The often overlooked nutritional treatment for improved mental health
Nutrition May Trump Other Forms of Self Help
I personally stopped having feelings of anxiety almost completely when I changed my diet. Changing my diet not only helped my chronic pain problems, but it changed my personality as well. I went from being something of a worrier type to being a fairly laid back type of person. For years I used to buy a wide variety of self help print and aido books on how to be more relaxed. The books and tapes did seem to help a bit, but I still often had feelings of vague nervousness, often with no apparent cause. What I didn't know for many years is that I was nervous because I had nutritional deficiencies that caused my body to make too much adrenaline, causing me to have the "fight or flight" response turned on at inappropriate times.
I actually never sought out an "anxiety diet". What happened was that I tried different diets to help my fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain problems, and along the way my mental health improved as my my physical problems subsided. I think a big part of this was getting more magnesium into my diet, but I suspect that improving my diet in general, raising my cholesterol levels and getting more of the many magnesium cofactors all helped a bit. In the book, Nutrition Against Disease, author Dr. Roger J, Williams points out that like all other living cells, brain cells often receive less than perfect nutrition. He goes on to observe that brain cells get nutrition from blood, which in turn gets its nutrients from the food we eat each day.
lack of magnesium can cause electrical
Many conventional medical experts treat people based on the assumption that if they just eat a regular diet, they are unlikely to be short on any vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, this line of thinking doesn't match with what happens in the real world. A recent Gallop poll found that 80% of American do not get the RDA for magnesium from their diets. If you put this together with research at the USDA's Grand Forks Human Nutrition Center that show that a lack of magnesium can actually cause changes in the electrical activity of the brain, then a logical conclusion is that a large percent of the people in the U.S. may have suboptimal brain function due to a lack of magnesium alone, not even considering the many other nutrients the brain needs for optimal functioning.
Diet Changes I Found Helpful
The diet tips that helped my anxiety are listed below. Most of the diet changes I made that helped my anxiety are described in my section on fibromyalgia diet, so I won't detail them again here except for a few of the major highlights.
Here is the short version of my foods to reduce anxiety.
1. Cutting back on coffee
- In the morning I usually have a cup of organic coffee. I make
it 75% decaf and 25% caffeinated. It is much better for my sleep and
anxiety levels if I don't have any at all, but a little coffee seems
to give my brain a nice little morning jolt. The downside is that
coffee and other substances with caffeine can deplete the body of
magnesium. I know even one full cup of regular coffee can cause me
to get more edgy, have my muscles tense up and not sleep as well at
2. I've noticed that excessive
amounts of low fat dairy products can bring on bouts of anxiety for
no apparent reason for me if I have a lot each day. I'm not entirely
sure why, but I have a couple of theories. I think it is partly because
calcium can be an antagonist for magnesium, so the high levels in
the dairy products may be throwing off my magnesium levels, which
keeps my adrenaline flowing too much. I also tend to get irritable
bowel syndrome if I have significant amounts of dairy, especially
cold milk. The IBS throws off my digestion and prevents my body from
properly absorbing all of the nutrients it needs to function properly,
causing biochemical anomalies that negatively impact my nervous system.
One of my relatives noticed he was getting anxious after using a blemish cream on his face that was high in salicylic acid. I suggested he try eating more greens, which have high amounts of vitamin K. He did have a salad and a green drink based on my suggestion, and started to feel less anxious after that. Green vegetables are low in calories, and high in many nutrients, including magnesium and vitamin K, so unless you have to be on a low vitamin K diet for medical reasons, they might be a good food to try to lift your spirits.
4. Not eating too many
acid forming foods. I've noticed
that when I eat a lot of acid forming foods, like pickles or yogurt,
I'll get more jittery and nervous. A recent study from researchers
in Germany found that an acid load in the body can cause a magnesium
deficiency. I suspect this is because magnesium is an alkaline mineral,
and one of the minerals the body utilizes to try to neutralize the
body fluids when they have too much of an acid balance. So when the
body is in an acidic state, a magnesium deficiency may result. Magnesium
is the mineral that relaxes muscles and turns off adrenaline, so when
it is in short supply, muscles stay tight, adrenaline levels are high
and an acid stomach may cause a feeling of nausea and acid indigestion.
4. One of my relatives who also suffered from anxiety issues said he felt better after eating walnuts (for omega-3 fatty acids) and taking a multivitamin, plus additional magnesium. A number of studies have linked anxiety, depression and a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, salmon, shrimp and winter squash. An extensive list can be found here.
5. I have noticed that on many occassions my anxiety levels coincide with my blood pressure going up. My doctor told me that he has patients come in who have no idea their blood pressure is dangerously high, but when my blood pressure rises about twenty points, I feel anxious, get headaches, feel tired and get chest pains. For the chest pains, yoga poses that loosen the chest muscles usually help. For the high blood pressure, foods that I have found especially helpful include bananas, peppermint tea, potatoes, broccoli and coconut water. When my blood pressure gets back to nromal, my stress and anxiety symptoms usually subside as well.
Related sections of interest:
Feeding Minds - the Impact of Food on Mental Health - A report co-authored by the Mental Health Association (UK). An exciting happening for me, because it means alternative health teachings about diet and nutrition are becoming mainstream.
British researchers believe that rising cases of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and ADD may be liked to a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables and a high consumption of processed foods which may be heavy in pesticides, harmful trans fats and additives.
A majority of the medical experts who created the "bible" for diagnosing mental illness have undisclosed financial links to drugmakers, says new study.
1. Williams, Roger John. Nutrition against Disease: Environmental Protection. [S.l.]: Bantam, 1980. Print.