How omega-3s and a plant-based diet can be key to reducing anxiety

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There are many names – generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobia, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder – but most of those who suffer from one of its many subgroups simply refer to it as anxiety. However, fear is not easy, especially when it comes to understanding the causes and seeking a cure.

Preliminary fear-related research has shown that what we eat can affect both the onset and worsening and relief of anxiety symptoms. One food-related substance in particular has recently been found to have a strong association with anxiety. These are polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Amazing results from a small study have shown that consuming high-dose omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements can dramatically reduce anxiety symptoms in patients with a clinical diagnosis.

But what exactly are these fatty acids, how do you include them in your diet as a plant eater and are they safe? As you delve into the relationship between omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and anxiety, remember that any dietary change or dietary supplement integration should be reviewed by a doctor first!

Fear 101

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Anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million people over the age of 18. Unfortunately, only a little over 36 percent receive treatment. However, due to the tremendous epidemic state of anxiety-related disorders, a spurt of research has begun to shed light on the dark corners of this seemingly tremendous mental state. Anxiety is usually incredibly complex – due to a variety of factors including “genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events” – but one path that is increasingly being explored is lifestyle, and diet in particular.

What are Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids?

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Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are an essential, yet recently published, component of human health that offers overarching and consistently surprising benefits.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are made up of three acids: a-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in plants, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). especially oily fish meat and fish oils. These fatty acids are able to affect many internal cell functions, including the “nature of cell membranes and membrane protein-mediated responses,” the generation of lipid mediators, cell signaling, and gene expression. In short, these fatty acids are “essential for normal biochemical function in the adult brain”.

While all three acids are important, the EPA and DHA acids, also called very long chain omega-3 fatty acids, are crucial when it comes to these newly discovered brain-related benefits. They have also been linked to overall improved health, protection from disease – particularly cardiovascular morbidity and rheumatoid arthritis – as well as reduced inflammation and improved cognitive abilities, especially in children. However, one of the most drastic and exciting discoveries is the relationship between omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and nerve cell membranes, a relationship that affects the risk of developing and relieving behavioral disorders.

The relationship between omega-3 PUFA and anxiety

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In September 2018, the JAMA network published a study by Dr. med. Yutaka J. Matsuoka, who works in the Health Research Division of the National Cancer Center in Japan, has profound effects on symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. The study, which enrolled 1,203 participants who were given either placebo or different doses of omega-3 PUFA treatment, concluded that “omega-3 PUFA treatment may be associated with a reduction in anxiety which may be due not only to a potential placebo effect, but also from the associations of treatment with reduced anxiety symptoms. “

While the anti-anxiety benefits (known as anxiolytic effects) of these omega-3 PUFAs were found to be more pronounced in patients with clinical diagnoses, the far-reaching implications of the study result for those suffering from anxiety are incredibly exciting. The authors of this study are moving into another phase of the study and hopefully they will soon have more data to build on!

Safety first!

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Before changing your diet, it is important to speak to a doctor. The human body is constructed in a similar way and yet we are all very different and may react poorly to a change in diet. While you are also speaking with a professional, take the time to find the right supplement and dosage based on your age, weight, and lifestyle.

Fortunately, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board created a reference guide called the Dietary Reference Intake. This diet reference table is a guide for generally healthy people based on age and gender. Due to the fact that so little research is available on omega-3 PUFAs, the Food Consumption Guide includes an Adequate Intake Level (AI), which represents diet adequacy, and not a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which represents an average daily Provides intake that is sufficient to meet those nutritional needs.

For example, an adequate intake of 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women is recommended for adults between the ages of 18 and 50. These numbers are also influenced by pregnant women as well as women who are breastfeeding. Therefore, it needs to be reiterated that speaking with a doctor before starting any supplement is of the utmost importance.

Omega-3 supplements

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Those who practice plant-based eating face greater challenges as the specific omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids associated with reduced anxiety symptoms are found in marine life (such as oily fish and fish oils). If you are exclusively a vegetarian or vegan, this is an even bigger hurdle. But this is where the dietary supplements really shine! Try some of these omega-3 supplements as soon as your doctor gives you thumbs up!

Sundown Naturals Vegetarian Omega 3-6-9

Sundown Naturals OMEGA 3-6-9 / Amazon.com

Sundown Naturals offers a unique blend of nutritional supplements that not only contains a dose of that omega-3 fear, but omega-6 and omega-9 as well. Sundown Naturals Vegetarian Omega 3-6-9 is made from cold-pressed flaxseed oil and sunflower oil, making it a purely vegetarian option. With this in mind, it should be noted that research into the effects of alpha-linolenic acid (plant-based omega-3) on anxiety is still new. Therefore, this vegetarian option may not have the anxiety-related effects that you want. This supplement is also 100 percent free from dairy, lactose, gluten, wheat, and artificial flavors.

Would you like to include more omega-3 in your diet? Look no further, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster app, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 herbal, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers get daily access to new recipes. Listen!

Main image: Shutterstock

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