By: Ilona Napravnik CNP
Adrenalin is a very powerful stress hormone and it can be very beneficial. It is the reason why we have the speedy reflexes and strength to leap out of the way when we step in front of a speeding car or the sheer power to lift a heavy object when our child is trapped underneath.
But when the adrenals become unbalanced, it leads to anxiety. Common symptoms of anxiety are constant fear, frustration, irritability and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Anxiety can be quite debilitating and when extreme can lead to physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and digestive disturbances. This is what is referred to as the fight or flight response that causes nervous exhaustion and leads to depression. In this reaction, the body is completely focused on the source of the stress and shuts down the energy production for all non-essential bodily reactions, such as digestion and fertility.
If symptoms of anxiety are bothersome and affect your daily activities, it is imperative to remove all substances that are stimulatory in nature, ie. alcohol, caffeine, processed foods and most important of all sugar and refined grains. Sugars, whether in pure form or in refined grains, can cause a thiamin (B1) deficiency. Thiamin deficiency mimics symptoms of anxiety and can make the condition appear much worse than it is.
Nutritionally, the best options for minimizing anxiety symptoms are foods with B vitamins and magnesium. Of particular importance is:
Thiamin (B1) - This vitamin is important in energy production and for the proper maintenance of nerve and muscles. As such thiamin is beneficial for the heart muscle. Good sources of thiamin are asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, sunflower seeds, tuna and Brussels sprouts.
Niacin (B3) – Niacin is also important for energy conversion; it is the nutrient responsible for converting proteins, fats and carbohydrates into usable energy. Deficiency in this very important nutrient has been linked to depression and anxiety. Good sources of niacin are crimini mushrooms, tuna, salmon, chicken breasts and asparagus.
Vitamin B6 – B6 is an incredibly important nutrient for digestion and it is necessary for many functions which converts sugars and starches into energy. B6 is also important for the nervous system and supports many necessary activities, of particular importance is avoiding feelings of depression and anxiety. Good sources of B6 are bell peppers, spinach and tuna.
Vitamin B12 – vitamin B12 is an excellent blood builder and cell enhancer, particularly red blood cells and nerve cells. It is also helpful in metabolizing proteins, fats and carbohydrates and thereby converting foods to energy. Even more telling are the signs of deficiency; heart palpitation, nervousness and depression. Good sources of Vitamin B12 are sardines, snapper, beef and shrimp. There are no vegetarian sources of B12, vegetarians need to supplement this vitamin.
All B vitamins and B vitamin derivatives (Biotin, Folic Acid and Riboflavin) are important for the maintenance and development of the nervous system and should be consumed to avoid symptoms of anxiety.
Magnesium – This nutrient is the most important single nutrient recommended for relaxation. If the anxiety you feel affects your sleep or causes insomnia, this nutrient is a must. In addition to it’s relaxation properties, it aids in the smooth functioning of the blood stream which will provide nutrients throughout the body. Good sources of magnesium are raw pumpkin seeds, boiled spinach and swiss chard (avoid excess cooking as this will degrade the magnesium content). For extreme cases of anxiety, nervousness and insomnia, supplement with magnesium in repeated doses throughout the day to retain the nutrient in the blood stream.
And lastly, relaxation techniques have been shown to be very beneficial in anxiety, as adherence to relaxation exercises alter brain waves in the devotee.
The most common relaxation techniques are yoga and meditation, both have CD’s and DVD’s readily available if you are weary of attending a class. The benefits of meditation are evident in as little as 15 minutes per day.
To enjoy anxiety-free good health eat a tuna, asparagus and spinach salad and participate in a daily relaxation program. Your effort will be well rewarded with good sleep and serenity.
**Sources of vitamins were found @ www.whfoods.org**