Anxiety is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting 1 in 13 people in Ireland. It differs from fear in that, while fear is a rational response to a real danger, anxiety usually lacks a clear or realistic cause. Feeling anxious occasionally is normal – people may feel anxious coming up to exams, before getting married or at work sometimes. Though some anxiety is normal and even healthy, higher levels of anxiety are not only uncomfortable but can lead to significant problems.
While anxiety is a disorder in its own right, stress or prolonged stress can be the trigger for the anxiety. Its very difficult to pinpoint the reason one develops anxiety – it may be a death in a family, financial worry, being in an unhappy environment. Whatever the cause, implementing dietary factors that manage stress is useful in reducing the severity of anxiety. Be sure to talk to your doctor if your anxiety symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks.
In addition to healthy guidelines such as eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine, there are many other dietary considerations that can help relieve anxiety. For example, complex carbohydrates are metabolised more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling. A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is a healthier option than eating a lot of simple carbohydrates found in processed foods. Research found that people who eat a diet high in processed foods 58% more chance of suffering with depression than those eating a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables and fish.
A recent study by Hillimire et al (2015) in the journal Psychiatry Research suggested a link between probiotic foods and a lowering of social anxiety. Eating probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir was linked with fewer symptoms.
Studies show that the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA found in oily fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, tuna and herring) can be uplifting and enhance your mood. The higher your levels of omega-3, the higher your level of serotonin will be. The reason for this is that omega-3 fats help build the brain’s receptor sites for serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. Surprisingly, a massive 89% of Irish people are not consuming sufficient oily fish in their diet, so often there is a need to take a good quality omega-3 fish oil such as Eskimo-3.
Other aspects worth considering are exercise, relaxation techniques and meditation. Exercise increases endorphins, such as serotonin, which may improve mood and improve sleep quality, which in turn reduces stress. It is important to exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week at a minimum. Find something you enjoy and Just Do It! Some people find relaxation techniques such as yoga or pilates useful in managing symptoms. Mindfulness meditation is being used more and more as an antidote for anxiety. Louise Hay and Abraham Hicks are two people offering a wide range of great guided meditations online.
Food Supplements to help manage Anxiety:
- Eskimo-3: Over the past few years, scientists have started to look at omega-3’s potential to help in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Interestingly, liu et al (2013) showed the people with anxiety had lower levels of omega-3 EPA and DHA compared with those without anxiety symptoms. Just last month, researchers released the results of a systemic review and meta analysis which questioned whether omega-3 treatment resulted in an improvement in anxiety symptoms. Kuan-Pin et al (2018) took data from 19 clinical trials including a total of 1,203 participants. Their findings were published in the JAMA Network Open journal. After analysis, their findings supported their initial theory, which saw a significant reduction in anxiety in the groups treated with omega-3s compared with the placebo groups.
- L-Theanine and Lemon Balm: L-Theanine is an amino acid which is present in green tea. It can trigger the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA in the brain, which activates the major calming neurotransmitters, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. Lemon balm offers similar benefits in that it can induce a sense of calm, reducing stress and anxiety, but interestingly research shows that it does not decrease accuracy.
- Magnesium: Many studies have shown that a deficiency in magnesium contributes to several mental health problems, including anxiety. Magnesium is a calming and relaxing mineral. It regulates the nervous system and may help you cope with stress so as to prevent anxiety, fear, nervousness, restlessness and irritability. Mag365 is available in a variety of flavours.
- Probiotic: The gut-brain axis is also very important, since a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut. Research is examining the potential of probiotics for treating both anxiety and depression.
- Multi Vitamin/Mineral Formula: A good multi-vitamin mineral supplement could help safeguard your health. If you are deficient in any one vitamin or mineral, this could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms. By taking a good multi, you can correct all deficiencies, and hopefully positively affect your health.
Drop into your local Health Food Store or Pharmacy for more information.