Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the United States. Over 18 percent of people suffer from it, but very few actually seek treatment. Do you occasionally suffer from anxiety? If so, how do you deal with the symptoms listed below? Is there any hope for improving or even eliminating them?
If you suffer from severe anxiety, you should consult a doctor or holistic practitioner. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication can help. You might even find that you’re dealing with a deeper issue, such as hypothyroidism. Either way, talking with your doctor about your next steps is essential.
In some cases, you may just feel a little off from time to time, and a few tweaks in your nutrition and daily habits can make all the difference. In this article, we’re going to cover the symptoms of anxiety and how you can help decrease their occurrence or severity with a nutrition plan.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Symptoms of anxiety can be both physical and mental, and we all experience this emotion at some point. Anxiety can be the result of a stressful or difficult situation you’re dealing with in your life, a mental disorder, or a nutrient deficiency. Anxiety can present itself in various ways, but here are some of the more common symptoms:
- Restlessness, tension, or nervousness
- Rapid heart rate
- Feelings of dread, hopelessness, or panic
- Heavy sweating
- Stomach issues (gas, constipation, diarrhea)
- Weakness, lethargy, or fatigue
- Trembling or twitching muscles
You may be able to decrease the severity of these symptoms, or possibly eliminate them altogether, by integrating the following anti-anxiety nutrition plan into your healthy lifestyle.
To follow this nutrition plan, you will need to stock up on foods high in the following vitamins and minerals, and try choosing them whenever possible to help decrease or prevent anxiety.
Magnesium: This is an essential mineral that most of us don’t get enough of even though we need it to function normally. One of the potential contributors to anxiety is a magnesium deficiency. More research is needed, but some studies show that increasing magnesium levels may decrease anxiety symptoms.
To ensure you’re getting enough of this mineral in your diet, make sure to include the following magnesium-rich foods in your diet:
- Leafy greens (cooked spinach and swiss chard)
- Nuts (especially almonds)
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax)
- Whole grains
- Black beans
- Dark chocolate
B12 and Protein: A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia as well as unpleasant symptoms associated with anxiety. You can get B12 from protein-rich foods such as milk, eggs, fish, and meat. If you’re a vegetarian, you might consider taking a supplement to help increase your daily intake.
B12 is known to positively affect the brain and nervous system by:
- Promoting normal nerve growth and development
- Boosting memory function
- Providing mental and emotional energy
- Helping concentration
- Improving nerve cell communication
- Balancing mood
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These have been shown to improve the symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Research leads us to believe that consuming too many inflammatory foods is associated with increased rates of both depression and anxiety. Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of these conditions, yet they’re nearly absent in the typical American diet.
You can increase your omega-3 intake by eating fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, among these other healthy foods:
- Brussels sprouts
- Flax and chia seeds
- Spinach and other vegetables
Probiotics: A recent study published in Psychiatric Research reports that fermented foods, which are rich in probiotics, may reduce neurotic symptoms closely related to anxiety. More studies need to be conducted, but the following probiotic-rich foods could help reduce your general feelings of angst by making your digestive tract stronger, resulting in higher nutrient absorption:
- Pickled vegetables
As you can see, foods that can help reduce or eliminate your anxiety are also generally good for your overall health. Now let’s go over some other health related-tips that may help with your anxiety.
Maintain Your Blood Sugar Levels
One cause of occasional anxiety could be related to inconsistent blood sugar levels. When you skip meals or eat simple carbohydrates such as cake, candy, and other forms of refined sugars, your blood sugar levels will crash. A drop in blood sugar makes a lot of people jittery, possibly even anxious. So don’t skip any meals and try to eat healthy snacks in between regular meals.
Magnesium and vitamin B12 might also help your metabolism by more efficiently turning food into energy, leading to controlled blood sugar levels.
Foods to Avoid
Now that you know what foods to add to your anti-anxiety nutrition plan, let’s take a look at foods you should reduce or avoid altogether. It’s pretty easy. Again, you should be eating most of the foods listed above anyway—but you may need to eat more of them to help with symptoms of anxiety.
Processed foods, simple carbohydrates, caffeine, and alcohol can all contribute to your anxious feelings, and you should remove them from your nutrition plan as much as possible. In addition to overstimulating the nervous and endocrine systems, these foods are empty of nutrients. Your nervous system can be reacting to malnutrition, or the lack of nutrients required for maintaining calm, balanced function.
Reducing caffeine might be a tough pill to swallow, but there are lots of tasty alternatives out there, including herbal tea and decaffeinate coffee. If you can’t kick the habit, try espresso. Since you typically only drink a small amount of espresso, your daily indulgence will equal out to less caffeine.
Processed food is another big one to avoid. Of course, most of us know all too well that it’s unavoidable now and then. When you do inevitably reach for processed food, remember these simple ways to upgrade your nutrition:
- Read the labels
- Avoid unrecognizable ingredients
- Look for short ingredient lists
- Look for ingredients that grow in nature
Anxiety feels horrible. If you find it controlling or limiting your life, it’s definitely time to talk to your practitioner. But if you feel only occasional symptoms of anxiety and want to find ways to minimize it without medication, this anti-anxiety nutrition plan is for you. Stock up on foods that are rich in healthy vitamins and minerals, avoid the bad stuff, and don’t beat yourself up over the occasional indulgence. And one more thing—know when it’s time to see your holistic practitioner.
Image from iStock/SIphotography.