Anxiety is a common mental health concern in our society, occurring on its own or in combination with other conditions such as depression. 3.2 million Australians (13.1%) had an anxiety-related condition in 2017-2018, with rates increasing among younger age groups.. Along with unpleasant feelings of uneasiness, fear, or worry, individuals who experience anxiety may also develop fatigue, headaches, muscle tension and racing thoughts. Our mood is tied to several factors such as diet, blood sugar balance, gut health, stress levels and more. Let’s explore 3 key nutrients that can support individuals who experience anxiety.
Researchers have revealed that a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids correlates with an increased rate of anxiety.. In a systematic review and meta-analysis which included participants from 11 countries, treatment with omega-3 fatty acids led to an improvement in anxiety symptoms. Omega-3s may support the brain through their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Since the body cannot make these essential fatty acids, they must be obtained through diet and/or supplementation. Rich sources of omega-3s include cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, halibut and anchovies, as well as plant-sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
Did you know your gut is also known as your “second brain”? Gut bacteria, or microbiota, transmit information to your head brain through the vagus nerve. An imbalance in the microbiota can impact brain function. It has been found that specific strains of probiotics, along with prebiotics, can influence the bacteria-brain connection and influence mood.. These so-called ‘psychobiotics’ can help alleviate anxiety by supporting the gut-brain axis, influencing neurotransmitters such as GABA and lowering stress hormones. Eating processed foods and sugar will destroy your healthy bacteria, so limit the intake of these foods, and consume fermented foods and/or take a probiotic supplement to optimize your gut bacteria.
Magnesium is a necessary mineral that plays an important role in several biochemical reactions in the body, however, it is often deficient in modern diets. In humans, there appears to be a relationship between magnesium status and anxiety (5). Anxiety-related to stress may lead to a reduction in magnesium levels, while decreased magnesium intake may be associated with subjective anxiety in adults. Due to its role in regulating the stress response, increasing magnesium intake either through diet and/or supplementation may play a role in benefiting mild anxiety. Key food sources of magnesium include whole grains, beans, leafy green vegetables and nuts.
In addition to these key nutrients, appropriate sleep, consistent physical activity, and positive social support are important in supporting overall mood. Speak to your health care provider to determine your best preventative and treatment options.
This article was by Naturopathic Doctor and Whole Earth & sea expert Stephanie Rubino.