Can Dietary Changes Improve Anxiety?

In this post, Penni explores research that links diet to mental health and how dietary changes may have positive outcomes for those who experience the symptoms of anxiety.


Over the last ten years or so, scientists have been uncovering more and more links between what we eat and our mental health, with most studies focusing on the link between depression and the gut.  In more recent years, however, expert attention has been given to expanding this concept and how more mental health conditions, including anxiety, could be in some way linked to what we eat and therefore treated through dietary changes.


The Microbiome And Gut-Brain Axis

The human microbiome is a collection of microbes – or micro-organisms – that include bacteria, fungi and viruses that occur naturally on and in our bodies, with the largest concentration being in our gut.  Scientific research has shown that the gut microbiome and the brain communicate with each other, via the vagus nerve. This is known as the gut-brain axis.  This research suggests that the gut microbiome and the brain have a two-way relationship, with the gut communicating with the brain and vice versa.


Gut-brain communication is bidirectional


Whilst research into the idea that mental health conditions such as anxiety could be linked to what we eat is still in it’s infancy, it is gaining momentum as more and more studies are uncovering evidence to suggest that there is a significant link between our mental health and our diet.  A new area of psychiatry called nutritional psychiatry (or metabolic psychiatry) is growing among those experts who are focusing on diet as a method to treat mental health issues such as anxiety, either as an adjunct to other treatments like therapy and medical interventions, or on its own.




There is strong evidence to suggest that certain foods such as those that are fermented and those containing Omega 3 fatty acids can, in combination with a balanced, healthy diet of lean proteins, vegetables, fruit and fibre, help to reduce anxiety symptoms.  There is also some suggestion that certain diets, such as the Mediterranean diet can prove helpful for those with anxiety due to it’s blood sugar stabilising effects.  Some foods are suggested to have a negative effect on anxiety, such as sugar and refined carbs, both of which can cause blood sugar to spike and drop which can lead to anxiety symptoms.


In summary

Over the years, I have worked successfully with many sufferers of mild to moderate anxiety and anxiety related challenges such as OCD, stress and phobias.  Therapy – particularly CBT – is an excellent choice for addressing the distressing symptoms of these conditions and can have very positive outcomes in a relatively short period of time.  The idea (to which I definitely subscribe) that these conditions can be either prevented or treated, at least in part, by what we eat is a very exciting one, so I shall certainly be ‘watching this space’!


Can changing your diet calm anxiety? – BBC Food

What’s the link between anxiety and gut health? (

The 4 Worst Foods for Your Anxiety (


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About the author
Counsellor Penni Osborn
Penni Osborn
Penni Osborn is a counsellor working at Anglia Counselling Ltd where she meets with adults, offering kind and compassionate help with anxiety, depression, CEN and difficult or overwhelming emotions, both online and in person. Penni also offers non-judgemental support and guidance for those seeking to explore their experiences in order to achieve enhanced personal growth, positive change and greater happiness.