Living with anxiety can be a difficult and painful experience. When you suffer from anxiety, it can impact your day-to-day activities and make it difficult to know how to proceed. An effective anxiety-management game plan, first involves exploring the possible root causes of your anxiety. One common cause often overlooked: nutritional deficiencies.
Nutritional deficiencies can play a major role in causing anxiety. Research has shown that a deficiency in calcium and anxiety symptoms can be closely related.
The Calcium-Anxiety Connection
Calcium is necessary for our bodies to function properly. Because calcium is needed for healthy brain function, calcium deficiency can lead to anxiety and moodiness. The electrical pulses within the nervous system depend on calcium to perform properly. When a calcium deficiency compromises the nervous system, the chances of irregular moods and anxiety attacks increase significantly. Calcium deficiency
, also known as hypocalcemia, can masquerade as anxiety or exacerbate symptoms in those who already have anxiety. Low blood calcium can result in muscle cramping, lethargy, shaking, numb fingers and toes with tingling, and heart palpitations – symptoms also associated with anxiety. Depression and anxious thoughts can result from calcium deficiency as well.
Calcium deficiency most commonly occurs from not eating enough calcium-rich foods and supplements. Taking in too much protein and sodium can also cause your body to excrete calcium. When calcium levels are too low, your body has trouble absorbing calcium you do get from the foods you eat. As you age, your body's ability to absorb calcium lowers naturally. Consider calcium supplements to combat these factors to avoid a calcium deficiency.
Low calcium levels can affect your sense of well-being and cause changes in your behavior. Again, lethargy, anxiety, jitters, depression and irritability are common. These symptoms can be subtle at times and you may feel a general sense that something is wrong.
Recommended Daily Calcium Intake
The recommended daily calcium intake varies based on age and sex.
- Men ages 19-70 -- 1,000 mg per day
- Men ages 70 and over -- 1,200 mg per day
- Women ages 19-50 -- 1,000 mg per day
- Women ages 51 and over -- 1,200 mg per day
Keep in mind that a calcium daily intake over 2,500 mg may cause an upset stomach and constipation. It is also important to note that calcium and magnesium taken at the same time can cancel each other out. If you also supplement with magnesium, taking each at different times of the day will solve this problem. Since magnesium aids in sleep, it is better to take it at night. Taking calcium during the day is the better choice.
Vitamin D and Calcium
Vitamin D helps to maintain calcium levels by aiding with calcium absorption, and assists with muscle control and nervous system regulation. Your skin synthesizes vitamin D when it's exposed to direct sunlight. The correct dosage of vitamin D varies for each person. Factors such as age, the fairness of your skin and how much sunlight you are exposed to should be considered.
In general, it’s recommended that men and women under age 50 take in between 400 and 800 IU per day. Ages 50 and older should get between 800-1,000 IU per day.
Getting Enough Calcium and Vitamin D
You can increase your calcium intake with:
- Milk and dairy products
- Green vegetables such as kale, arugula and broccoli
- Bony fish (salmon and sardines)
- Soybeans and tofu
- White beans
- Enriched foods such as breads and grains
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified orange juice and soy milk
- Sesame and sunflower seeds
Foods rich in Vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish (mackerel and salmon)
- Beef liver
- Fortified foods
Avoid excess calcium by checking food and supplement labels to understand how much calcium you are ingesting daily. Do not exceed the recommended upper limit. Calcium supplements that contain vitamin D help increase your calcium levels safely. Preventing calcium deficiency, while maintaining safe calcium levels, can help to decrease anxiety and depression while keeping your body healthy.