Five Common Nutrient Deficiencies that Can Cause or Worsen Anxiety

Five Common Nutrient Deficiencies that Can Cause or Worsen Anxiety

The current mainstream approach to treating anxiety is through therapy and medication. While these can be effective option, diet and nutrition are often overlooked as possible causes – and you can’t treat a nutrient deficiency with counseling and prescription pills.

Considering that the high stress levels and poor diets are so common today, it makes sense to treat problems like anxiety holistically. This means addressing lifestyle issues like diet that may be contributing to the problem, rather than simply trying to erase the symptoms.

To manage stress and anxiety most effectively, make sure you’re getting enough of these five nutrients.


Vitamin B complex

  • The B vitamins help with nervous system functioning, and being under a lot of stress can deplete your levels. A deficiency can lead anxiety, fatigue, and mood problems.
  • Studies have found Vitamin B helpful in treating anxiety disorders, particularly agoraphobia and obsessive thoughts.
  • Many of the common sources are animal products, so supplementing with Vitamin B is even more important if you eat a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet. Good sources of B vitamins include meat, turkey, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, and legumes.


  • Magnesium is a nutrient that plays a part in more than 300 of the body’s biochemical reactions, and regulates the release of stress hormones.
  • Studies on both humans and mice have shown a strong connection between magnesium levels and depression and anxiety.
  • Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy vegetables like spinach, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, and fruits such as watermelon and figs.
  • Many herbs and spices are also good sources of magnesium. Cooking with parsley, fennel seed, paprika, cayenne pepper, and drinking herbal tea, are tasty ways to get more of the mineral.


  • Tryptophan isn’t a vitamin or mineral, but rather an essential amino acid. It is the number 1 supplement purchased for stress and anxiety.
  • Tryptophan converts into a compound called 5-HTP, which then converts it to serotonin (the “feel good chemical”), which plays a huge role in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep.
  • Food sources include dairy products, soy milk, meat and seafood, avocados, winter squash, nuts, and legumes.

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because its main source is sunlight. Those living in climates that experience cold, dark winters, are at very high risk for a deficiency.
  • In fact, it’s estimated that 30 to 100 percent of us are deficient in Vitamin D.
  • Research has shown that individuals with depression and anxiety disorders also commonly have low levels of Vitamin D.
  • If you have darker skin, don’t spend much time outside, or are an older adult, Vitamin D supplementation is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough.
  • There are few food sources, but they include fatty fish, fortified products such as milk and juice, cheese, and egg yolks.


  • Although less common than a deficiency in, say, magnesium or Vitamin D, calcium deficiency still has a very big impact on mental and physical health.
  • The nervous system needs calcium in order to operate properly, so mood issues and anxiety very often result from not getting enough calcium.
  • Physical symptoms of calcium deficiency include shaking, heart palpitations, tingling sensations, and numbness – all of which are also common physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, soy products and tofu, almonds, oatmeal, and green vegetables.

Everyone should have a yearly physical that includes testing vitamin and mineral levels. For some people, especially those deficient in certain nutrients such as Vitamin D, one may need to test more frequently. Be sure to speak with your doctor before starting a new supplement regimen.