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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. Most of us get nervous before a big or important event or occasion (public speaking, exams, interviews), but if these anxious feelings don’t seem to go away, it can cause problems in your life and impact your mental and physical health. 

Anxiety involves intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Physical symptoms of a fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating and feeling tired may also occur.

Anxiety can interfere with the enjoyment of life and disrupt work, relationships and self-perceptions. Anxiety is treatable and learning about it is an important first step.

What causes Anxiety?

The most common causes of Anxiety include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Ongoing chronic stressors
  • Family history of mental health
  • Physical health issues
  • A traumatic event

However, what is also important, yet often ignored, is the role of the gut and nutrition in preventing and managing anxiety.

For example, complex carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables nuts and legumes) are high in fibre and low in sugar and are metabolised more slowly, helping to maintain a more even blood sugar level, which leads to a calmer feeling.

The gut-brain axis (a communication network that connects your gut and brain) is also very important, because the majority of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of your gut. Serotonin is one of your body’s natural chemicals that helps with sleeping, eating, and digesting, as well as helping to reduce depression and regulate anxiety.

Finally, there’s the issue of nutritional deficiencies associated with anxiety

  • A diet lacking vitamins B6, B12 or Zinc, Magnesium and folate is linked to anxiety
  • Dysbiosis, the imbalance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in your gut (microbiome) can also cause anxiety

How to treat Anxiety?

  • Fermentable fibres (prebiotics) such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains. 
  • Fermented foods (probiotics) such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and kefir.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as incorporating meditation, hobbies and things that trigger your enjoyment
  • Exercise daily 
  • Avoid caffeine, sugar, MSG and aspartame (artificial sweetener)

If anxiety symptoms persist, talk to your healthcare practitioner. And even if your doctor recommends medication or therapy for anxiety, it is still worth making sure you have a good intake of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients (prebiotics, probiotics) and look after your gut. A healthy gut means a healthy body and a healthy mind.

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