When the stress piles up or your anxiety gets out of control, you probably already have a few trusty tools to help take that edge off. Perhaps you try some yoga stretches or spend a few minutes meditating. These are all great ways of coping, but if you really want to counter stress and anxiety, you should also take a look at your diet.
It is well established that the omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA and EPA lower systemic inflammation, which can cause a wide range of chronic conditions including diabetes, cancer, dementia, and heart disease, but did you know they can also help with anxiety and stress?
When researchers discovered in 2011 that reducing omega-3 fatty acid intake in mice caused their stress to rise, they then set out to investigate the connection further. It was believed that the link was down to the impairment of the ability of the brain to produce brain lipids controlling synaptic memory known as endocannabinoids.
The researchers decided to test out several models of behavioral stress on mice to gain sharper insight into the endocannabinoid-dependent links that exist between synaptic plasticity and anxiety.
They were able to prove a relationship between anxiety levels and the number of endocannabinoids produced in the brain. This means that dietary omega-3 fatty acids, which modulate a person’s natural endocannabinoid production, can help alleviate anxiety.
Students taking omega-3 supplements saw a 20 percent drop in anxiety
Right now, you’re probably thinking “Okay, but those are mice. How do these results play out in humans?” Scientists already have an answer. In a study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, researchers from The Ohio State University studied 68 volunteer medical students – a group that regularly experiences high amounts of stress. They were divided into six different groups, who were then interviewed at set intervals throughout the study to determine the levels of anxiety, depression and stress they were experiencing. Half of this group took omega-3 supplements, while the other half took a placebo.
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Those who took the omega-3 supplements experienced a 20 percent drop in anxiety when compared to the group that took the placebo, and blood samples showed a similar drop in circulating inflammatory factors. These are remarkable results, although it’s worth noting that the supplement contained roughly four to five times the amount of fish oil a person would derive from eating a serving of salmon each day. Nevertheless, it’s likely that eating more fatty fish could help lower your overall anxiety, stress and inflammation throughout your body.
Eat oily fish to boost your mood
When it comes to foods that influence your mood, therefore, oily fish is one of the best thanks to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. In a Finnish study, the more fish the 4,000 participants consumed, the lower their risk of not only depression but also suicidal tendencies were. In another study, fish consumption was linked to a higher personal perception of outlook and mood. MindBodyGreen suggests adding two or three servings of oily fish like salmon, herring or sardines a week to your diet.
This is just one of many examples of how eating the right foods – and avoiding the wrong ones – can have a big impact on your mental health. It’s something that those who profit from anti-anxiety medications would prefer you didn’t find out about. Incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet is far safer and cheaper than taking toxic pills, and it can boost your overall health at the same time.