About four years ago, I experienced the worst anxiety levels of my life. I wasn't able to concentrate, focus, or even sleep. It was scary, exhausting and lonely. I didn't know what to do, but I thought going to the doctor would be the smartest first step, so that's what I did. Within 15 minutes, I walked out of the office with a prescription (the first of many) in my hand. No further discussion on lifestyle or personal habits.
That visit was the beginning of many, but during all of my traditional visits to the doctor the only tools offered were medication and a referral to a therapist (one that was in the network - not one who specialized in what I needed). At the time, I thought those were my only tools available, but I was wrong. There's many more and one of my favorites is using food as a way to help manage my stress and anxiety levels. I want to stress that I believe that medication and therapy are both wonderful tools too, but I always like to address my health holistically and that's why I love including diet as part of the solution.
Research has shown that there are four key nutrients to include in your diet to help maintain healthy levels of stress and anxiety:
Magnesium: Science has proven that by having sufficient levels of magnesium the body is able to regulate neurotransmitters (best described as lifelines of brain. They are responsible for carrying chemical messages to and from brain. Neurotransmitters are responsible for various cognitive processes and they control your pain response.) naturally and is often used as a natural treatment for anxiety. Examples of magnesium include: Eggs, milk, low-fat yogurt, banana, fish, soybeans, avocado, dark chocolate, dark leafy greens, and almonds.
Vitamin B6: panic attacks have been scientifically linked to low levels of the vitamin B6. Furthermore, research has proven the more B6 that is consumed through diet the less likely women are to experience anxiety. Examples of Vitamin B6: salmon, chicken breast, lean pork chops, beef, sweet potatoes, bananas, potatoes, avocado and pistachios.
Iron: a deficiency in iron is a well-known trigger for anxiety. This is important to be aware of, because it's the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Examples of Iron: Shellfish, spinach, liver and organ meats, legumes, beans, red meat, and pumpkin seeds.
Fiber: has two main benefits when it comes to supporting healthy anxiety levels. One, it's known to feed gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids that appear to decrease anxiety and also helps balance blood sugar which reduces anxiety symptoms. Examples of Fiber: berries, avocados, popcorn, whole grains, apples, dried fruits, potatoes, and nuts.
Be thoughtful of when you eat. If you wait too long to eat and let your blood sugar plummet you can experience increased levels of anxiety.
Hydration is another key element to keeping healthy levels of stress and anxiety. Research shows that when the body is dehydrated -even just half a liter- it can increase your cortisol levels "the fight or flight levels," which will increase your anxiety.
Nutrition can have so many powerful impacts on our bodies. The old saying is true, "we are what we eat." I hope that this was helpful and I encourage everyone to try and incorporate more of these foods into your diet. Not only will they support healthy levels of stress and anxiety, they will also support a general healthy lifestyle.
Blessings to you and your family,