Do you struggle with panic attacks, a type of anxiety?
Besides depression, anxiety is the most prevalent mental illness in America. In fact, it affects approximately 40 million adults! While therapy and psychiatric medication absolutely have their place, exploring deeper root causes can sometimes be the missing piece necessary for healing. (1.)
Most people are unaware that mood imbalances and nutrition are closely related. A deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals can contribute to anxiety and panic disorder, with a variety of potential root causes that could be responsible.
8 Vitamin Deficiencies That Link to Panic Attacks
Americans, especially those who live in states with cold winters, are becoming increasingly deficient in Vitamin D. Even residents of incredibly sunny places often lack enough of this essential nutrient due to our sedentary lifestyle that does not involve much time outdoors. Unless you are spending ample time in the sun each day, supplementation is a necessary “insurance policy” of sorts.
Ensure you consume adequate Vitamin D. This intake is imperative because it powers so many functions in the body. Also, it makes sure phosphorous is properly funneled into the bloodstream. This process is essential for mental health because it facilitates cell repair and tissue growth in the brain and body. It also promotes cranial development, and helps maintain cognitive function. Insufficient Vitamin D is associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which is depression during the winter months. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to chronic depression and panic disorder. (2.)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Having a disproportionate balance between beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and their inflammatory omega-6 counterparts can create many problems. 60% of the human brain is comprised of fat. So, not fueling it in the correct way has been linked to mood disturbances and other mental health issues. Diets low in high-quality fats prevent the body from creating high-quality cell membranes because it can only feed off what we consume.
Omega-3s enhance B cell activation and select antibody production, so they are crucial for reducing inflammation. These healthy fats can enhance brain function and promote a positive mood. Conversely, an omega-3 deficiency has been known to cause depression, attention-deficit disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizophrenia.
The food we consume can only be converted into fuel with the assistance of B vitamins. They are absolutely essential for whole-body health. B vitamins help with immunity, digestion, circulation, hormones, sleep, and nerves. In terms of mental health, they aid in stress reduction, cognitive function, and mood regulation. Deficiencies can lead to depression, anxiety, phobias, and other mental disorders.
Due to soil depletion, magnesium deficiency is more prevalent than ever across the American population. In fact, even those who eat a diet rich in plants struggle with this. This mineral promotes relaxation throughout the body, and deficiency has been associated with stress, depression, and anxiety. Inadequate magnesium is even more common in people consuming the Standard American Diet. This includes high amounts of processed food, refined sugar, salt, alcohol, and caffeine.
Since most Americans consume more carbs and sugar than anything else, protein intake is usually not adequate. It is a common misconception that protein only aids in muscle building, but that could not be further from the truth. Amino acids are also crucial for maintaining healthy brain function. Protein deficiency can result in depression, brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
Responsible for activation of the central and peripheral nervous system, zinc’s major role is promoting healthy brain function. Among other bodily processes, it also plays a crucial role in neurotransmitter, enzymatic, and hormonal procedures. Zinc insufficiency has been associated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.
More so than almost any other nutrient, serum iron levels are often inadequate across the worldwide population. Iron deficiency is particularly prevalent among women who struggle with heavy periods or are breastfeeding, athletes, and vegans/vegetarians. Iron is essential for brain health in addition to nervous system function. Deficiencies have been linked to anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, attention-deficit disorder, and irritability.
This trace mineral is essential for immunity, thyroid function, hormone health, and countless other internal processes. Selenium deficiency has been linked to many autoimmune conditions including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or hypothyroidism characterized by the presence of antibodies. This finding may be due in part to the Standard American Diet, which is not rich in trace minerals like selenium. Inadequate selenium intake is also associated with diabetes, cancer, and overall mortality. Emerging research has also linked deficiencies to depression and a generally negative mood.
ROOT CAUSES OF VITAMIN DEFICIENCIES
Standard American Diet
Most people in the U.S. consume a diet that is, ironically, rich in calories but shockingly low in nutrients. Processed foods such as refined sugars and carbohydrates lack the essential vitamins and trace minerals necessary for optimal bodily function. Additionally, excessive consumption of inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, grains and legumes, sugar, eggs, caffeine, nuts, seeds, and nightshades may lead to leaky gut. Also known as intestinal permeability, this stealthy condition causes nutrients to enter the bloodstream before the body digests and converts into usable forms.
As briefly alluded to above, intestinal permeability causes nutrient deficiencies. In addition to the Standard American Diet, environmental toxins, stress, and certain medications all connect back to a leaky gut. This all-too-common ailment is characterized by the formation of tiny holes in the intestinal lining. This allows food particles, bacteria, yeast, and viruses to enter the bloodstream. This results in the body becoming unable to properly absorb foods, which can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, inflammation, mood disorders, panic attacks, and other health problems.
Testing for genetic mutations such as MTHFR is relatively uncommon in America, so many people are none-the-wiser to their predisposition to nutrient deficiencies. This mutation prevents the body from efficiently converting B vitamins folate and choline into their active forms via a process called methylation. Another mutation, VDR, also triggers Vitamin D deficiency. Yet another set of mutations responsible for creating sulfates can lead to inadequate zinc levels.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT VITAMIN DEFICIENCIES
1 – Prioritize consumption of nutrient-dense foods
- Fatty fish, grass-fed or pasture-raised meat, organ meats, spirulina, wild mushrooms, and bee pollen (Vitamin D)
- Grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, flax and chia oils (Omega-3 fatty acids)
- Leafy greens, root vegetables, any of the aforementioned animal proteins, fresh and dried fruits, avocados (B vitamins)
- Dark leafy greens, seaweed, figs, wild-caught fish, avocado, bananas (Magnesium)
- High-quality animal proteins and bee pollen (Amino acids)
- Oysters, wild-caught fish, lamb, grass-fed beef (Zinc)
- Grass-fed beef, shellfish, organ meats, dark leafy greens (Iron)
- Turkey, organ meats, grass-fed beef, garlic, spinach, bananas, Brazil nuts (Selenium)
2 – Heal your gut
Your nutrient absorption might weaken if you have gut issues. This means no amount of healthy, anti-inflammatory foods can restore optimal health without targeted intervention.
Strive to heal and seal the gut. You’ll ensure that the food you consume actually digests instead of leaking into the bloodstream in a form unusable by the body. You can usually repair your gut via the “4R Approach:”