Coping with anxiety can be a challenge and often requires making lifestyle changes. There aren’t any diet changes that can cure anxiety, but watching what you eat may help. Try these steps:
Eat a breakfast that includes some protein. This will help energize you throughout the day.
Eat complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains. Steer clear of foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and drinks.
Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood.
Limit or avoid caffeine. Avoid caffeinated beverages. They can make you feel jittery and nervous and can interfere with sleep.
Pay attention to food sensitivities. In some people, certain foods or food additives can cause unpleasant physical reactions. In certain people, these physical reactions may lead to shifts in mood, including irritability or anxiety.
Try to eat healthy, balanced meals. This is important for overall physical and mental health. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and don’t overeat. It may also help to eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, on a regular basis.
Changes to your diet may make some difference to your general mood or sense of well-being but are not a substitute for treatment. If your anxiety is severe or interferes with your day-to-day activities or enjoyment of life, you may need medication, counseling (psychotherapy) or other treatment.
Herbal treatment for anxiety
Several herbal remedies have been studied as a treatment for anxiety, including kava, passionflower, valerian and theanine.
Kava appears to reduce anxiety, but more studies are needed to make sure that it’s safe.
Several countries have banned the sale of kava based on reports of liver damage. The Food and Drug Administration issued warnings about kava in 2002, but hasn’t banned the sale of kava in the United States. In people without underlying liver problems, kava seems to be safe for up to six months, when taken at the recommended dosages. However, more studies are needed to be certain of kava’s possible potential side effects.
Passionflower, valerian and theanine also may reduce anxiety, but they probably don’t work as well as kava. These herbs appear to be safe, with few reported side effects. As with kava, more research is needed to understand the risks and benefits of these herbal supplements.
If you’re considering taking any herbal supplement as a treatment for anxiety, talk to your doctor first. If you have liver problems or you take other medications, it’s especially important that you talk to your doctor before you try kava.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if your anxiety is interfering with daily activities. More serious forms of anxiety generally need medical treatment or psychological counseling (psychotherapy) for symptoms to improve.