Anxiety is an unpleasant emotion where there is inner turmoil. Those affected often display nervous behavior such as rumination, pacing back and forth, and various somatic complaints. Anxiety should not be confused with fear as fear is a response to an immediate threat while anxiety involves the expectation of a future threat. Those with anxiety have a feeling of worry and uneasiness, which is usually an overreaction to a situation perceived to be menacing. Most individuals with anxiety experience accompanying muscular tension, fatigue, restlessness, and issues with concentration. Although anxiety can be an appropriate response, when it is experienced regularly, it may be due to an underlying anxiety disorder. There are various types of anxiety such as existential anxiety, social anxiety, somatic anxiety, test anxiety, and stranger anxiety. When a person is in an anxious state, stress hormones are released that can have an impact on the bowel function. This can lead to the manifestation of various physical symptoms and result in issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. Anxiety is often seen among individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder.
Anxiety disorders refer to a group of disorders where there is significant fear and anxiety. Anxiety disorders are believed to be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. It is also more common among those with a history of abuse, family history of mental disorders, and poverty. Anxiety disorders usually occur with other mental disorders such as personality disorder, major depressive disorder, and substance use disorder. Diagnosis requires the presence of symptoms for a minimum of 6 months. Left untreated, anxiety disorders usually remain. Management includes counseling, lifestyle changes, and the use of medications like benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and beta blockers.
It has been estimated that about 12 percent of the population are affected by anxiety annually with 5 to 30 percent over a lifetime. Anxiety disorders are twice as common in females compared to males and usually begin before the age of 25 years old. Lifestyle changes such as exercise, regulating sleep, stopping smoking, and improving one’s diet can help with anxiety. Some of the foods that can help anxiety are discussed in this article.
Helpful Anxiety Food #1: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. There are 3 types: alpha linolenic acid (ALA) can be found in plant oils while docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) can be found in marine oils. Fatty fish such as herring, salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Recent research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids are important as they help with the regulation of neurotransmitters, promote healthy brain function, and reduce inflammation. A small study involving 24 participants found that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce levels of anxiety. The current recommendation is to eat two servings of fatty fish every week.