Nutrition For Anxiety

Article by Bethany Cox

A wonderful article by our Nutrition Ambassador, Bethany Cox. Check out her page for more posts.


If you’ve ever had a panic attack or felt afraid, anxious or acutely stressed this article could help you.


If you have had anxiety, you might recognise some of these symptoms:

  • Tight chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shaking hands
  • Feeling hot
  • Sweaty
  • Light-headed

For me, anxiety triggered panic attacks and a general sense of apprehension are challenges I have struggled with for years. I believed it was in my head – caused by the thoughts I had and the way my brain processed stress. I never considered the biochemical reactions occurring in my body. I’ve done a lot of psychological work to manage my anxiety, but it was only when I started studying nutrition that I began to consider the impact of what I was eating.


Research has shown that people who suffer from panic attacks have elevated levels of lactate or lactic acid in their blood. Lactate is a by-product created by the breakdown of glucose (sugar) without oxygen. It’s most commonly associated with exercising and can contribute to muscle fatigue and soreness. But what does this have to do with anxiety? Well, as well as having elevated lactate in the blood, injecting lactate into those prone to anxiety disorders generic effexor can trigger a panic attack. While it’s not exactly clear why, it’s believed that people who suffer from anxiety are simply more sensitive to lactate, just as some people are more sensitive to caffeine, alcohol or sugar.


When we feel anxious, our body goes into fight-or-flight mode. Adrenaline and cortisol are released and blood vessels dilate, heart rate and breathing quicken and glucose is released into the blood stream. So, it makes sense that people suffering from panic attacks have less oxygen, more glucose and therefore more lactic acid in their blood.


If you struggle with anxiety, it’s worth noting that there are also certain foods and nutrient deficiencies which raise lactate levels. Consider making these changes to your diet to see if they help to reduce your symptoms:


Avoid caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar:

These raise lactate levels and can trigger the release of adrenaline and disrupt blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of anxiety.


Increase intake of B-vitamin, magnesium and calcium-rich foods:

Deficiency is linked to increased lactic acid. Add these foods to your daily diet: asparagus, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, oats, Spirulina, avocados, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach and bok choi; eggs, good quality organic meat and fish.


Investigate food allergies/intolerances:

Like caffeine, alcohol and sugar, a food intolerance or allergy can trigger the release of adrenaline and raise lactic acid levels. Try an elimination diet which removes common allergens like gluten and dairy or work with a qualified nutritional therapist to test for specific allergens and intolerances.


Anxiety is a complicated issue – if you regularly suffer from panic attacks or if anxiety leaves you feeling depressed or struggling to cope, please seek advice from your GP.



1. Balch and Bell (2010). ‘Prescription for Nutritional Healing Fifth Edition’. London: Penguin Group.

2. Murray and Pizzorno (2010). ‘The Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine Third Edition.’ New York: Atria Paperback.

3. Pané-Farré, Alius, Methling et al, (2015) ‘Anxiety sensitivity and expectation of arousal differentially affect the respiratory response to caffeine’. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 232:11 pp. 1931–1939

4. Maddock et al (2009) ‘Elevated brain lactate responses to neural activation in panic disorder’. Molecular Psychiatry, 14:5 pp.537-45

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