In some situations, such as just before an important exam or performance evaluation, anxiety is a normal reaction. Chronic anxiety or extreme reactions to minor stressors, however, can signal an anxiety disorder. Panic disorder is an even more extreme form of anxiety and can result in a panic attack, with elevated heart rate and breathing, sweating or numbness. In some cases, anxiety and panic disorder may be linked to nutritional deficiencies.
Calcium and Magnesium
Although you might first think of calcium in relation to bone health, calcium and another mineral -- magnesium -- actually affect your moods as well. Magnesium deficiency, for example, can actually cause anxiety, according to a January 2012 article in “Neuropharmacology.” Dr. Christiane Northrup notes in a March 2010 article in the “Huffington Post” that calcium and magnesium interact in the body and that diets typically contain much more calcium than magnesium instead of the 1:1 optimal ratio. Northrup writes that the imbalance between the two can cause all sorts of health problems in addition to anxiety.
Zinc, Copper and Other Minerals
Dr. Lawrence Wilson, who practices as a nutritional consultant, notes that low levels of calcium, magnesium and zinc can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks. As the levels of these minerals decrease in the body tissues, the autonomic nervous system more easily triggers a fight-or-flight response. Excessive copper can also cause anxiety, and toxic minerals such as lead, cadmium and mercury can displace the calcium, magnesium and zinc your body needs. Wilson uses mineral supplements for anxiety in his practice; he calls this “nutritional balancing.”
Vitamins C and E
Oxidation is a chemical process in the body that causes a release of oxygen and molecules called free radicals. Although the body can tolerate a small amount of oxidation, higher levels of oxidative stress and free radicals cause cell damage, and oxidative stress causes anxiety. Free radicals and oxidative stress can be countered with antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and E. A November 2013 article in the “Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences” notes that administering vitamin C caused a significant reduction in anxiety when compared to vitamin E and placebo.
Taking vitamin and mineral supplements is not a cure-all for anxiety or panic disorder. Wilson recommends you improve your diet, practice stress-reduction techniques, change negative patterns of thinking, get adequate sleep and practice regular deep breathing. Dr. Craig Maxwell -- who also uses nutritional therapy in his practice -- recommends exercise such as yoga and suggests you eliminate alcohol consumption and smoking. Consult a physician before taking supplements for anxiety or panic attacks.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Anxiety Disorders
- Neuropharmacology: Magnesium Deficiency Induces Anxiety and HPA Axis Dysregulation -- Modulation by Therapeutic Drug Treatment
- Huffington Post: The Magic of Magnesium -- A Mighty Mineral Essential to Health
- Psychology Today: Magnesium and the Brain -- The Original Chill Pill
- Dr. Wilson.com: Anxiety and Panic Attacks –- Their Causes and Correction
- Ray Strand, M.D.: Oxidative Stress
- Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences: Efficacy of Supplementary Vitamins C and E on Anxiety, Depression and Stress in Type 2 Diabetic Patients -- A Randomized, Single-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial
- Biological Trace Element Research: Comparative Analysis of Serum Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Iron, Calcium, and Magnesium Level and Complexity of Interelement Relations in Generalized Anxiety Disorder Patients
- Ask Dr. Maxwell: The Truth About Anxiety and Depression