Have you ever experienced a feeling of worry, unease, or nervousness about something? Well, that is what we call anxiety.
This medical condition is a nervous disorder characterized by excessive uneasiness and apprehension. It is also characterized by panic attacks or compulsive behaviors.
Some people experience this occasionally or when there is a strong desire for something to happen.
However, this is the constant state of some people. This set of people are constantly under stress and the natural response of the body to constant stress is anxiety.
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What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is quite normal and even motivates one to work harder or do better. For instance, you might feel anxious on the first day of school, starting a new job, writing exams, moving to a new place, going for a job interview, or giving a speech can make you anxious, fearful, or nervous.
However, this is normal and not harmful because it is just for a short while and does not interfere with your daily life.
Anxiety disorder is extreme and lasts for a long time, in chronic cases, it lasts more than 6 months. It can interfere with your life and daily activities.
In this case, (anxiety disorder), the affected person is constantly in a state of fear. It is intense and even debilitating. This can stop you from doing the things you love.
In extreme cases, affected people are even afraid of leaving their homes, crossing the street, entering an elevator, or being in crowded places.
So, if you don’t treat this condition, it will keep getting worse and affect your life’s quality.
Anxiety disorder is the most common form of emotional disorder and millions of people are affected worldwide.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders are:
- Fear, nervousness, or restlessness
- Feeling tense and trembling
- Rapid breathing
- Having a sense of panic, doom, or impending danger
- Fast heart beat
- Feeling weak or tired
- Difficulty concentrating
- Having digestive problems
- Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep
- Having the urge to do things that trigger anxiety
- Having difficulty controlling your worry
Everyone has different symptoms and there are many forms of anxiety disorders.
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety attack are:
- Numbness or tingling
- Shortness of breath
- Worry and apprehension
- Hot flashes
- Dry mouth
- Dizziness or feeling faint
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
The exact cause of anxiety disorder is not yet known but many factors have been considered and proven to influence this condition.
These include genetics, environment, brain chemistry, and diet.
So, this post will focus mainly on diet and how nutritional deficiencies can cause anxiety disorders.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Anxiety Disorder
What you eat and the nutrients lacking in your body can affect your mental health.
Your brain depends heavily on water and nutrients and a deficiency of these two can affect your whole body, not just your brain.
Also, your digestive system is linked to your brain. What we call the ‘gut’ is located in your digestive system. This place contains 80% of your immune system.
Your gut is also known as “your second brain” because it is made of the same matter as the brain. Serotonin, the happiness hormone is made in the gut.
We also have what we call the “gut-brain axis”. So, with this, anything that affects your gut affects your brain. Your gut and brain also communicate through this means.
If your gut can’t properly absorb nutrients, then your brain and mental health would be affected. If all your meals are highly refined and lacking in nutrients & vitamins for anxiety, you would have anxiety disorder and other mental problems.
What Causes Nutritional Deficiencies?
There are many causes of nutritional deficiencies and I will be exposing few in this post.
What you eat matters, in fact, you must have heard the famous quote: “You are what you eat”.
Don’t replace healthy meals with junks and snacks. You will be wrecking your health if you do so.
So, your meals should be 80% healthy and 20% comfort foods and not the other way round.
I have seen many people who don’t like fruits or veggies. This is not healthy as most of these vitamins and minerals that boost your mental health are abundantly present in these plant foods.
So, you should incorporate fruit and veggies daily in your diet. Avoid or reduce your intake of the following foods:
- Fried foods because they are difficult to digest and have low nutritional content. You would have a feeling of distress as your body struggles to digest it.
- Alcohol is dehydrating. It affects your hormones and nutritional balance. Alcohol itself increases physical anxiety.
- Coffee and other foods containing caffeine trigger rapid heartbeat and can even mimic panic attacks. So, excess caffeine causes hyperventilation, sweating, and racing thoughts.
- Milk and dairy products raises your levels of adrenaline and make you more anxious.
- Refined sugars can make you jittery and induce the symptoms of anxiety. Natural sugars in plant foods don’t do this.
- Acidic foods reduce your magnesium levels and cause anxiety.
So, avoid these foods if you can or reduce their intake.
The following foods reduce the symptoms of anxiety because of their high nutrient profile:
- Fresh fruits provide energy and necessary nutrients for brain health, especially berries and peaches.
- Vegetables are even more important for anxiety than fruits. They are rich in fiber which is good for gut health and they contain many vitamins that prevent and reverse anxiety.
- Water is important because dehydration causes anxiety. The brain is more than 80% water and a reduction in the water content of the brain can affect your overall body.
- Whole grains
In some conditions, the gut cannot absorb nutrients and whatever you eat cannot be accessed by your body.
This includes some digestive conditions and inflammatory diseases of the digestive system, and even leaky gut. These conditions have to be treated properly before your body can absorb and make use of the nutrients you get from food.
So, the best way to handle nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition is to trace your steps back. Go back to healthy eating and if you have any underlying health condition that affects nutrient absorption, treat it.
The following nutrients listed below prevent and reverse anxiety.
Vitamins For Anxiety
People deficient in vitamin D are at high risks of having anxiety and depression. This is because the body uses this to make serotonin and many functions of your body depends on this important nutrient.
Vitamin D ensures that phosphorous is well utilized by your body. Phosphorous promotes mental health by ensuring cell repair and the growth of tissues in the brain and body.
Insufficient vitamin D levels have been linked to a lot of mental problems like Seasonal Affective disorder (happens in winter when sunlight is low), chronic depression, and panic attacks.
Natural sources of vitamin D are sunlight, free-range poultry birds and eggs. You can meet a doctor to prescribe a quality vitamin D supplement for you.
The brand listed above is one of the supplement vitamins for anxiety. So get it here.
Vitamin B complex
Vitamin B1 to B12 are important for mental health and overall wellbeing. They are great vitamins for anxiety and help the body convert the food you eat into energy.
B vitamins reduce stress, regulate your mood, and improve cognitive functions.
So, a deficiency in any of these B vitamins can lead to phobias, anxiety, depression, and other mental problems. Organic plant and animal foods are rich sources of Vitamin B.
This is a good B Complex Supplement.
Vitamins A, C, and E
These are antioxidants and they protect you from anxiety.
Rich sources of vitamin C are fruits and veggies, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
Free-range egg yolks, carrots, green leafy veggies, cod liver oil, grass-fed beef liver and butter/ghee and sweet potatoes are rich sources of vitamin A.
Rich sources of vitamin E are nuts and seeds, avocados, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, sunflower seeds, and olive oil. These are all important vitamins for anxiety. So, you can get the above supplement here.
Minerals for Anxiety
Magnesium deficiency is the most prevalent deficiency in our time due to soil depletion.
This is the “relaxation mineral” because it promotes relaxation all through your body including your brain. It is one of the most important vitamins for anxiety..
So, a deficiency in magnesium causes anxiety, stress, and depression.
Rich sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables. Magnesium citrate is the best and highly absorbable than the most common form magnesium oxide.
Low levels of calcium affect your nerves, hormones, and not just your bones. Studies have even linked low levels of calcium to pre-menstrual depression and anxiety.
Sesame seeds, grass-fed yogurt, organic green leafy vegetables, and high quality raw milk are rich sources of calcium are.
There are also quality calcium supplements like the one above.
Iron promotes healthy brain health and nervous system. So, a deficiency in iron can lead to anxiety, difficulty concentrating, irritability, attention deficit disorder, and depression.
Rich sources of iron are legumes, blackstrap molasses, and animal foods. You can get this good iron supplement on Amazon.
This mineral helps in neural transmission. So, it helps improve mood and relieve anxiety and irritability.
Rich sources of potassium are bananas, citrus fruits, cantaloupes, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans, chicken, salmon, flounder, cod, etc.
A potassium supplement can be helpful in cases of deficiency.
This mineral activates the central and peripheral nervous system. One of the major roles of zinc in the body is to promote a healthy brain function.
So, zinc insufficiency has been linked to depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and anxiety.
Rich sources of zinc are legumes, nuts, beef, oysters, and crabs.
Garden of life Zinc supplement is one of the best.
This trace mineral is essential for a lot of metabolic processes in the body including brain health and functions.
A deficiency in selenium causes depression, anxiety, and negative mood. Green vegetables are rich in selenium.
This is a good selenium supplement.
This mineral prevents depression and anxiety and it can be found in gluten-free whole grains, potatoes, grass-fed liver, mushrooms, broccoli, and almost all our everyday foods.
It balances your metabolism and lifts mood, and also regulate blood sugar. So, in cases of chronic anxiety, you can go for the supplement.
Other Nutrients For Anxiety
Probiotics, also known as, healthy bacteria or friendly bacteria take part in maintaining the health of the gut.
So, unhealthy diet, especially high intake of food lacking in fiber can affect the population of these helpful microbes.
High intake of chemical-based foods and digestive problems can affect the population and functions of these microbes.
A reduction in the population of these friendly bacteria can cause a lot of health problems like mental disorders, immune dysfunction, autoimmune problems, and even cancers.
So, these probiotics promote your mental health and guard against tension, stress, anxiety, depression, and even fear.
This is where the term “gut instinct” comes from. If these probiotics are few in numbers and outnumbered by the disease-causing microbes, then moodiness, anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders set in.
Rich sources of probiotics are fermented foods. Probiotic supplements are also available. It is important you eat a lot of fiber rich-foods because fiber serves as food for these healthy microbes.
Prebiotic supplements are also available and these are just fiber to serve as food for your probiotics. Or better still, you can go for synbiotic supplements which contain both pro and prebiotics.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
This is a highly effective supplement for anxiety. Many vitamins and minerals relieve anxiety by affecting the levels of GABA in the brain.
This amino acid is a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is used to produce serotonin, the “feel good” hormone.
A deficiency of this causes anxiety disorder. Don’t take supplements without a doctor’s supervision and ensure you follow the prescriptions.
This is a good GABA supplement you can try.
Omega-3 fatty acids
60% of the human brain is made up of fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are quality fats and they help the body to create high quality cell membranes.
This fat also promotes healthy brain functions and gives you a positive mood. A deficiency of this nutrient causes anxiety, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, attention deficit disorder, and depression.
So, rich sources of omega-3 are nuts and seeds, oily fish (wild caught), and supplements.
Your body makes this compound when it is almost dark so you can sleep. This is the sleep hormone and insufficient production of this can cause anxiety and sleep problems.
Melatonin supplements can be gotten in a health store and you shouldn’t take it without a doctor’s prescription.
They help to regulate your circadian rhythm thus relieving anxiety and sleeplessness.
Low levels of choline have been liked to anxiety. Even though the body makes little of this, we still have to get it through diet.
Best sources of choline are grass-fed animals and egg yolks. Supplements are also available.
These are gotten from the breakdown of proteins in the body. And a lot of people don’t take in enough proteins, all they consume more are carbs and sugar.
Proteins don’t just help in body building but their products, amino acids, are very much needed for maintaining healthy functions of the brain.
A deficiency of proteins leads to fatigue, brain fog, depression, and even difficulty concentrating.
Some of the amino acids needed for optimum dental health are:
- L-theanine: This amino acid helps lowers stress and cortisol levels. It is found abundantly in black and green tea. It is a natural anti-anxiety agent and mild sedative.
L-theanine is also available in supplements and capsules. Meet a doctor to prescribe a good supplement for you and don’t exceed 400 mg dose without asking a doctor.
- Tryptophan: This amino acid is a natural relaxant. It is found in oats, sesame seeds, free-range poultry, and fermented soy.
You can also get tryptophan supplement.
Incorporating these foods into our daily diet or taking one or more of these supplements can help you overcome anxiety.