make therapies such as reflexology, massage and acupuncture a little tricky to access, you might still wish to explore aromatherapy and meditation on-line

Stay safe and be happy 😊

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