Anxiety & Nutrition
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
What we put in our body can have a direct impact on how we feel physically and emotionally. It is important to be aware of what you are putting in your body and how some foods could actually be increasing your experience of anxiety - especially if you are a sensitive person. Some of the anxiety your experience may actually be due to particular stimulants your are consuming, or deficiencies in particular vitamins and minerals. Think about your lifestyle and what you may be doing that could be exacerbating your anxiety. Stimulants, salt, preservatives, hormones in meat, and sweet refined foods can potentially exacerbate your anxiety.
Caffeine – coffee, tea, alcohol, coke stimulate an adrenal response in your body, which can provoke anxiety, nervousness and insomnia to name a few side effects. They also deplete the body of necessary vitamins and minerals that help balance our mood and nervous system. Recommended dosage – less than 100mg per day (one cup of percolated coffee or two diet cola beverages per day. Less than 50mg per day is preferable.
Nicotine – this is as strong as caffeine – it stimulates increased physiological arousal, vasoconstriction and makes your heart work harder. Smokers tend to be more anxious than non-smokers and tend to sleep less well than non-smokers
Stimulant Drugs – beware of prescription drugs that contain caffeine and amphetamines, and recreational drugs such as cocaine that increase levels of anxiety and panic attacks in people using them.
Salt depletes the body of potassium, a mineral important to the proper functioning of the nervous system. Salt raises blood pressure that in turn puts a strain on the heart and arteries, hastening arteriolosclerosis. Recommended dosage – do not exceed 1gm of salt per day.
There are over 5000 chemical additives in commercial food processing. Our bodies are not equipped to handle these, and little is known about long term biological effects. Try and eat whole unprocessed foods as much as possible. Try to purchase vegetables and fruit that haven’t been treated with pesticides (organically grown).
Hormones in Meat
Most commercially forms of meat have been fed hormones to promote fast weight gain and growth. One hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES) has been implicated in the development of breast cancer and fibroid tumors. Try to replace red meat, pork and poultry with organically raised beef, poultry and fish such as cod, salmon, snapper, sole, trout.
Sweet, refined foods
Reduce intake of sweet refined foods as these affect the blood sugar that can lead to anxiety and mood swings while also affecting how the brain functions. Highly refined carbohydrates destroy B-complex vitamins essential to mental and emotional well-being.
MSG from Chinese takeaway should be avoided as it can have a major irritating effect on the nervous system producing the following: headaches, tingling, numbness and chest pains.
Be aware to check for food allergies as they can be one of the main causes of many emotional problems.
Stressful Eating Habits
Stress and anxiety can be aggravated not only by what you eat, but the way you eat. Any of the following habits can aggravate your daily level of stress:
Eating too fast or on the run
Not chewing food at least 15-20 times per mouthful
Eating too much to the point of feeling stuffed or bloated
Drinking too much fluid with a meal which can dilute stomach acid and digestive enzymes (one cup with a meal is sufficient)
These behaviours put strain on your stomach and intestines in their attempt to properly digest and assimilate food. This increases stress in two ways:
Directly through indigestion, bloating, and cramping.
Indirectly through malabsorption of essential nutrients.
There are specific nutrients which can decrease anxiety. These include:
Magnesium: aids with muscle relaxation, maintenance of the heart muscle, neuromuscular transmission and widening of the blood vessels. A deficiency of magnesium can cause agitation, anxiety, behavioural disturbances, confusion, cold hands and feet, depression, insomnia and restlessness
Calcium: works with maintenance of electrolyte balance, muscle contractions, nerve transmission, regulation of cell division, hormone secretion and bone and teeth formation. A deficiency can cause agitation, depression, heart palpitations, insomnia and irritability
Zinc: When zinc is low, copper in the body can increase to toxic levels, resulting in paranoia and fearfulness.
Vitamin C: A deficiency in vitamin C reduces the production of serotonin (a neurotransmitter associated with the moderation of anxiety). Neurotransmitters are chemicals in your brain that communicate between nerve cells and affect mood and sleep.
B Complex Vitamins – they help provide energy by acting with enzymes to convert major nutrients such as carbohydrates to energy forms. A deficiency of certain B vitamins will cause fatigue, irritability, nervousness, depression, insomnia and loss of appetite.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids can be helpful in cases of anxiety.
Tryptophan: An essential amino acid that the body cannot manufacture, tryptophan combines with vitamin c to make 5-HTP, a precurser chemical utilised in the synthesis of serotonin. There is ample evidence that tryptophan depletion cause reduced synthesis of serotonin, which can result in increased anxiety and other mood disorders.
People taking anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants should not take Tryptophan or 5-HTP without the supervision of a medical professional because its increase can give rise to an effective overdose of the drug.
Drink Soda Water
Soda water increases the levels of carbon dioxide that helps the body to become balanced when someone is hyperventilating. Soda water also decreases smooth muscle contractions and dilates blood vessels, which allows blood to flow easily around the body.
Sources of Nutrition
Marmite, Mushrooms, Milk
Sprouts, Tomatoes, Citrus Fruit
baked beans, peas, peanut butter, baked potatoes, bananas
Milk, Cheese, Oats
Sesame seeds, tahini, peanuts, dark chocolate, roast pumpkin seeds
Salmon, Flax seed, Walnuts, Raspberries