Feeling Anxious? 5 Nutrients to De-Stress and How to Get Them

Tuesday September 8, 2020

By Melissa Gellert

Heart pounding. Breathing fast. Chest tight. Feeling lightheaded. Sweaty palms. All are physical symptoms of anxiety, something everyone is dealing with a lot more of these days. Adding onto the already increased anxiety and depression that many of us in the LGBTQ community face, now we have a pandemic (not to mention, um, everything else).

Whether you're already being treated by a professional or dealing with these issues for the first time, studies are showing that nutritional deficiencies can contribute to mental health issues. A multi-faceted approach may be the way of the future. Besides working with a mental health professional and/or taking prescription medication, these five nutrients can help your body deal with anxiety. The good news is that you can get them through food choices or easily-accessible supplements.

Magnesium helps with stress, mental and muscle performance, and sleep. Stress depletes the body of magnesium, anxiety is a form of stress, and low-magnesium levels may lead to increased anxiety. It's a vicious cycle! Likely, you're not getting enough magnesium through your diet. Most crop soil is depleted of minerals, so even when eating organic foods, a deficiency may be present.

Pumpkin seeds, spinach, and swiss chard are good food sources of magnesium. Try sautéed greens with garlic and toasted pepitas to boost your magnesium intake. 400 mg per day is the recommended daily intake.

I recommend ConcenTrace Mineral Drops, a liquid form of trace minerals you can add to your water bottle. Start slowly (10 drops/day), as magnesium may lead to stomach issues. Glycinate or malate forms are also well absorbed.

Take a bath!
Another way to get more magnesium is from taking regular Epsom salt baths, available at nearly every drug store.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Cellular inflammation in the brain is known to be a contributing factor in anxiety and depression. Studies show that Omega 3s, in particular, have an anti-inflammatory effect and help to reduce anxiety and depression. They also tend to be the variety people need to focus on consuming the most since the standard American diet is mostly deficient in Omega 3s.

Consuming certain fats can also help stave off sugar and starch cravings, which is especially helpful when treating adrenal fatigue, a factor in people with chronic stress and anxiety.

Salmon, mackerel, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax.

Vital Choice Salmon Oil, 1000 mg capsules. Start with 1,000 and supplement up to 3,000 mg a day, if needed.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps prevent the excessive activity of free radicals, is required to produce collagen (the framework of our skin and bones), and is necessary to make certain neurotransmitters, which carry thoughts, feelings, and commands around our brains and bodies.

Vitamin C is also integral to produce serotonin, which plays a huge part in our moods, sleep-wake cycle, and experiences of stress.

Papaya, red bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are excellent sources, as well as citrus fruits, but it starts to degrade as soon as the food is picked.

Stress depletes Vitamin C. It also needs to be continually replenished since our bodies cannot store it. Supplementation may help achieve adequate amounts. My favorite Vitamin C supplement is from Paleo Valley and is made from food sources, not lab-created ascorbic acid. Everyone needs different amounts of Vitamin C, so some experimentation might be needed. (Note: smokers need more.)

B Vitamins (especially B5)
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), known as the anti-stress vitamin, is one of the most important B vitamins, especially for adrenal function, because it helps stimulate the ability of adrenal cells, which produce anti-stress hormones It helps calm the nervous system, battle chronic stress, control appetite, energy, and mood.

Mushroom, meat, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, asparagus, whole grains, and egg yolks are all good food sources of pantothenic acid. Because it's found in a lot of foods, B5 deficiency is relatively uncommon under normal circumstances, and increasing your levels of B5 consumption in periods of heightened anxiety shouldn't provide a challenge.

Zinc is another mineral, like magnesium and calcium, that is depleted by stress.

Studies show that zinc is low in people with clinical depression, and also that zinc supplementation increases the effectiveness of prescription anti-depressants.

Beef, lamb, oysters, and asparagus are excellent sources of zinc. Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and lentils are also good sources, but zinc from plants can be problematic due to the presence of phytates, which can interfere with the absorption of zinc and other micronutrients. Soaking and sprouting grains and legumes help neutralize some of the phytates.

Zinc also plays a huge part in the immune system, and there is research being done on its effectiveness around COVID-19 protection. Zinc needs to be balanced by copper, so supplementation can be tricky and should be done with the help of a nutritional consultant, dietician, or medical professional.

If you'd like to track your intake of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), a food tracker like Cronometer may be helpful. It even shows the balances between nutrients like zinc and copper that need to be in specific ratios. Just a heads up that food tracking can be triggering for people with a history of disordered eating. So, if tracking gives you more anxiety, just forget it and nourish yourself by focusing on the delicious things you can make with these anti-anxiety foods!

EDGE Reader Exclusive: Want to learn more? CLICK HERE to schedule a free introductory consultation with Melissa.

Recommendations and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

Melissa Gellert (she/her) is a New York City-based private chef and nutritional consultant. To learn more about her services click here.

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