By: Meghan Toups, MS In my practice, as a therapist and health coach, I have found far too often that people struggling with anxiety use food to self-medicate. And, I’m not referring to kale or quinoa! Food creates a powerful response in the body. What you eat can make a difference in your digestion, your energy levels, and your mood and anxiety levels. When someone is struggling with overwhelming anxiety, it’s tempting to use alcohol, foods like chocolate and other snack items to relax and take your mind off of the mental stress. Unfortunately, this only makes the anxiety worse, weakens your digestive track, and creates a destructive cycle. Your body is brilliant. Really! Cravings can indicate that you are struggling with nutritional deficiencies. For example, many people have a deficiency in Magnesium. Magnesium provides a very calming effect on the body. Chocolate is high in Magnesium. Maybe your chocolate cravings are simply your body telling you a crucial piece of information: you need more nutrition! We can become deficient in nutrients for various reasons. Overuse of medications such as antibiotics and birth control pills, high intake of processed or fried foods, leaky gut, undiagnosed food sensitivities and chlorinated water and others can contribute to this. Choosing to fill your body with nutrient dense foods, coupled with therapy with an anxiety specialist, can be a powerful combination to help you in your journey towards overcoming anxiety. Magnesium. Magnesium is a POWERFUL relaxant mineral for the body. It is extremely important for the metabolism of other nutrients such as Calcium and Potassium. Magnesium deficiency can occur for many reasons such as excess body fat (hinders the absorption), alcohol consumption, coffee intake, profuse sweating, prolonged stress, excessive menstruation and use of other drugs. Malabsorption of Magnesium can lead to a host of physical and mental ailments such as anxiety, ADD, panic attacks, hypertension, fungal infections, recurrent bacterial infections, PMS, Calcium deficiency, muscle weakness, aggression and impotence, to name a few. Taking a Magnesium Glycinate supplement can be extremely helpful (check with your doctor first if you have other medical conditions), but there are great ways to obtain it through foods. Kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, and garlic are all high in Magnesium. You can also take a bath in Epsom Salt (with a few drops of Lavender oil for relaxation) to help absorb Magnesium and de-stress! B Vitamins and Iron B-Vitamins have been shown in studies to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. A recent 2013 study demonstrated that with intake of a B vitamin supplement, participants showed significant and more continuous improvements in depressive and anxiety symptoms compared to placebo. It also showed significant improvement on the mental health scale compared to placebo. Researchers concluded that B Vitamins can help improve mood and mental health quality in adults with depression. Another recent study showed that low levels of B6 and Iron contribute to increased panic attacks and hyperventilation. Both B6 and Iron are important in the synthesis of serotonin. Great food sources of B Vitamins, particularly B6 include poultry, beef, salmon, sweet potato, sunflower seeds, spinach and pistachios. Iron from meat, poultry, and fish (i.e., heme iron) is absorbed two to three times more efficiently than iron from plants (i.e., non-heme iron). Some good sources of iron include clams, oysters, beef, turkey, chicken, sardines, pork, fortified cereals, pumpkin seeds, beans, tofu, and sesame seeds. Healing from anxiety is a journey and requires individualized treatment. Understanding how food, nutrients, self-care, digestive health and stress effect you are all important ways to overcome anxiety. Working with qualified professionals such as therapists and integrative doctors can be extremely helpful. I would love to hear from you about how you are working on resolving your anxiety symptoms! Please comment below or reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org. Wishing you the best of health! About the Author: Meghan Toups is a frequent contributor onExpanded Consciousness, she is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia. Meghan also received her health coaching certification and training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods.