The term—Watch what you eat!—is commonly in reference to weight gain and physical fitness, but what about in connection to the brain? Reality is, your diet has a direct affect on your brain and how it performs. While healthy foods promote beneficial reactions such as mental clarity and alertness, unhealthy foods can alter your mood, impair your thinking, and even trigger anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a typical reaction to stress. It’s normal to experience occasional anxiety, but if excessive, irrational dread seems overwhelming and constant, then you may have an anxiety disorder. This is a real, serious neurological condition that can disable, and disconnect, you from everyday life. Also, it’s common for those who have an anxiety disorder to struggle with depression.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults—18 percent of the population—in the United States every year.

Can anxiety be treated naturally?

The answer lies no further than your last meal. It’s true! A study conducted by researchers at McMaster University in 2017 reveals there is a link between the gut and the brain. Basically, any disturbance in the gut will sequentially affect the brain. This is also called the gut-brain axis. The harbor where bacteria—both good and bad—reside in the gut is known as the microbiome. When the harmful bacteria outnumber the good in the microbiome, then the results could be disastrous for your health.

Because of the gut-brain axis, problems in the gut could trigger mental disorders such as anxiety.

Most mental disorders are treated with prescription drugs, but these medicines come with negative side effects such as memory loss, subdued personality, weight gain, tremors and more. With such unpleasant reactions, why not treat the issue at the root cause? The stomach. It only stands to reason what started in the gut should be fixed through the gut. Nutrition is crucial to kick-start healing and to alleviate neurological disorder symptoms.

So can you really regulate anxiety with food?

In 2016, Clinical Nutrition Research published a study that revealed certain nutrients in the daily diet will have a positive impact on both the gut and brain, reducing anxiety and other mental disorders. Western diets usually lack fruits and vegetables that are a pivotal source of vitamins and minerals. Mineral Deficiencies can be corrected by an adjustment in the daily diet.  Eat your way out of depression and anxiety by selecting foods that contain:

    • Magnesium (leafy greens such as spinach, nuts and seeds, and Swiss chard)
    • Zinc (beef, liver, egg yolks, cashews, oysters)
    • Folate (asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts)
    • Vitamin B6 and B12 (avocados, almonds)
    • Probiotics (kefir, sauerkraut)
    • Vitamin D (tuna, mackerel, egg yolks)
    • Omega-3 (fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines)

In addition, BioMed Central published a study in 2008 indicating that supplements containing amino acids also reduce symptoms of neurological conditions, because they are converted to neurotransmitters that alleviate anxiety, depression and other mental disorders.

Just as there are foods to incorporate in the diet, there are also foods to avoid:

    • Coffee is the go-to beverage for most, but the high amount of caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased heart rate and sweaty palms. For those who are susceptible to anxiety, the effects of caffeine can prompt an attack.
    • Highly refined foods are also vital to resist. Foods such as corn bread, white rice, white bread, grits, flour and corn tortillas, candy, table sugar, cakes, and cookies, disturb the blood sugar levels, which could also leave one vulnerable to an anxiety attack.

Anxiety should be taken seriously and so should your diet. Consistency and dedication are the keys to success concerning your nutrition. Be diligent to keep your gut balanced by eating clean, nutrient-rich foods. Your physical and mental health depend on it! 

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Ronit Mor, ND

Ronit Mor, ND

Ronit Mor, ND, is the founder of My Wellbeing Compass and Mor Wellness Concepts. As a naturopath and a clinical aromatherapist, her greatest passion is educating, empowering and inspiring people on their path to regaining optimal vitality and wellbeing. She is also an author, regularly contributes articles to different publications, and is a local and an international speaker. Clients seeking her out for health and wellness are interested in increasing energy and vitality, improving chronic conditions, shedding excess weight, and slowing down/reversing aging indications. She guides them on matters pertaining to nutrition, detoxification, plant medicine, stress management, and a variety of alternative healing modalities.