Her formal diagnosis was generalized anxiety disorder. She rated her anxiety an 8/10. Her diet was the typical standard American diet of high carbohydrates and little fat. This included granola bars, bagels, orange juice, pasta, and constant snacking.
When switched to a high protein and higher fat diet her symptoms went to a 4/10 with higher energy, fewer stomach aches, and greater ability to concentrate. She reported that if she went back to her previous diet, her anxiety immediately returned.
3. Anxiety from Insulin Resistance
Every time you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose as your body digests them. Glucose is released into the bloodstream, causing a rise in blood sugar. The pancreas responds by releasing insulin to balance the spike in blood sugar. If blood sugar levels are too high, over time the cells stop responding to insulin. Excess blood sugar stays floating around doing all types of damage, especially to the brain.
Insulin resistance alters neurotransmitter production like dopamine and affects the way neurons fire in the brain and communication between brain cells (link).
A study done by the Joslin Diabetes Center found a direct link between the brain and behavioral disorders (link).
4. Nutrient Deficiencies and Anxiety
When someone’s experiencing chronic anxiety nutritional deficiencies aren’t the first thing that comes to mind, but they should be.
Our bodies need a specific amount of nutrients that work together in a sophisticated symphony with each other. Deficiencies or incorrect ratios of nutrients often manifest as anxiety-like symptoms.
Here are a few of them:
A mineral that supports 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and neurotransmitter activity. It’s closely tied to GABA production, and low levels contribute to anxiety.
It also plays a vital role in neurotransmitters and the central nervous system. Studies show that significantly low zinc levels can trigger anxiety (link). Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety (link).
3. Vitamin D
I talk a ton about how important sunlight is for mental health. Vitamin D is a hormone that’s connected to almost every system in the body. It plays a key role in anxiety and many other psychiatric disorders.
It’s estimated that up to 85% of us are not getting enough. That’s epidemic proportions, and a reason to be conscious about spending time in the sun.
Iron is found in every cell of the human body. Its role is to carry oxygen to different organs in the body, which is why low levels lead to tiredness and irritability. Iron is key in the synthesis of serotonin, which can lead to anxiety. People with anxiety disorders have significantly lower levels of iron (link).
5. Omega-3 fatty acids
Unfortunately, we’ve been told to fear fats and our brain have paid the price. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made by the body so they must be found in food. The brain is primarily made up of fat and needs omega-3’s for cognitive function and nervous system function. People with the most severe anxiety have the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids (link).
5. Microbiome Imbalance
Our entire GI tract is filled with tiny microbes. We have more bacteria than human genes. Our microbiome is a blueprint that’s unique to us. It’s been influenced since birth by our mother, how we were born, and if we were breastfed. It continues to change throughout life.
As adults diet, sleep, and stress all influence our microbiome.
70% of neurotransmitters like serotonin are made in the gut then sent through to the brain via the gut-brain axis. Our gut-brain axis is a 2-way communication center between the gut and the brain. These microbes determine not only our overall health but our thoughts and mood.
When we have an imbalance of microbes meaning more ‘bad’ microbes than ‘good’ ones, all types of psychiatric disorders can happen from anxiety to depression, and mood disorders.