ANXIETY & ANEMIA, PART 1: IRON-DEFICIENCY
I have noticed my daughter's anxiety is most severe when she is anemic (low iron). At four years old she marched into the kitchen one day and announced, "I am no longer eating anything with eyes!" And she hasn't, for five years now.
So far her anxiety becomes uncontrollable only when she doesn't have enough iron and B12, otherwise she seems to be able to manage it with a few techniques. The anemia seems to present when her growth requirements outweigh her nutritional intake.....that is to say, when she doesn't eat enough to support her growth spurts.
A 2013 study from in China (Journal of Nutrition) showed "nutrient supplementation reduced both anemia and anxiety in school children."
Another study from 2005 (also published in J of N) showed a "strong correlation between stress, cognitive function, depression symptoms and iron status in new mother's."
So what does iron do in the body? It is required for cell growth, it is necessary for oxygen transport and helps in the production of APT (your body's energy molecule). Therefore, if you don't have enough your body struggles to make more tissues, produce energy and move oxygen to your muscles and brain.
Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia are: fatigue, shortness of breath, cravings, weakness, dizziness, poor concentration and restless leg syndrome (some of the same symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks).
What foods are rich in iron?
Animal products Beans/legumes Spirulina Dried fruit Pistachios
Something to note....iron absorption requires vitamin C, so when consuming iron-rich foods make sure you also eat foods that have vitamin C: capsicum (bell peppers), kiwi, mango, citrus, etc.
For example, if you are eating beef for dinner, saute onions and capsicum to eat alongside or make a fresh tomato salsa to put on top.
ANXIETY & ANEMIA, PART 2: B12 DEFICIENCY (PERNICIOUS ANEMIA)
Pernicious anemia is when you are low in B12 (a major issue for vegans). B12 is found in animal products and nutritional yeast (Brewer's yeast).
What does B12 do in the body? Helps make DNA, maintains nerve function, needed for the formation of healthy red blood cells, supports immune function and metabolism.
Deficiency symptoms: fatigue, breathlessness after exercise, heart palpitations, headaches, sore mouth and tongue (again some of the same symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks).
Since it is difficult to get enough B12 in your diet as a vegetarian or vegan, it's a good idea to keep a close eye on your B12 status. Ask your practitioner to rest you for B12 deficiency.
If you need to take a supplement look for methyl B12 (methylcobalamin) which is a more bioavailable (absorbable) form of B12. Liposomal methyl B12 is best - it is sold as a liquid form of B12 wrapped in vitamin E that you put under your tongue. This allows absorption through the lining of your mouth which is far superior to tablets.
If you are anemic or feel you may be work with your practitioner to increase and monitor your iron and B12 status. If you want to discuss this further with me contact me through this website.