Natural Remedies for Panic Attacks

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist July 28, 2010

panic attack remediesA number of  years ago, shortly after I turned 30, I started having panic attacks totally out of the blue.   While relatively harmless in and of themselves, panic attacks make you feel like you are going to die.

Racing heart, difficulty breathing, heaviness in the chest and a feeling of impending doom all close in on you and then completely disappear within the span of 10 minutes or so, although sometimes a lingering sensation of distress may hang on for hours afterward.

As time went on with no end in sight to these episodes, I realized that I needed to find natural panic attack remedies to help me.

Many folks mistake a panic attack for a heart attack the first time they have one and end up in the ER having thousands of dollars worth of tests and an overnight stay in the hospital that basically come up with nothing.   Fortunately, I knew what mine was when I had it for the first time so at least I avoided the trauma of an ER visit, but it was still quite a shock to deal with nonetheless.

I did get checked out by my primary care physician just to be sure nothing was wrong.   He did an EKG and checked other vitals and found nothing.

At the time, I immediately and intuitively knew why I had started having these attacks.    I was in a job that I hated didn’t enjoy, even though it was a  position that I was really good at and was financially rewarding.   I was working too much and not eating well (fast food for lunch many days).  Stress was pretty uncontrolled.    I had a long commute to work which added to the stress of the job dealing with heavy traffic both at the beginning and end of the day.    In short, I was spending most of my days doing stuff I didn’t like or want to do.

Not good.

To me, the advent of regular panic attacks meant “Change Direction” in big, neon blinking lights.    I needed to change my life drastically and yet I didn’t know how to do it.

It took me a couple more years before I was able to leave that job for good and start working in a much more enjoyable, less stressful and fulfilling role.

In the meantime, though, here’s how I learned to reduce and then eliminate those debilitating panic attacks for good – with no drugs.

I should probably add that drugs were never an option for me. I know a lot of folks nowadays that take drugs to stop their panic attacks.   To me, this is like cutting the wire to the blinking oil light on the dashboard of your car. The light may have stopped flashing, but you are still perilously close to blowing up the engine.

A panic attack is your body telling you that something is wrong and taking a drug to cover up the symptoms doesn’t do anything but ignore the source of the problem.

If you have a problem with panic attacks and would like to stop them drug free, perhaps what I did can help you.

I had them licked within just a few months of implementing these natural panic attack remedies.  It did take me awhile to figure out what changes needed to be made though as I ignored the attacks for quite some time hoping they would just go away.  They didn’t – they just got more frequent!

Once I took action, the attacks started occurring with less frequency until they eventually just stopped happening altogether.   As of this writing, I can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack. It has certainly been many, many years.

Panic Attacks Remedy #1: Juicing

I figured one big reason for the panic attacks was my lousy diet.   I was likely very low on nutrients and panic attacks were my body’s way of letting me know that it needed help.

I bought a juicer and started juicing at least once a day on most days.   Breakfast was the best meal for me to have just a glass of fresh veggie juice.  My favorite combination was Cherie’s Cleansing Cocktail from Juicing for Life.

1/4 inch slice of ginger root
1 beet
1/2 apple, seeded
4 carrots, greens removed

I followed a lot of other juicing recipes from this book as well. There is no doubt that fresh vegetable juicing is a great way to get a lot of easily digestible minerals and nutrition into yourself quickly.

Panic Attacks Remedy #2: Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine from India based on the 3 doshas (physical and emotional tendencies):   Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

An Ayurvedic MD in my local area diagnosed me with a Vata imbalance, as Vata is my primary dosha and suggested lifestyle changes that would bring it back into balance.

The primary changes I made based on her suggestions were going to bed no later than 10:30pm and eating most of my meals warm and cooked. Vatas don’t thrive on cold food for the most part.

I also used a Vata tea which contained herbs soothing to this particular dosha and drank it whenever I felt out of kilter.

She also told me to eat more FAT!   This time of my life was long before I discovered the principles of traditional eating and I, of course, was making the mistake that many Westerners make of eating too few healthy, wholesome fats.
Eating more meat and full fat dairy went a long way toward balancing my physiology as it is viewed in Ayurveda.Eating more fat also raised my cholesterol.   My primary care MD found through a blood test that my cholesterol was around 125 at the time my panic attacks started.   Of course, he thought this was fantastic and congratulated me on such “healthy” number.

My Ayurvedic MD thought otherwise.   She told me it was way too low and a substantial cancer risk.This information shocked me as I had never heard it before, but I did what she told me to do.  Eating more fat brought up my cholesterol substantially (to around 175 at that time) over a period of a few months and I firmly believe this was a big part of my panic attacks disappearing.

My Ayurvedic doctor also told me to stop doing cardio exercise.  She said it was completely unsuitable for my physiology (dosha) and that brisk walking, yoga or other less strenuous exercises were healthier for me.   At that time, I was doing 1-3 step or other form of cardio classes per week.   At her suggestion, I stopped these forms of exercise entirely, got a dog, and started walking!

Panic Attacks Remedy #3: Dry Skin Brushing

Panic attacks can frequently signal a system that is in toxic overload. Dry brushing the skin with a natural bristle brush or loofah mitt before bathing or showering each day goes a long way toward assisting the elimination of whatever toxins are causing an undue burden.

The skin is the largest organ of elimination and dry skin brushing is the most effective way to assist the skin with this important function.    Brushing gently in circular strokes toward the heart starting with the feet is the best way to proceed.  Avoid any areas of skin irritation such as eczema or psoriasis.   Do not brush the face.   Finish your brushing with a sweep across each collarbone from neck to shoulder.   This stimulates the glands in that area to dump their toxins furthering the cleansing process.   It’s a good idea to drink a glass of filtered water after showering to assist with the elimination of any toxins that got knocked loose.

Panic Attacks Remedy #4: Learning to BREATHE

Almost everyone breathes incorrectly – too shallow, which increases anxiety tremendously.  It is important to train yourself to breathe like you did when you were a baby – slow and deep.    Have you ever watched a baby breathing in its crib?   Babies breathe so slowly and deeply that a first time parent sometimes thinks that the child has stopped breathing entirely!

We adults need to relearn how to breathe the same way.    In through the nose for about 8 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhaling through the nose making a kind of Darth Vader breathing sound at the back of the throat as you do so for another 8 counts.   Breathing this way stimulates the vagus nerve which facilitates relaxation.

This is the way you are taught to breathe in yoga class too, which is one big reason yoga is so very helpful in helping folks relax.

Anyone feeling a panic attack coming on can frequently short circuit the process by taking a few long, slow, deep breaths as I’ve just described.    In the early days of beating back my panic attacks, learning to breathe correctly was a big tool in my toolbox.

The breath is a very powerful instrument for health!   Practice it on a daily basis else you won’t do it right in the heat of the moment when you need it.

Hopefully, these suggestions for natural panic attack remedies can help you overcome these frightening episodes if they are causing you distress right now.   Have you overcome a similar situation?    If so, how did you do it?   What holistic therapies or diet changes made the difference?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Picture Credit

 

Comments (24)

  1. I two had exactly what you had from the time I was 19 til around 55 (69) now…Spent tens of thousands of dollars with brain dead doctors ( bitter, yes I am ) only to have a Cuban Doctor who came in my store tell me that about 10% of people in the world are allergic to both the cocoa bean and coffee bean, these will cause panic attacks, I quit the next day and have never had another attack. Unfortunately It took me about 35 years to get help. They where so bad I considered ending it all several times. PS decaf did not help, it was the bean….

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  2. Pingback: Anxiety, Much? | Lessons Learned on the Farm

  3. There are juicers at Costco right now and I have been thinking about them again. I have never found much in the way of WAPF info on juicers and was looking for something. I also saw the documentary “Fat, Sick and Almost Dead” last night about two clinically obese men who did a juice fast for 60 days. Wow. Not that I think it is that healthy to go that long without fats, but I was very impressed.

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  4. Thanks – as always – for your great posts. I love this advice. I have went through a similar journey and found all of the above advice in my long struggle as well and I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Now if I could just stop reading all your great articles and find the liquid whey recipe I started with….

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  5. Thank you for the post and I appreciate the juice recipe. My husband recently said he would like to start juicing again–as he never felt as healthy and fit as in the years when he would drink a fresh carrot juice blend everyday. I like the idea of the beet and the ginger added. We have been using carrots, apple and parsley. Is there a need to worry about glycemic overload with daily carrot juice?

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    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist January 25, 2011 at 11:49 am

      Hi Julie, add a bit of raw or low temp pasteurized cream to the carrot juice as is done traditionally in France and this lowers the glycemic index tremendously.

      Reply
  6. Thank you for a great post. I used to suffer from panic attacks for about five years up until about six months ago. After trying numerous ways to get rid of my panic attacks and anxiety disorder that included pills subscribed by doctors, which didn't help me at all, I found out about this great new system named "PANIC AWAY". It helped me tremendously to get back the control over my life, and I finally got rid of my panic attacks, and I am no longer afraid of them. Today with the help of the "panic away" system I know how to handle, control, overcome and even prevent the panic attacks. So if you suffer too from panic attacks, or you think you do, you must try it. It worked for me when nothing else did.
    Good luck
    Jennifer

     www.stop-your-panic-attacks-today.com 

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  7. Hello MS. SArah! I'm kinda new here but I love this article you wrote. . .I have panic attacks and it freaks me out. But what I learned is that , it can stop through simple ways. All you have to do is just relax, stop negative thinking, use coping statements, and accept your feeling.

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  8. Sarah my dear, something ELSE we share in our past. I too suffered greatly from panic attacks about 25 years ago. I too felt that drugs were not the answer because they did not even HAVE the drugs they have today, so it was valium or a psychiatrist. I choose neither, and used homeopathic remedies like rescue remedy by the Bach's flower essence company and calms forte by the hylands company. I also read an exceptional book called Hope and Help for your nerves which completely explained the situation to me and helped me to heal very quickly! I love this article you wrote, so in addition to posting about your new blog carnival on my Thoughts on Friday, I am so sharing this article as well because it is VERY important for folks to know they can heal without the help of medicine. It was very brave of you to share! :) big hugs! alex See the link here: http://amoderatelife.com/?p=386

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  9. Sarah,
    Thanks so much for your blog. This post really resonated w/ me. I was really hyper and spacey all throughout my childhood and then in teens had anxiety and depression and severe migraines since I was @8 or 9. I just learned to live like that w/ constant comments about how spacey I was it was hard. A few years ago though things got really bad as I truly thought I was losing my mind. I was tested for celiac which came back negative but did test positive for the genetic marker known to have severe neurological implications. and I was deemed to have severe adutl ADHD . They wanted to put me on Adderal or other meds, NEVER mentioned diet and when I did looked at me as if I was crazy. very condescending attitudes from most of the Drs. with exception of a few. Now I am in my early 40s and happy to report life has dramatically improved due to 2 life shifts: switching to raw grass fed dairy and pastured butter and lard, unfiltered olive oil, 2 yrs ago. I completely elim. gluten, and pastuerized dairy and went 100% natural and organic. have this wonderful farm to get my food and farmers markets here in Northesat. testing did reveal fat malaborption and very low vitamin D and low cholesterol. Sarah, my Drs. were very impressed with the low chol. too. but my gut told me this is all very wrong and I went searching. Through a chance reading of a very old Weston Price magazines my life changed. Sorry for this long post but want others to see that living free of foods from boxes or factories and only eating from fields and farms and barns your life can have joy again. No MSG soy Easy to avoid as I do not eat anythinhg from a box, bag or package! and only fresh ground organic cornmeal and few times a month as I tend to crave corn so thats a bad sign. I am 5.4/5 and weighed 88 lbs but was able to gain 24 pounds in 2 yrs and am have lean muscle. I do yoga and dry skin brushihng but running or any type of cardio makes me feel anxious. VATA for sure! but thankfully know what works for me. I wish others a similar positive journey. Kate

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  10. wow, great info here! i also have suffered from panic attacks off and on in my life, especially after going through divorce. i became vegan also around that time, and really messed up my emotional/mental health. funny, i went to a so called ayurvedic practitioner who recommended the vegan diet with very little fat or protein. according to self tests i'm am also vata, and get thrown off center very easily. i feel much more grounded eating meat and fat! (and not doing excessive aerobic exercise either!)
    susan

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  11. About a year and a half ago I started having severe panic attacks, multiple times per day, which also lead to a nearly-suicidal depression. At the time, I'd been taking Metformin (a diabetic medication) for my insulin resistance, and was experimenting with vegan meals. Yup, I was having soy protein smoothies for breakfast and making vegan stew for lunch.

    I actually thought that the panic attacks were from my body detoxing, but eventually decided that I'd rather be toxic and able to function than fight my way through it (thank goodness!). Once I went back to my processed food diet, the panic attacks lessened, but the depression was still there, and I found my symptoms listed on a side-effects page on the internet for Metformin. I stopped taking it, and things got gradually better.

    Hypothyroidism runs in my family,so eventually I came to the conclusion that all the soy I'd consumed was suppressing my thyroid enough to give me those symptoms. Now THAT one I think was correct, but it wasn't until I cut out almost all processed foods, and started adding butter and coconut oil that my health really began to improve.

    Thank goodness I was using goat's milk in those smoothies, or things might have been even worse!

    Reply
  12. Michelle, a heart at home July 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I also had panic attacks-out of the blue-right around the age of 30. I'm 44 now and although I did take xanax back when I was originally diagnosed, I only took a half a tablet of the smallest dose because I knew there was a possiblity of becoming dependant on it. Over the years, I learned how to talk myself out of them–calming my breathing. I also juiced for a while. I am not currently juicing on a regular basis, but I do believe that it had a very good and positive impact on my ability to deal with the panic attacks.
    I do believe that a lot of it for me has been learning to say "no". Back when I was 30, I couldn't seem to tell anyone "no" and ended up being stretched too thin. I'm not afraid to say it now and will even use the panic attacks as an excuse if I'm being pressed into doing something that I feel is going to cause me too much stress. :-)
    I do think I'll give the dry skin brushing a try though.

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  13. I sang in a choir during a time I had panic attacks and it helped so much – I think it was all the deep breathing you need to sustain the singing.

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  14. donielle@ Naturally Knocked Up July 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Food sensitivities can also make anxiety worse! We found when we cut out gluten, my husband's attacks became fewer and farther in between. I'm pretty sure that his gut was damaged from junk foods and wheat so much so that he was mal nourished and suffering from leaky gut syndrome.

    Good for you for finding out ways to overcome without resorting to the conventional medical procedures!

    Reply
  15. It's interesting because the symptoms you mentioned are the same symptoms I was told to look out for right after I was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot): "Racing heart, difficulty breathing, heaviness in the chest and a feeling of impending doom all close in on you."

    I had those feelings the other night while trying to go to sleep and realized it was probably mostly mental. I eventually calmed myself down with the breathing, but in the back of my head I feared I was going to have to go the ER! Thankfully that didn't happen. These are really good suggestions. I have never tried some of them, but just got a new pass for some yoga classes nearby and can't wait to start. I think my Dosha is Pitta, BTW! Seems to make sense for me.

    Reply
  16. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist July 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Unfortunately, conventional MDs really only have drugs in their toolbox for panic attacks which is why folks must investigate lifestyle and diet changes to avoid these health robbing pills.

    Reply
  17. I started having panic attacks 1 1/2 years ago. I didn't know what was wrong with me, and my husband made me go to a doctor. The doctor actually wrote me a prescription for depression! I told him I was not depressed, and he said it would help control the ups and downs. Wow- I would rather have anxiety than get hooked on an anti-depressant. Anyway, I ignored his many presciptions (he wrote me 4!), and changed my diet. I also distanced myself from the source of stress, after I had identified what that was. I am glad to say that I have not felt anxious for almost a year.

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  18. Cara @ Health Home and Happiness July 28, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    This is interesting! I used to have anxiety (though very rarely attacks) but I now use True Calm (it's mostly GABA, the aminio acid) and that helps a ton. I have been wanting to try the dry skin brushing anyway, I'll have to read up on doing it specifically for anxiety.

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  19. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist July 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Dry brushing before you bathe is much more effective in getting the toxins out. Then, you can do a loofah with soap in the bath afterwards.

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  20. Hi Sarah,
    Love your posts! Always informative.
    I have a question about the dry brushing.
    I barely sweat, even though I live in a hot climate. I've always thought that was a good thing, until I realised that we also do some detoxing that way.
    I have been using a loofah in the bath with my all natural soap. Do you have any idea if this is better/worse/the same as dry brushing – with respect to toxins?
    Thanks
    Thanks!

    Reply

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