Category: Mental Health

L-Theanine A Supplement for Children (and Adults) with Anxiety and Trouble Focusing

by Joan Haynes, NMD

Adjusting to the classroom can be challenging.  L-Theanine is a simple supplement that families can try with their children to help them relax, focus and learn.  I’ve been using it with kids and adults for over 20 years and find it a gentle and effective supplement.  Along with dietary support (whole food, blood sugar regulation, avoiding food sensitivities, quality multivitamin), L-theanine can help kids make the most out of their day.

L-Theanine is an amino acid from green tea which fosters a state of calm, attentive wakefulness.  It helps restless & anxious students by lowering levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.  When stress levels are high, it interferes with memory and learning.

How L-theanine Works

From a recent Psychology Today article.

L-theanine promotes relaxation and facilitates sleep by contributing to a number of changes in the brain:

  • Boosts levels of GABA and other calming brain chemicals. L-theanine elevates levels of GABA, as well as serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters, and they work in the brain to regulate emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, and sleep, as well as appetite, energy, and other cognitive skills. Increasing levels of these calming brain chemicals promotes relaxation and can help with sleep.
  • Lowers levels of “excitatory” brain chemicals. At the same time it is increasing chemicals that promote feelings of calm, L-theanine also reduces levels of chemicals in the brain that are linked to stress and anxiety. This may also be a way that L-theanine can protect brain cells against stress and age-related damage.
  • Enhances alpha brain waves. Alpha brain waves are associated with a state of “wakeful relaxation.” That’s the state of mind you experience when meditating, being creative, or letting your mind wander in daydreaming. Alpha waves are also present during REM sleep. L-theanine appears to trigger the release of alpha-waves, which enhances relaxation, focus, and creativity. One of the appealing aspects of L-theanine is that it works to relax without sedating. That can make L-theanine a good choice for people who are looking to enhance their “wakeful relaxation,” without worrying about becoming sleepy and fatigued during the day.

Dosing  *

At Boise Natural Health Clinic, we find these amounts helpful:

50 mg is a starting dose for elementary school children. 

100 -200 mg may be more appropriate for high school children and adults.

L-Theanine can be given each morning and if needed a second time at the end of the day to promote relaxation, focus, and eventually sleep. 

* L-Theanine may not be appropriate with certain medical conditions or medications, so check with your provider before giving it to your child or taking it yourself. 

Using L-Theanine is an example of Targeted Amino Acid Therapy which is used to treat many common disorders such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, inattentiveness and more.  For more information, call for a free consult. 

Nervines:  Herbs to Take the Edge Off

by Joan Haynes, NMD

Life can be stressful (sometimes overwhelming) and when we come home from our demanding work day to our demanding home life, lots of us reach for an alcoholic beverage to help us relax.  But instead, consider a cup of tea that accomplishes the same goals, but without the long-term negative side effects on your body.  In fact, nervine herbs would be good through out the day, not just at the evening.

Nervines are a category of herbs that help support the nervous system.  They can relieve muscle tension, calm anxiety, and some can help us sleep.  They can be taken in capsules, tincture or tea.  You can mix and match combinations to get the effect you want.  Many are also good for children.

Here’s a list of nervines from Mountain Rose Herbs:

Common Nervines

  • Oat tops – Very gentle tonic herb that helps support the nervous system without a perceptibly calming action. Can help reduce fatigue and support nerve functioning over time. Great for anyone who is overworked or relies on caffeine to get through the day.
  • Skullcap – Wonderfully gentle and nourishing to the nervous system. Helps relieve occasional tension and stress, circular thoughts, and nervousness. Can be used throughout the day during stressful situations or at night before bed to calm worried thoughts.
  • Chamomile – A classic, relaxing nighttime tea, this nervine herb is also helpful for relieving mild daily mental stress.
  • Lavender – Calming herb that is often used in aromatherapy applications for its mild calming action. Lovely when used in the bath, massage oils, pillows, room sprays, or body fragrance to uplift the spirit.
  • Lemon balm – Sunshine in plant form, this herb helps with nervous exhaustion, gloom, and restlessness while also providing pure aromatic pleasure. Simply rubbing a leaf between your fingers and smelling its citrusy oils can elevate the mood.
  • Catnip – Gentle, calming herb for sleeplessness in children and the elderly.
  • California poppy – Used for its calming properties, this plant helps promote relaxation in those seeking rest.
  • Passionflower – This stunning plant is helpful for relieving general tension, occasional nervous restlessness, and supporting restful sleep.
  • Hops – With a distinctive flavor and action known well by beer drinkers everywhere, this plant supports relaxation (although the effect can be considered hypnotic) and helps calm a nervous stomach.
  • Valerian – When sleep seems impossible thanks to nervous energy at night, this potent herb can support relaxation for many busy-brained folks. For some people, however, valerian can have the opposite effect of relaxation, causing more anxiety and stimulation, so if this happens to you, we recommend seeking another herbal ally.

The End of Alzheimer’s

by Dale E. Bredesen, MD

Book Review by Joan Haynes, NMD

In his new book, The End of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Bredesen makes a bold statement; “No one should die from Alzheimer’s disease”.  What’s exciting is that he’s got proof to back up his assertion.

Since the 1980s the “amyloid hypothesis” has been at the forefront of research and treatment. This theory states that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the accumulation in the brain of sticky synapse-destroying plaques made of a protein called amyloid beta.  Medication and research focused on these plaques have been a dismal failure.

Dr. Bedesen has another theory – “Alzheimer’s disease is what happens when the brain struggles to defend itself.”  He says there are 3 different subtypes of Alzheimer’s that have profound implications for the way we evaluate, prevent, and treat it.  His research was first published in 2014 reporting the reversal of cognitive decline in patients.

3 Processes that Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease:

  • Inflammation from infection, diet, or other causes
  • Shortage of supportive nutrients, hormones, and other brain-supporting molecules
  • Toxic substances such as metals or biotoxins (poison produced by microbes such as molds or bacteria)

In Chapter 7, Dr. Bedesen describes what needs to be identified in terms of your vulnerability to the three processes that lead to brain decline. A combination of blood tests, genetic tests, a simple online cognitive assessment, and MRI.  What surprised me a little, is how many of these tests we at Boise Natural Health Clinic commonly run on patients and how we’ve been helping prevent Alzheimer’s and didn’t realize it.  For example, hormone assessment and optimization, food sensitivity panels, leaky gut assessment, microbiome assessment looking for pathogens, and markers for inflammation such as CRP-hs are all tests we commonly order.

He then goes on to describe his ReCODE program (Reversal of COgnitive DEcline).  He helps patients create a personalized treatment plan developed by identifying the cause of imbalances.  He talks about diet, exercise, supplements, sleep, reducing stress, reducing inflammation, healing the gut, hormone balancing, etc.  (Again, all things we do at BNHC regularly!).

Alzheimer’s disease is preventable and reversible with tools we already have.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Low Blood Sugar – Could it be Causing Your Anxiety and Weight Gain?

by Joan Haynes, NMD

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is one of our most commonly encountered nutritional disorders and accounts for a variety of symptoms.  A thorough dietary history and lab work can be useful in determining the diagnosis.  Treatment always begins with dietary modifications but factors beyond food may be involved.

When blood glucose levels fall too rapidly, two things can happen:

    1. The body compensates by releasing adrenaline (epinephrine). Symptoms of “fight or flight” develop:
      • Anxiety
      • Panic
      • Irritability
      • Hunger (also lack of hunger or even nausea)
      • Rapid heart rate and palpitations
      • Tremor
      • Sweating
      • Weakness
      • Abdominal pain
    2. If the blood glucose level is not corrected, symptoms of inadequate cerebral glucose levels develop:
      • Headache
      • Fatigue
      • Blurred vision
      • Mental confusion
      • Impaired memory
      • Seizures
      • Unconsciousness

Causes of Hypoglycemia

Most low blood sugar problems are caused by a diet too high in simple carbohydrates and going too long between meals.  But there are other factors as well.  Hormones may also be playing a role; patients with an under-functioning thyroid or with impaired adrenal function are much more susceptible to blood sugar swings.  Low blood sugar is also more common in patients with malabsorption problems, food sensitivities, and nutritional deficiencies.

To Correct the Problem

Dietary intervention is the most important aspect to recovery.  Patients with reactive hypoglycemia frequently crave refined sugar or other refined carbohydrates.  Eating these foods may provide transient symptom relief, but can also trigger additional episodes of rebound hypoglycemia and more carbohydrate cravings.  This repetitive cycle may lead to overeating and obesity.  Several nutritional supplements have been shown to help including chromium, magnesium, and l-carnitine.  Lab tests such as blood glucose, thyroid and adrenal studies may also provide additional information needed for full recovery.

Consider coming to Boise Natural Health Clinic for lab work, dietary interventions, nutritional supplements, and hormonal therapies that can help you get your symptoms under control.

(Thank you Alan Gaby, MD for your useful book, Nutritional Medicine 2011.)

Alternative Options for Mental Health Concerns

By Emily Dickerson, NMD

Do you struggle with anxiety or depression? Does your mental health affect your ability to enjoy day-to-day life? Maybe you have considered pharmaceutical medications but are concerned about the side effects.  Or you may have tried pharmaceuticals but did not respond well to them.  If you or a loved one need help with mental health, know that you are not alone and that there are alternative options.

Many Options

Effective natural therapies exist to help us cope with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Treatment options vary from herbal medicine, homeopathy, and diet, to nutraceuticals (targeted nutrient therapy) and amino acid therapy. We see counseling as a very important component of addressing mental health concerns, and can help our patients find counselors or therapists to help them achieve their mental health goals.

Foundations of Health

Firstly, we are advocates for addressing the root cause of illness and we encourage our patients to address their mental health concerns utilizing the foundational principals of good health. We know that diet, exercise and lifestyle can be essential in treating mental health issues and help our patients find ways to make these changes.

Underlying Medical Problems

Suspicious that there may be an underlying medical problem causing your symptoms? Smart thinking! There are many medical conditions that have an effect on mental and emotional health, such as hormonal imbalances, genetic methylation defects, thyroid disease, adrenal fatigue, food sensitivities, and nutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin D, iron, or B vitamins. Testing and treatment are available for each of these underlying conditions.

Neurotransmitter Testing

Neurotransmitter testing is also available at Boise Natural Health to determine which imbalances in the brain chemistry could be causing or contributing to mental health concerns. This important test can help us to determine what treatment option might be best for the individual, and can give insight regarding previous or potential success or failure with specific classes of pharmaceutical medications.

Learn More

Please join Emily Dickerson, NMD and Emily Yuen, ABT for a discussion about alternative approaches and treatment options for treating mental health conditions. We look forward to seeing you there!  For more information click here.

Date: Monday, May 16, 2016

Time: 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Location: Hillside Junior High School

Cost: $13.90

Register: Register with Boise Community Education or 208-854-4047.

Emotional Freedom Technique Tapping Points

Emily Yuen, ABT

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments but without the invasiveness of needles. Instead, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on the head and chest while you think about your specific problem – whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. — and voice positive affirmations.  EFT can be used as a self treatment, in a group or with an EFT practitioner for more difficult topics.

Energetic and emotional benefits of the points used in Emotional Freedom Technique

EFT is based on acupressure points in Chinese Medicine.  If you are interested in the potential benefits of each point and where they are located, here are some details:



Karate chop point (KC) – side of the hand between the base of the pinky and the wrist.- is used to setup the statement at the beginning, it is also used for psychological reversals (feeling stuck).

Indications for use:  Feeling of being stuck, unable to let go, lack of flexibility, obsessive , worry, compulsive, resistance to change, vulnerability
Benefits: Adaptability, letting go, healing grief, being in the present moment
Associated Meridian: Small Intestine – Point number SI3

Eyebrow (EB) – on the inner edge of the eyebrow near the bridge of the nose

Indications for use: Trauma, pain, sadness, irritable, impatient, dread
Benefits: equanimity, calm and healing
Associated Meridian: Bladder – Point number BL2

Side of the Eye (SE) – at the end of the eyebrow on the boney protrusion near the temple.

Indications for use: cloudy thinking, anger, resentment
Benefits: clear thinking and compassion
Associated Meridian: Gallbladder – Point number GB1

Under Eye (UE) – on the check bone directly under the pupil

Indications for Use: anxiety, worry, fear, nervousness, disappointment
Benefits: peaceful, calm, feeling of safety
Associated Meridian: Stomach – Point number ST1

Under Nose (UN) – under the nose above the upper lip

Indications for Use: fear, shame, grief, self-doubt, embarrassment, psychological reversals
Benefits: self-confidence, self-worth, acceptance, compassion
Associated Meridian: Governing Vessel – Point number GV26

Chin (CH) – under the bottom lip above the chin on the center line of the body

Indications for Use: shame, embarrassment, difficulty sticking to decisions, confusion
Benefits: clear thinking, accepting one’s self, self esteem
Associated Meridian: Conception Vessel –  Point Number CV24

Collar Bone (CB) – in the depression below the collar bone where it meets the sternum

Indications for Use: Muddled and stuck, indecisive, excessive worry, stress, psychological reversals
Benefits:  confidence, clear thinking, aids in moving forward
Associated Meridian: Kidney – Point number KI27

Under Arm (UA) – six inches below the arm pit on the side of the body

Indications for use: low self-worth, obsessing, excessive worry, guilt, apathy
Benefits: Clear thinking, self-confidence, calm, compassion
Associated Meridian: Spleen – Point number – SP21

Top of Head (TH) – on the center line at the top of the head

Indications for use: unclear, ungrounded, restless, uncertain, worried, up in the head
Benefits: Grounding, calming, relaxing
Associated Meridian: Governing Vessel – Point number – GV20

Gamut Point (G) – on the top of the hand between the 4th and 5th finger bones

Indications for use: Use when your SUD’s level (subjective units of distress) have been lowered to a zero or one.
Benefits: locks the emotions/sensations that you have lowered in place so they don’t creep back up.
Associated Meridian: Triple Warmer – Point number  – TW3

If you’d like to learn more, here are some references and article recommendations
(Remember there is no wrong way to do EFT.  Some ways can be more effective.)