If you’ve ever had a problem with anxiety, whether for a short term or of a more chronic nature, it might be some consolation to know that you are not alone. Anxiety is also often cited as a common accompaniment to the holidays, between preparing big meals, picking out and buying the ‘perfect’ gifts, and hosting a mob of houseguests in and around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Even thinking about it can stir some anxious thoughts.
Anxiety as a Mental Illness
Anxiety isn’t just a temporary annoyance that can be willed away, either. Anxiety disorders are classified as a form of mental illness. In fact, such conditions are statistically the most common form of mental illness in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, as cited at health.harvard.edu. About 40 million adults – or nearly 20 percent of the adult population in America – are beset with anxiety, which often goes hand in hand with depression.
Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder
Per medicalnewstoday.com, anyone who experiences anxiety symptoms for a duration of six months or more might have what’s known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The symptoms can be physical as well as psychological, and typically they might include:
- Tightness in the chest
- Muscle tension
- Excessive worry about everyday, even trivial things
- Rapid heart rate or palpitations
- Problems concentrating
- Problems with relationships
Research has shown that about two-thirds of those people suffering from an anxiety disorder don’t even bother seeking treatment from a health care professional – even when there are specific therapies and medications that have been shown to successfully target and relieve the onus of anxiety.
The Brain-Gut Connection
The problems linked to anxiety disorders might not be just in your head. Scientific research has shown a growing link between your brain and your gut – yes, that gut where the food you eat goes, is stored, and is then digested along the human disassembly line. “Researchers now refer to the gut as the second brain,” says health and nutrition expert Jodi Godfrey, quoted at psycom.net. “When essential nutrients are not sufficiently available, there is a direct effect on the production of neurotransmitters and brain chemistry that can increase or lessen anxiety-related behaviors.”
This is also referred to as the “gut-brain axis” at health.harvard.edu. It is pointed out that more than 90 percent of the serotonin receptors in your body are located in the lining of the gut, giving rise to a growing belief that probiotics could be effective for helping to treat anxiety as well as depression. The message is clear: if you have a persistent feeling of anxiety, don’t be skipping too many meals. Along with that, there is a right way to eat and a wrong way when it comes to anxiety disorders.
11 Nutrition Sources to Alleviate Anxiety
Many types of food have been found to be beneficial for people with anxiety disorders, or simply looking for protection against an onslaught of anxiety in the first place. One simple tip is drinking enough water daily to stay hydrated while avoiding alcohol and caffeine; that tradeoff goes a long way toward reducing the arrival of anxiety. Along with that, here are 11 foods to consider adding to your grocery cart – if they are not already in it. Note, too, that there are nutritional supplements that contain many, if not all, of the key ingredients listed below:
- Brazil nuts. These are high in selenium, per medicalnewstoday.com, which, by reducing mood-influencing inflammation in your body, might help dissipate anxiety symptoms.
- Eggs. As in a morning breakfast of scrambled eggs, perhaps? Eggs are not only an abundant source of protein; they also provide tryptophan. That’s an amino acid involved in the production of serotonin, which is a chemical neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, memory, and behavior, per medicalnewstoday.com.
- Turmeric. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It works to reduce anxiety by cutting down inflammation and oxidative stress that has been linked to mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, per medicalnewstoday.com.
- Berries. Think blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, for starters. They contain antioxidants, with studies indicating that a deficiency in antioxidants has been linked to anxiety, per health.harvard.edu.
- Asparagus. Maybe just the mention of its name can cause some anxiety in kids, but studies dating back about 50 years have suggested that a folate deficiency can be linked to anxiety and depression. Guess what? Asparagus is rich in folate (vitamin B9), and can help boost a mood and relieve anxiety, per psycom.net.
- Avocado. Here’s another “A” veggie with a strong B vitamin content. In this case, it’s vitamin B6, which assists your body in the production of some neurotransmitters, including the mood-boosting serotonin.
- Turkey. And just in time for Thanksgiving, too. Like eggs mentioned above, turkey contains tryptophan, which is the nutrient that makes you sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner, yet it also helps in the production of mood-boosting serotonin, per psycom.net.
- Yogurt. This is a classic example of a food loaded with probiotics, which we now know is conducive to improved gut health, and a healthy gut contributes to the battle against anxiety.
- Salmon. In fact, you can lump in all fatty fish with omega-3’s into this selection. The beneficial fats support a healthy brain-gut axis, meaning less anxiety, more happy faces.
- Zinc. More precisely, foods rich in zinc, which has been associated with reduced anxiety. Such foods can include oysters, cashew nuts, liver, beef, and egg yolks, per health.harvard.edu.
- Potassium. Foods rich in potassium, such as pumpkin seeds and bananas, might help diminish stress and anxiety symptoms, per medicalnewstoday.com.