Why You Need Zinc for Anxiety
Are you interested in learning about zinc for anxiety? If you’ve spent any time on this site, you’ll know that I’ve written before about vitamins for anxiety and magnesium for anxiety. In this post, I’d like to consider zinc for anxiety and why you might want to consider getting enough through your diet or through a supplement if you live with anxiety.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in many parts of cellular metabolism and immune function. Zinc is especially important to your brain—primarily the hippocampus, which is involved in functions related memory and mood.
Effects of Zinc Deficiency
Zinc can’t be stored by your body, which means that if you aren’t getting enough through your diet or supplements (or if your body is shedding zinc for some reason—more on that later), then you may end up with a zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency has been shown to relate to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. We also know that people who take antidepressant medication end up with higher zinc serum levels; there’s clearly a connection between zinc and mental health, and specifically zinc and depression and anxiety.
This makes sense since we know that zinc is also related to immune function and inflammation, which can also be a risk factor for depression.
What happens when you have too little zinc in your brain? Too little zinc in your nerve synapses means that certain brain chemicals are increased and others are decreased. Specifically, GABA and BDNF are decreased and glutamate is increased. This can lead to a condition called excitotoxicity, which has been shown to relate to seizures, migraines, anxiety, depression, and dementia.
I actually suffer myself with something called optical migraines and have wondered if this is related to a zinc (or other mineral) deficiency. If you’ve never experienced an optical migraine, I spend about 30-60 minutes unable to see because there are flashing kaleidoscope-like lights in my field of vision.
Who’s At Risk
Who’s at particular risk for zinc deficiency? We know that a vegetarian diet (and also vegan) will naturally contain lower levels of zinc because the major sources of zinc in the diet are meat products. I’m a vegetarian myself, so I may be affected by this.
Also, anyone with a wonky diet or who eats a restricted variety of foods might face similar issues (such as those living in poverty).
In addition, people with intestinal issues might have trouble with zinc absorption, such as those with ulcerative colitis or celiac disease. There is a history of celiac disease in my family and I was recently tested for this myself as I had been experiencing some stomach issues. Luckily, it was not positive!
Finally, if you are living through extreme conditions of major stress, you are more likely to be shedding the zinc you consume through your urine, saliva, and sweat. This means that the more stress you are under, the more you need to consider your zinc levels.
Zinc Food Sources
So, what can you eat to get enough zinc? There’s a whole list here, but basically the top choices are meat, poultry, oysters, cashews, etc. You can also get zinc from beans and grains, but those also contain phytates which can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the zinc. Catch-22, I know!
Basically, unless you’re heavy into meat or eat a lot of the other foods on the list, supplementation might be a good way to not have to worry if you’re getting enough zinc.
So, what’s the recommended daily intake for a supplement? According to this document, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 11 mg for people aged 14 and older. This means taking an iron supplement every few days or relying on your diet plus a multivitamin. Below are some options for each.
If you’ve read this far, you’ll understand that I believe it’s important to consider vitamins and supplements when tackling anxiety.
That being said, I recommend that if you are concerned about anxiety or depression, you visit a health care provider. There you can be tested to see if you are low on any particular minerals like zinc.
Related Articles about Vitamins for Anxiety
- The Best Vitamins for Anxiety
- Why You Need Magnesium for Anxiety
- Why Pyroluria Could Cause Social Anxiety