Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder. Stress and anxiety often occur together and when left untreated, chronic stress can increase your client’s risk for conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Stress and anxiety treatment can involve therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes with nutrition playing an important role in managing the condition by regulating neurotransmitters and blood sugar levels.
Key Nutrients for supporting Anxiety and Stress
Research shows that magnesium plays a role in migraines and depression. It can help with chronic pain and anxiety. Many people do not reach their daily recommended intake of magnesium through diet, which contributes to hypomagnesemia and increases anxiety-related behaviors.
Foods naturally rich in magnesium may help a person to feel calmer such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, legumes, bananas, and oats. These foods are also good sources of the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin in the body and may promote relaxation and anxiety relief.
Getting enough vitamin B6 through diet is an important way to support the body during stress and reduce anxiety. Women who consume more vitamin B6 are less likely to experience anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Vitamin B6 is also more effective when combined with magnesium in adults with severe stress.
Iron & Vitamin C
There are two types of iron found in foods: heme iron (from red meat and other animal products) and non-heme iron (from spinach, legumes, and dried fruit). High-quality protein sources typically contain more iron and produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which have the potential to improve mental health.
For better absorption of non-heme iron, I encourage my clients to pair it with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, tomatoes, or peppers at mealtime. These foods also have antioxidant properties that may help reduce inflammation and prevent damage to cells.
Fiber is an important nutrient to reduce anxiety. It helps to balance blood sugars and feeds gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids, which can decrease anxiety. I help clients to increase their fiber intake by including whole grains, legumes, seeds, and cruciferous vegetables on their meal plan.
Key Lifestyle Considerations for Stress & Anxiety
Physical activity lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases endorphins which improve mood. It activates parts of the brain which control our stress response and increases the availability of important anti-anxiety neurochemicals.
Exercise has also been shown to reduce inflammation and improve sleep quality which can improve physical and mental stress. I encourage my clients to participate in joyful movement to decrease muscle tension, lowering the body’s contribution to feeling anxious.
Even mild dehydration can affect your client's mood. However, helping them find the right types of fluid is important. Consuming large amounts of caffeine, either from coffee, caffeinated tea, or energy drinks can increase levels of anxiety and symptoms such as heart palpitations and jitteriness.
Beverage options that include chamomile and turmeric may help reduce anxiety. Chamomile and curcumin in turmeric, both contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help lower inflammation associated with anxiety.
Stress and anxiety may require a multitude of approaches to be managed effectively. Along with a balanced diet, exercise, and adequate sleep, your client will benefit from seeing a doctor or psychologist for talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. They may also be prescribed medications in some cases.
One simple way to support yourself after an anxiety episode is to focus on grounding as much as you can. That could be a gentle walk in nature, or a warm bath with lavender oil and magnesium, or massaging your feet before sleep. Also eating nourishing warm simple meals and showing yourself compassion.
Mostly importantly, be kind to yourself, when we are hard on ourselves after an anxiety attack we are only adding to our stress.
Recipe - Coconut Chia Seed Yogurt
1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Yogurt
1/4 cup Chia Seeds
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup Strawberries (chopped)
Combine the yogurt, chia seeds and cinnamon in a small blow. Mix well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to overnight.
Top with strawberries.
Leftovers - Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.
More Flavour - Add maple syrup, honey, or cardamom spice.
Additional toppings - Top with blueberries, sunflower seeds or chopped pecans.
In Good Health, Wellness, and Love,
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