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Nutrition for Anxiety

An Overview of Anxiety

Anxiety, depression, seasonal affectionate disorder are common mental health problems that many of us suffer from throughout our daily lives. Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress, putting us in a constant state of fight and flight mode. When we are in fight-or flight we are responding to acute stress, our bodies react and stimulate a set of hormones that allow us to deal with the threat or run away. Hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are activated when anxious, creating symptoms such as rapid heart rate and breathing, pale or flushed skin, dilated pupils, trembling and sweating. If we are in a situation of acute stress, for example running away from danger, or under attack, we require our bodies to react in this way for survival. It is the constant stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system that is detrimental to our health, making us much more likely to experience anxiety, stress and depression over longer periods of time.

Nutrition for Anxiety

Our diets can affect the health of our nervous system. What we eat and lifestyle behaviours can play an important role in preventing anxiety and help to reduce the severity of symptoms. Continuous research is pointing towards the profound connection of our GUT’s and brain (The Gut-Brain Axis), suggesting that our digestive health could play a role in supporting our nervous system. Serotonin 5-HTP is a neurotransmitter located within our digestive system and is also present within our brains. Serotonin is responsible for making us happy, improving our moods and controlling our bowel movements. Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan; an amino acid that is consumed through dietary sources. If we suffer with poor digestive health, or our serotonin levels are low, or we aren’t consuming enough essential amino acids such as tryptophan we have a greater likelihood of suffering with anxiety.

GUT Health and Anxiety

In order to optimise our digestive health, we can try to include some of the following in our diets, which in turn will be beneficial to support our nervous system:

Fermented Foods- Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kefir and Kombucha

Fibre-rich foods such as wholegrains, cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables, legumes and pulses are essential to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

Tryptophan Rich Foods- Turkey, nuts, seeds, red meat, salmon, eggs and milk

Plant-Based Diversity- is a great way to support the gut microbiome. A diverse intake of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes will feed the gut microbiome.

Additional Nutrients for Anxiety

These additional nutrients have further been identified as key nutrients to support nervous system health and anxiety.

Omega-3- are essential fatty acids (PUFA’s) that are rich in brain membranes. A lack of omega-3 has been found to be present in people suffering with anxiety. Omega-3 sources are salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts *

Antioxidants- reduce free-radical damage. Anxiety and depression disorders have been linked to lower levels of antioxidants. Antioxidant rich foods such as berries, green leafy vegetables, turmeric, dark chocolate, red and purple coloured foods, beans, beetroots and spinach are great additions to an anti-anxiety diet.

Magnesium- is a mineral that is a nervous system relaxant, regulating neurotransmitter function and nerve signalling. Magnesium rich foods are dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, tofu, seeds, wholegrains, dark green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin B12- Studies have suggested that people with low levels of B vitamins may have a greater likelihood of suffering with anxiety and depression. B12 Is found in animal based products such as milk, cheese, eggs, red meat and fish.

*Based upon current studies and trials, continuous research is being undertaken to prove and determine its efficacy.


This article provides an overview of some of the key nutrients we can increase to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Nutrition has a fundamental role in supporting nervous system health with research suggesting a strong correlation between our GUT health and brain. Try to increase a variety of nutrients into your diet if you are suffering with anxiety, paying particular attention to some of the above. Please always contact a medical health professional or seek nutritional advice if you are struggling with your symptoms or require further information.