Updated: Sep 15, 2020
I know why you’re here...
#1 You’ve tried all.the.things to alleviate your anxiety and nothing works.
#2 You’re ready to feel confident, relaxed and worry-free.
Girl, been there.
And if you’re anything like I was, you know deep down that medication is not your long-term solution.
Listen, I have no problem with medication. Medication can be life changing and I’m all about breaking down those bullsh*t stigmas.
Docs are so quick to write those scripts because anxiety is often due to a neurotransmitter imbalance.
Here’s the deal with neurotransmitters - they are chemicals produced inside your body that control everything from sleep and appetite, to memory, perception, and of course, (rudely) anxiety.
Medication swoops in to keep those anti-anxiety-happy-neurotransmitters in the brain longer.
This is amazing. Especially if you're in need of symptom management STAT.
But that’s the problem. This is purely symptom management.
Medication CANNOT create more neurotransmitters … but food can.
You can actually create MORE of those happy little dudes through freakin’ diet (how cool is that?!), and in this blog post I’m going to show you how.
I often hear people say “don’t eat so much protein, you’re going to get too big,” or “eat more veggies, not protein.”
This is when my eyes *roll all the way back into my head*.
You need protein for nearly every function in the body, including building neurotransmitters.
Why? Because the single amino acids that make up proteins also make up neurotransmitters.
Meaning Every. Single. Neurotransmitter. is made from proteins.
So if these anxiety-eliminating-neurotransmitters are made up of proteins …. you need to eat what makes them, right?
As a general rule of thumb, you need about 25-30g of protein per meal.
BUT - not all proteins are created equal. Animal proteins are considered complete, because they contain all nine essential amino acids needed to form a protein, whereas plant-based protein sources are considered incomplete since they do not contain all nine essential amino acids.
If you’re following a plant-based diet, don’t be discouraged.
All it takes is a little research on complete plant-based proteins and food combining and you'll be well on your way to finding that perfect balance of amino acid goodness.
Now turning an amino acid into a neurotransmitter is no easy feat.
It's not like you just eat proteins and *poof* your body magically produces neurotransmitters.
Your body needs help to produce those neurotransmitters:
Enter the "calming cofactors" (aka specific vitamins and minerals).
Several studies link nutrient deficiencies to mood disorders.
A study conducted in 2000 of 80 healthy men aged 18 to 42 years found that supplementing with a multivitamin/mineral for just 28 days improved subjective measures of anxiety and perceived stress. They contained high doses of B vitamins and vitamin C, along with zinc, calcium, and magnesium.
Another study from 2000 also found similar results. Supplementing with B vitamins (excluding folic acid), vitamin, calcium, and magnesium resulted in significant improvements in several scores of psychological stresses.
Why does this matter?
Because if you’re deficient in any of these nutrients, it's highly probable that your body can’t make those oh-so-amazing-anti-anxiety-neurotransmitters EVEN if you're eating enough protein.
Now before you run out and spend all your $$$ on supplements, there’s an easy (and less expensive) way to make sure you get enough of these magical calming cofactors.
Fruits, veggies, beans & legumes !
Remember how your parents would always force you to eat your veggies?
They are powerhouses for the nutrients needed to build neurotransmitters and keep your anxiety in check.
Aim for 7-8 servings a day of a wide variety of fruits, veggies, beans & legumes.
As the skittles commercial says – “EAT THE RAINBOW!” (but like, don’t actually eat skittles)
Psychobiotics technically refers to your gut bacteria, but I like to think of them as the encompassing term for pre & probiotics.
Probiotics are the bacteria that live in your large intestine; they’re your gut bugs, both good and bad. The bad bacteria are necessary, but they need to be in smaller amounts than the good guys. Things like naturally fermented sauerkraut and kimchi, unsweetened nut yogurt, kefir, pickles, and fermented soy are all awesome sources of probiotics.
Prebiotics are the food that feed good bacteria. Any foods that are really high in fibre feed the good bacteria and help to establish (or re-establish) balance in your gut microbiome.
Aside from keeping your gut happy and balanced, specific strains of bacteria actually produce neurotransmitters.
Those little guys are working hard for us, the least we can do is feed them.
Eat a minimum of 25g of fibre per day + start incorporating probiotic-rich foods into your diet. This will both feed and repopulate your little army of neurotransmitter-building-gut-bugs.
If you’re a picky eater and just *cannot* with probiotic food, you can go for a probiotic supplement but don’t forget to still eat high fibre!
You can take all the probiotic supplements in the world, but if you don’t feed the probiotics fibre, they will die.
And that's a waste of your hard earned cash.
Happy Neurotransmitter Building!