When it comes to human emotions, explosive and out-of-control anger is one of the toughest. It’s not only hard on relationships at home, work and/or school, it’s also hard on the health of the angry person. Heart rate, blood pressure and the digestive system can all be affected. To curb anger, conventional doctors use both psychotherapy and prescription medications (such as antidepressants and tranquilizers). These approaches can help. But among the many patients I’ve treated for anger problems, lifestyle changes and natural medicine offer longer-lasting results. It’s important to recognize that it’s normal and healthy to feel and appropriately express anger, but when it becomes excessive, problems can develop.

If you or someone you love is struggling with anger, here’s my advice…*

• Watch your diet. A good first step is to reduce known dietary nuisances such as caffeine, alcohol and high-sugar foods—all of which affect the brain and can interfere with your ability to cope with anger.  

• Review your hormone health. Women can experience significantly worse anger when they are premenstrual or going through menopause. In men, anger often kicks up during middle age when their testosterone levels are waning. For both males and females, anger is common during puberty—another time when hormone levels are changing. If you suspect that your anger may be tied to your hormone health, ask your doctor about testing your testosterone, estrogen and progesterone levels. Both men and women have all three of these hormones, and for optimal emotional health, all three should be correctly balanced.

• Check for allergens. All kinds of allergies can wreak havoc with one’s emotional stability. Whether you’re allergic to inhalants (such as pollen, pet dander or dust) or to foods (such as dairy, wheat or eggs), these allergens can cause big problems. Sometimes, the only symptom of an allergy is emotional distress, irritability and/or volatile anger. If you have frequent anger: Keep a diary of explosive events and the foods you ate and possible allergens in your environment during the 12-hour period prior to your angry feelings. Look for patterns. If you suspect a link, speak to your doctor about allergy testing. For food allergy testing, I recommend IgG blood testing…for inhaled allergens, IgE scratch testing.

• Get more B vitamins. Anger is often linked to fatigue and low blood sugar. Vitamins B-5 (pantothenic acid) and B-6 (pyridoxine), in particular, can help with both conditions. To ensure that your B vitamin levels are balanced, look for a B-complex supplement that includes B-5 and B-6.  

• Try botanical medicines. Gentler than pharmaceuticals, herbal remedies can calm emotions without dulling the brain. My favorite anger-fighting herbs: Passionflower and skullcap. Pick a product (tincture, capsule or tea) containing either one or both of these herbs. Individual sensitivities vary, so start with a low dose. Take it for several days to see whether your anger is improving. If it’s not, slowly increase the dose, but do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended dose. Use during high-stress periods or any time that anger is a problem.

*If you have a chronic medical condition or take medication, talk to your doctor before trying any supplements.