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Are Nutritional Deficiencies Causing Your Anxiety?

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Human beings have the ability to think and plan for the future. With this ability comes anxiety- the worry about the future. Therefore, this ability should be controlled in order to reduce anxiety.  One way to do this is by taking the nutrients that studies indicate play a part in anxiety.

Supplements can also help but I am going to look into important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and other food-borne compounds that affect anxiety.

Magnesium: Magnesium plays a role in regulating anxiety, yet sadly, most of us do not take enough of it. Magnesium supplements help with subjective anxiety and with premenstrual syndrome.

Omega 3s: Studies in substance abusers have shown that supplementing with enough fish oil to increase serum to raise EPA (a long chain Omega 3 fatty acid) decreases anxiety while increasing DHA, reduces anger.

In healthy young adults, omega 3 supplementation (2 grams EPA and 350 grams DHA) reduces inflammation and anxiety. Additionally, decreasing the serum omega 6 and omega 3 ratio reduces anxiety. On the other hand, in early pregnancy, high level of DHA signifies low anxiety levels.

Choline: Low levels of choline in older adults lead to a high prevalence of anxiety while high levels appear protective. Animal studies have shown that choline supplementation during pregnancy decreases the chances of the child developing anxiety disorders. Egg yolks are the best source of choline. Liver is also a source of choline.

Carnosine: Carnosine plays the role of an antioxidant in the brain, trapping free radicals and decreasing inflammation. Oxidative stress is related to anxiety. A Carnosine supplement called chicken extract improves mood and reduces anxiety. It also increases recovery from stress-related tiredness. Carnosine is found in any meat.

Zinc: A deficiency in zinc is common in people with anxiety such as male Chinese and Americans. Oysters are the biggest source of zinc yet they are such anxious creatures even though they live in a shell. This irony could signify a kind of correlation.

According to a follow-up of anxious Americans, increasing zinc intake in people with its deficiency helps to reduce anxiety levels.

Selenium: A study carried in 1991 placed 50 Brits into two groups. One group was given 100 mcg selenium every day while the other received placebo. The diet of the subjects was used to estimate selenium intake. Those who had began with the lowest levels of selenium showed high levels of anxiety but 100 mcg of selenium each day decreased it.

Selenium can be easily obtained if you know where to find it. Brazil nuts, wild salmon, and pastured eggs are my favorite sources. A serving of one Brazil nut or two is enough if selenium is what you need.

Taurine: Taurine is an amino acid used to make GABA. GABA is a rest-and-relax neurotransmitter that prevents the activity of the excitatory glutamate. People experiencing anxiety will often have low levels of GABA. Anti-anxiety prescription meds such as Xanax and over the counter ones such as scotch on the rocks act on the brain’s GABA receptors.

The best sources of Taurine are animal foods, especially beef and lamb hearts. Lungs offer a higher Taurine content but they are harder to find and eat.

Antioxidant Compounds: Antioxidant compounds such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients are not formally considered as important. On the other hand, soylent, the best human food replacement powder does not contain these compounds. However, these antioxidant compounds are very important. These compounds have been in the human diet for a millennium. It is only in the last hundred years that processed, refined and industrial foods have led to the consumption of low or no phytonutrients diets.

Taking antioxidant compounds is a historical habit. Our bodies need them. They enhance our endogenous antioxidant defenses. They interrelate with gut bacteria to create better and more bioavailable antioxidant complexes. Additionally, they protect us from oxidative stress that leads to anxiety disorders.

Use Them Together: Zinc and magnesium offer better treatment against post-partum anxiety when used together. The same applies to vitamin B6 and magnesium. When used together, they offer better help in reducing PMS-related anxiety.

A lot of foods contain more than one nutrient that can help reduce anxiety. Here is a list of such foods:

  • Oysters contain zinc, omega-3s, Taurine, and selenium.
  • Liver contains zinc, Taurine, Carnosine, and choline.
  • Spinach contains magnesium and antioxidants.
  • Colorful plant foods contain a wide range of antioxidant compounds.

Therefore, the best way to reduce anxiety is through natural foods. It is easy to understand why 20 percent of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders; they eat less red meat, they avoid egg yolks, liver, and they never eat oysters. Most people only eat potatoes and corn as their only vegetables and hardly ever fatty fish.

Nutrient deficiencies are not everything when it comes to reducing anxiety. However, they are the kind of small changes that can make a huge impact in our lives. The nutrient deficiency angle is simply one way of dealing with anxiety.

I would like to hear what foods you have used to reduce anxiety.

By Daniel Norwood

Daniel Norwood is a fitness and CrossFit coach. Norwood can be reached at FitnessCrab.com where he teaches people how to achieve perfect form with body weight exercises such as weight lifting and rowing, as well as how to best utilize exercise machines like treadmills and rowers.

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