Nutritional Causes of Anxiety and Panic Attacks


Foods and supplements affecting anxiety…

by Dr. Larry Wilson

Ed. note: Because we have received a number of requests from our readers for information concerning nutrition as used in the treatment of anxiety, we bring you this article and viewpoint by a nutritional expert who is known to have treated a number of patients with anxiety disorders, including panic disorder.

We would urge those interested in pursuing a nutritional program to seek expert advice and guidance in doing so. Those who are currently taking medications should check with their physicians before adding nutritional supplementation; this is especially important in those currently utilizing antidepressants.

Nutritional imbalances can result in anxiety, panic attacks and phobias. Many people with these disorders have deficiencies of essential minerals, an excess of toxic metals, hypoglycemia and other biochemical imbalances.

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Certain nutritional factors are known to have a sedative action upon the nervous system. Calcium, magnesium, zinc, inositol, choline, and the amino acids tryptophan and taurine are among these “sedative” nutrients. A deficiency of any of these can result in anxiety.

Conversely, an excess of nutrients which speed up the nervous system can also produce anxiety. For example, “stress tabes” may contain excessive B vitaminswhich can produce anxiety. Potassium, sodium, phosphorus and copper are among minerals that can cause anxiety feelings when they are present in excess in our body tissues.
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Toxic Metals
It is well-known that lead and mercury can cause hyperactivity and. anxiety states. I frequently find that copper toxicity is involved in panic attacks and phobia problems. Cadmium is another toxic metal that is associated with behavioral problems. Cadmium interferes with the metabolism of zinc-one of the sedative minerals. Mercury, another toxic metal, is also sometimes ivolved. These toxic metals are common in Americans today. Someday I hope that the heavy metal screen (hair analysis) is perferomed routinely, becauae it would help so many people understand and correct feelings of anxiety.

A drop in blood sugar causes extreme reactions in the nervous system, including feelings of anxiety, confusion, and even panic attacks. The incidence of blood sugar abnormalities is far higher than imagined, and affects over half our population. Consumptions of refined sugars and starches, diets deficient in protein or fat, and the use of stimulants such as coffee or cola drinks, contribute to this cause of anxiety feelings.

An Excessive Rate of Metabolism
Overactivity of the thyroid or adrenal glands can produce symptoms of anxiety. When the thyroid and adrenal glands are overactive, the sedative minerals-calcium, magnesium and zinc-are rapidly excreted from the body. This is part of the fight-flight response. If these minerals are not replaced adequately, chronic deficiencies result that are not revealed on blood tests. Such individuals are highly prone to panic attacks, fears, phobias, paranoia and extreme anxiety. While toxic metals and other imbalances require more time to correct, deficiencies of the sedative minerals can ususally be corrected rapidly through alteration in diet and nutritional supplements.

Brain Allergies
Some people react to foods or environmental substances with severe behavior changes, from depression to epilepsy and anxiety. The reaction may be due to histamine release within the brain. Any food can be the offender. This phenomenon is more common than imagined, in part because of the 3000 or so food additives that are routinely used in commercial food preparation. Reactive foods must be avoided, and it is possible to become less sensitive to reactive foods.

Natural Anti-Depressants
Natural substances that can act as anti-depressants include the amino acids DL-phenylalanine and L-tyrosine, about 2 grams per day of each. Correcting a low thyroid condition and improving adrenal gland activity are also very helpful.

(This posted article was originally published in our ENcourage Connection Newsletter, print version.)