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Product Focus - Anxiety

We all feel anxious at times. Whether delivering a speech or going on a first date, clammy palms, an unsettled stomach, and weak knees are nothing out of the ordinary. But when a crippling sense of fear begins to underpin your everyday life, routine anxiety can transform into a chronic mental health challenge.

In the UK, 8 million people experience an anxiety disorder at any given point.(1) And against a backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis, climate change, and global atrocities, this figure is only set to increase. It seems we’re living in an Age of Anxiety – and it’s coming at a cost to our emotional health.

We never want to downplay how challenging anxiety can be. Anyone who’s been in the throes of it knows how paralysing it can be. But it’s not a life sentence. And while we may not be able to avoid stress and anxiety altogether, what we eat puts us in a better position to manage it.

Understanding the anxious mind

Not all anxiety is created equal. A little bit of stress can turn us into the best version of ourselves. We can feel superhuman when we’re moderately stressed – we nail work presentations or ace exams. Problems arise, however, when stress and anxiety become chronic and low-grade – when a helpful response becomes harmful.

The evolution of our stress response

Let’s rewind a million years when our stress response first evolved to keep us safe. As hunter-gatherers, this highly sophisticated survival mechanism – also known as the fight-or-flight response, governed by the sympathetic nervous system – helped us stave off prehistoric predators. If we were attacked by a sabertoothed tiger, our stress response would kick into gear to protect us. Our heart rate would increase so we could run faster. Our emotional brain would heighten so we could be more vigilant. And our pupils would dilate so we could spot danger.

Stress in the modern world

Today, we don’t face the same dangers as our caveman ancestors. But our stress response hasn’t evolved to meet the demands of modern life. Work pressures, increasing mortgage repayments, and the 24-7 news cycle aren’t as life-threatening as wild animals but they can still activate our fight-or-flight response. And if we keep triggering this survival mechanism, it can lead to a number of anxiety disorders.

Fear vs. Anxiety

Fear is an immediate response to real danger in your environment – if there’s a fire in your house or someone is chasing you, for instance. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a persistent and excessive feeling of fear when there’s no immediate danger.

The anxious mind is powerful, persuasive, and fiercely protective. It can outmanoeuvre and outsmart logic.

Increase mood food

You may not think your diet can affect something so deeply entrenched as your mental health. But it absolutely does.

Feed your gut

The gut and brain are closely connected through the ‘gut brain axis’: the gut influences how the mind functions and vice versa. There’s increasing evidence that improving the gut microbiome – the collective name of trillions of bacteria residing in the digestive tract – could support your mood and reduce anxiety.(2)

Easy wins to support the gut microbiome

• Aim for 30 plant foods every week. Plant foods include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes (chickpeas and lentils), and beans.
• Consider fasting for 14-16 hours to give the gut a break to repair, reset, and rest
• Add live cultures, which consist of good bacteria to support the gut
• Try Fructo-Oligosaccharides (FOS), a soluble fibre that supports bowel regularity
• Include more fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir, and kombucha, as they may increase microbial diversity

A taste of the Med

Studies report those who eat a Mediterranean diet – one packed with fruits, vegetables, pulses, and whole grains, and lower in fried foods, red meat, and processed grain – have a healthier gut microbiome and lower risks of mental health challenges like anxiety.(3)

Balance blood sugar

The symptoms of poor blood sugar management closely mirror some aspects of anxiety, including shakiness, irritability, and panic, physiological changes that could trigger an anxiety episode itself. Smoothing out blood sugar curves, therefore, will help you manage your mental health throughout the day.

The following tips may reduce sugar spikes and dips.

• Choose a savoury breakfast over a sweet one
• Reduce refined sugar intake
• Choose complex carbohydrates, such as quinoa and whole-wheat pasta, over simple carbohydrates, like white bread, biscuits, and ultra-refined foods
• Consider going for a short walk after eating

Take care with triggers

Alcohol and caffeine are known triggers for many people with anxiety, so you may want to exercise caution around them.

Add key nutrients

Aside from making simple tweaks to what you eat, adding certain nutrients to your diet may also support your emotional health and help buffer against anxiety.

B vitamins

The B vitamins are essential for your emotional wellbeing. However, stress and certain medications can often lead to poor B vitamin absorption, so it’s worth paying extra attention to your intake.

• Vitamin B5 supports normal mental performance. Find it: Mushrooms
• Vitamin B6 contributes to normal psychological function. Find it: Bananas
• Biotin contributes to normal psychological function. Find it: Seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds)
• Vitamin B12 contributes to normal psychological function. Find it: Milk or fortified nutritional yeast

PEA

PEA (Palmitoylethanolamide) is a well-researched alternative to CBD. It’s often recommended to support mood and overall wellbeing. Find it: Supplements.

Magnesium

An essential mineral involved in over 300 biochemical processes, magnesium contributes to normal psychological and nervous system function, making it a useful addition for mental health. Find it: Kale or spinach.

Omega-3

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), is essential to good overall health. DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function, based on a daily intake of 250mg. Find it: Salmon or plant-based microalgae in supplement form.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens, like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea, are believed to help the body deal with stress and encourage it to return to balance. Find them: Supplements.

St John’s Wort

A perennial plant with yellow, star-shaped flowers, St John’s Wort is a traditional herbal remedy used for the relief of mild anxiety and slightly low mood. Find it: Traditional Herbal Remedy.

L-theanine

An amino acid found in green and black tea, L-theanine is known for its calming and soothing properties. It’s often recommended to support wellbeing. Find it: Green and black tea and supplements.

Griffonia Seed Extract

Extracted from griffonia seeds, 5 hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is the natural compound manufactured from the amino acid, tryptophan. The brain converts 5-HTP into serotonin, the ‘happy’ hormone, which plays an important role in mood. Find it: Supplements.

Here are our top supplement suggestions

MagAsorb® Complex

•100% daily magnesium intake
•One-a-day tablet
•Supports energy levels

180 Tablets £12.95

Theanine 200mg

•Purest, strongest in the UK
•L form for superior absorption
•Fast release formula

60 Tablets £10.65

PEA Complex 400mg

•Alternative to CBD
•Patented OptiPEA® form of PEA
•Gold standard quality

60 Capsules £17.95

Multi-B Complex

•Supports energy levels
•Excellent spread of all B vitamins
•Great value

180 Tablets £8.75

Ashwagandha 6000mg

•For normal psychological function
•For normal function of the nervous system
•With 5% withanolides, key ‘actives’

60 Capsules £13.50

Griffonia Seed Extract

•100mg 5HTP per tablet
•Natural source
•Customer favourite
 

60 Tablets £14.50

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References:

I. Scisciola L, Fontanella RA, Surina, Cataldo V, Paolisso G, Barbieri M. (2021) Sarcopenia and Cognitive Function: Role of Myokines in Muscle Brain Cross-Talk. Life (Basel). 11(2):173.

II. Taylor, A.M. and Holscher, H.D. (2018) ‘A review of dietary and microbial connections to depression,anxiety, and stress’, Nutritional Neuroscience, 23(3).

III. De Filippis, F. et al. (2015) ‘High-level adherence to a Mediterranean diet beneficially impacts the gut microbiota and associated metabolome’, Gut, 65(11), 1812–1821; Sadeghi O, Keshteli AH, Afshar H, Esmaillzadeh A, Adibi P. (2021) Adherence to Mediterranean dietary pattern is inversely associated with depression, anxiety and psychological distress. Nutr Neurosci. 24(4):248-259.

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