Health alert: RESCU discovers causes and treatment for anxiety and panic attacks – have your hormones checked

By Janet Schloss

Thousands of people suffer from anxiety daily without a logical reason for the cause. RESCU asked Janet Schloss, a Naturopath and Clinical Nutritionist, to explain how hormones play a vital role in the onset and offset of fear.

Do you ever feel gripped by fear and ‘scared to death? Do you always seem to be trying to re-invent the world around you, generating unnecessary stress? If so, read on. Fear prevents you from living your life to the full. It also perpetuates the ageing process.

Health practitioners are increasingly looking at the role that hormones play in our daily lives and how they affect our functioning and wellbeing.

Anxiety can be a debilitating condition that can affect a wide range of people and is caused by a number of different factors. These include genetic, environmental, behavioural, psychological, physical factors and medical conditions. Hormonal imbalances are a physical factor that can cause anxiety. Particular phases of life especially affect hormonal levels such as around the time of menopause however, hormonal imbalance can also occur at any stage of life in both men and women.

Particular hormones that can be directly linked to anxiety are oestrogen and progesterone.

The possible consequences of low oestrogen levels

Low oestrogen levels or an oestrogen deficiency can be caused by ageing, medication, diet, stress, low dietary fat intake, excess exercise and low aromatase activity (this can affect both men and women). Low oestrogen levels can contribute to stimulating general anxiety and anxiety attacks, which may affect daily activities. Particular foods that aid in increasing oestrogen levels include phytoestrogens, dairy products and sesame seeds.

Phytoestrogens can be found in foods such as soy (genisten and diazaden are two of the strongest phytoestrogens found in our diets), legumes such as chickpeas, seeds and linseed. Phytoestrogens can bind to oestrogen receptors and mildly stimulating them causing oestrogen response. Dairy foods have also been found to contain oestrogen from cows and this can potentially increase oestrogen levels in the body, however, further research is required to confirm this.

The possible consequences of a deficiency in progesterone

A deficiency in progesterone on the other hand can be caused by excess oestrogen, stress, the oral conceptive pill, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, adrenal gland disorders and hormone replacement therapy. Particular herbs, foods and nutrients that aid in supporting progesterone levels include Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), parsley, perilla, vitamin A, B vitamins, and quercetin.

Vitex agnus-castus is a herb that has been found to act on the pituitary gland to decrease serum prolactin levels, but more importantly for anxiety, modulating serotonin and GABA activity. Low serotonin and GABA neurotransmitters are linked to increased anxiety therefore, may help to modulate or increase these decreases anxiety. Vitamin A helps convert pregnenalone (the mother hormone) to progesterone thus may help to support healthy progesterone levels.

Anxiety can be caused by hormonal imbalances so getting your hormones checked can aid in decreasing this debilitating condition. Always consult your complimentary healthcare practitioner who will assess your hormones accordingly and advise of a suitable complementary medicine treatment plan. Depending on which hormone has been decreased, increasing certain foods, nutrients and supplements may help in balancing hormonal levels and decrease anxiety.

To find a complementary healthcare practitioner and learn more about good hormone health, visit

Janet Schloss, Naturopath and Clinical Nutritionist, MPhil Scholar I The Centre for Integrative Clinical and Molecular Medicine | The University of Queensland

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