Modern psychiatry and psychology often miss the biological and nutritional basis of mental health. What does that mean? It means that every time an anxious individual is prescribed a benzodiazepine or other potentially damaging medication, the possibility exists that the underlying nutritional problem will remain unresolved and buried beneath the tranquilizing effects of the medication. In this article, we will present a number of different potential nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to the formation or intensification of anxiety symptoms and possible avenues for correcting them. Instead of giving you a grab bag of different things not to eat or to eat, we will examine the scientific basis for specific food inclusion or exclusion in your diet. Without further ado, let’s begin.
One of the most fundamental building blocks of life itself is also one of the greatest supplements for the maintenance and improvement of psychological health. H2O performs a huge number of important biological functions all throughout your body, including your brain. In 2011, the British Journal of Nutrition published a study entitled “Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men.” Here is what the scientists discovered:
Dehydration degraded specific aspects of cognitive performance: errors increased on visual vigilance (P = 0·048) and visual working memory response latency slowed (P = 0·021). Fatigue and tension/anxiety increased due to dehydration at rest (P = 0·040 and 0·029) and fatigue during exercise (P = 0·026). Plasma osmolality increased due to dehydration (P < 0·001) but resting gastrointestinal temperature was not altered (P = 0·238). In conclusion, mild dehydration without hyperthermia in men induced adverse changes in vigilance and working memory, and increased tension/anxiety and fatigue.
To wit, even mild dehydration can result in the formation of anxiety symptoms. Thus, you need to drink lots of water. The recommended water intake amount for healthy adults is around 2 to 3 liters per day.
(Editor’s note: Drinking the water that comes out of your tap probably isn’t the best idea due to the chemical cocktail the purification plants mix into it. I personally use a Berkey Water Filter. They work well, and the water tastes great. Check them out if you’re looking for clean and tasty water.)
Exclude: Excessive Caffeine Consumption
Everyone knows that caffeine can make you jittery. What’s more, consuming caffeine in large quantities can significantly increase the prevalence and degree of anxiety symptoms. A study conducted on rats by Banaras Hindu University discovered a number of different mechanics for caffeine-based anxiogenesis:
The investigations support clinical evidence of caffeine-induced anxiety, tolerance to anxiety on continued use, and withdrawal anxiety in chronic caffeine-containing beverage users.
Cutting caffeine out of your diet is like withdrawing from any other kind of drug. It is important to follow a dedicated caffeine withdrawal plan. You can also use a natural dietary supplement to make this process a lot easier. We recommend The #1 Remedy for Quitting Caffeine: QUIT CAFF.
As we have covered before, magnesium is an essential mineral in any diet. A number of foods are rich in magnesium (and also quite tasty). Here is a short list of them:
- Wild Salmon
- Spinach & Kale
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
Be sure to include a few of these items on your next trip to the grocery store. Your brain and mind will thank you.
Exclude: Too Much Sugar
Similar reasons exist for excluding moderate-to-large quantities of sugar from your diet as there are for excluding caffeine. Too much sugar makes you jittery, unfocused, and can worsen existing anxiety symptoms. A couple of scientific studies have concluded that a high intake volume of simple sugars caused anxiety in rats. When the rats were subjected to a high sugar “binge” diet and then deprived of food, they experienced anxiety. A second study resulted in similar findings as the former.
Of course, there is a silver lining to every cloud. The latter study also found that honey could potentially reduce anxiety and improve mental performance in the long term.
Include: B Vitamins
B vitamins (Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Pyridoxine, Biotin, Folic Acid, and Cobalamin, collectively known as a B vitamin complex) are essential for cellular metabolism. There are 8 distinct kinds of B vitamins that each perform a specific biological function. Consequently, there exists a direct link between B vitamin deficiencies and corresponding mental health issues. Generally, unprocessed foods, especially bananas, whole grains, and potatoes, contain large quantities of all the different B vitamins.
Dietary supplements can also provide the necessary B vitamin intake. Here is a well-regarded product which does not contain any kind of artificial sweeteners or colors.
Exclude: Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Drinking a beer or a glass of wine definitely takes the edge off a hard day. But, abusing alcohol will likely lead to a plethora of different mental health problems, including anxiety. As with all things, moderation is the key.
Include: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Studies have shown that diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are significantly less prone to neurological and psychological health problems, including anxiety and depression. Here are a few different excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids:
- Fish: Salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring
- Pasture-raised beef
- Milk from grass-fed animals
- Eggs from grass-fed hens
- Flax (flax seed oil)
- Black beans
What other foods and nutrients have you found to be effective in treating anxiety symptoms? Leave us a note below.