5 Steps to Combat Anxiety + 4 Supplements for Added Relief
May 31, 20235 min read
The last couple of years have shown an uptick in extremely high levels of anxiety. For those who already struggled with anxiety prior to the pandemic’s start in 2020, it can feel unbearable at times, even now. We’re juggling many responsibilities at once while also trying to take care of our own health and the wellbeing of those who depend on us. It’s a lot!
The nutritionists and dietitians at our sister company, Nutritional Weight & Wellness, are always teaching how food and nutrient habits can help combat this anxiety. Foods can support the nervous system while some foods ADD to the stress. Many don’t understand that anxiety also has a negative effect on our immune systems, sleep, and our overall resiliency. Keep reading to learn nutrition-focused tips on reducing stress and anxiety with some key supplements for support.
Five Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Naturally
Eat Enough Protein at Breakfast: Breakfast is important (you knew that) and each breakfast should contain 3-4 ounces of protein. Animal protein is the building block for the production of all neurotransmitters (our “feel good” brain chemicals).We’d suggest a couple of eggs or adding a scoop of protein powder to a morning protein shake or having ½ to ¾ cup of 4% full fat cottage cheese with some berries. All of these breakfast ideas will supply the raw materials that your body needs to make your dopamine and serotonin, which help to support good brain function. The Happiness Diet, authors Dr. Drew Ramsey and Tyler Graham shared a study finding that elderly adults with the highest rates of anxiety had the lowest levels of the nutrient choline. Guess where choline is found … eggs and fish. That egg breakfast above is sounding even better, right?
Eat (At Least) Four Meals a Day:Each meal and snack should include animal protein, vegetables or fruit and natural, beneficial fats and oils. Eating all of these will help support your nervous system and your immune function. We’ve found the number one reason for anxiety is low blood sugar because low blood sugar levels can actually put the body into a stress response. The best way to keep your blood sugar stable is to eat in balance every 2½ to 3 hours and avoid eating sugar and processed foods as they cause blood sugar to rollercoaster. As a teen, nutritionist Kara Carper described skipping meals in her hectic schedule, or grabbing a cereal bar or bagel on the way out the door. She vividly remembers the cereal bar (over four teaspoons of sugar in one small bar!), bagel (breaks down into sugar in your body) or a high sugar coffee drink would make her blood sugar spike high and then about two hours later the crash would come, and she’d feel an anxiety attack coming on. Does this routine sound familiar to you? A simple solution is to eat breakfast (are you sensing a theme here?) that will balance your blood sugar. See the delicious ideas in step one to get inspired.
Eat Enough Green Vegetables:To reduce anxiety, it is important to supplement the brain with nutrients from a variety of foods. Salad greens are a good way to get some of those key brain nutrients; beet greens, romaine lettuce, arugula and kale are all nutrient dense foods. Just one cup of arugula contains most of our daily requirement for folate, vitamin K, calcium, fiber and beta carotene; amazing. Generally speaking, the darker the leaf, the better because darker leaves actually contain more magnesium, and magnesium eases our nerves, relaxes our blood vessels, and is needed for good brain function.
Drink At Least8 Glasses of Plain Water Daily: A research study published in World Journal of Psychiatry September 2018 found drinking plain water is associated with a decreased risk of depression and anxiety in adults. Hydration is key to resolving many health problems and such a simple solution. Drinking plain water is a habit you can start right now to lessen your anxiety. Cheers!
Get Sufficient Sleep: We’re talking at least 7½ hours and preferably 8 or 9 hours. After a poor night’s sleep, it’s harder to think clearly, make decisions, or keep your cool when the emails start piling up. This is because, when we lack sufficient sleep, our brain doesn’t get its nightly emotional “reset.” Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science and author of Why We Sleep, and his research team “showed well over a 60% amplification in emotional reactivity in participants who were sleep-deprived.”1 In other words, sleep-deprived individuals may experience negative moods more intensely and have a harder time regulating their emotions.
Supplements to Help Reduce Anxiety
While we’d highly encourage you to implement every step listed above, we recognize that sometimes supplements are needed to get us through exceptionally challenging times. Here are four that I recommend to clients:
Magnesium – When you think magnesium, think RELAXATION, whether it is relaxing tight muscles or relaxing an overactive brain and nervous system.2 Most Americans are deficient in this important mineral, and when we are under stress or more anxious, we blow through our magnesium stores even faster. We like to have clients take 400mg-600mg/night before bed to promote better sleep, but additional magnesium can be taken during the day without risk of drowsiness.
L-Theanine – L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green and black tea leaves that has been shown to reduce stress response and promote relaxation.3 I like to describe L-theanine to clients as something to help “take the edge off.” We recommend 200-400mg for situational anxiety, like public speaking or test taking, but it is also helpful for relaxing around bedtime.
5-HTP – 5-HTP is the amino acid building block of serotonin, one of our happy, calming, emotional-wellbeing brain chemicals. Sufficient serotonin keeps our mood lifted and recycled thoughts (aka, worrying) at bay. I recommend 50-100mg 5-HTP before meals for daytime anxiety, and/or before bed if you have trouble turning your brain off at night.
Quality Probiotic (like Bifido Balance or Biotic 7) – 90% of your body’s serotonin is made in the intestinal tract … if you are eating protein and you have sufficient good bacteria. A healthy gut makes for a healthy brain.4 To get sufficient good bacteria a quality probiotic can make all the difference for your mood, whether you have digestive symptoms or not. We recommend 1-3 capsules of Bifido Balance before each meal, and/or 1-2 capsules of Biotic 7 at night.