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Increased protein intake increasing symptoms of anxiety


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I've had to deal with a minor anxiety disorder for years, it's far from disabling but it's definitely not pleasant. Exercising more reduced my level of anxiety and drinking less alcohol has certainly helped too.

Lately I've been experiencing higher levels of anxiety than normal. My first assumption was that I was feeling worse on days when I haven't exercised as if my body has an excess supply of energy and is releasing it in this negative way. I still think this may be the case but I've seen reports online of people feeling more anxious after switching to a high protein/ low carb diet. Has anyone else experienced this?

For the past month or so I've been aiming to eat about 100g of protein a day. Prior to this my protein intake was ridiculously low at times, possibly because I'm vegetarian.

Today I've consumed 119g of protein which represents 29% of my daily calories (41% fat, 30% carbs). I'm feeling noticeably more anxious than normal so I'm wondering if that could be the reason. However, I've also not exercised all day and I've been slightly hungover all day which is a big anxiety trigger for me, so it's hard to tell.

Here's a study using a woman on the Atkins diet as its subject -http://psy.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/47/2/178

Sorry for the fairly disjointed post...

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I know you posted this a week ago, but I recently read quite a few studies off of Google that attributed high protein diets with increased symptoms of anxiety or exacerbation thereof. The tl;dr of it was that high protein diets often harbor a variety of negative side effects in keto diets, so it's very important if you're on low carb paleo or keto to keep your fat intake high, preferably a higher amount of calories from fat than from protein.

Personally, I definitely felt a little more anxious/irritable when I was adjusting to my new Keto diet this week. I was prepared for this, though, so it helped curb the crescendo affect anxiety tends to have, and it eventually went away.

In terms of your diet, I would up your fat intake and maybe tinker with your protein amounts when you start to feel better to see where your threshold lies. Also, remember to hydrate dude! A gallon of day or more, especially if you're active.

In terms of your anxiety, if you can afford it, I honestly and seriously recommend panic therapy (specifically panic therapy, not general psychotherapy) if you haven't already tried it. I don't know if you know this, but there is essentially a cure for panic attacks and more severe anxieties. 95% of the time it works, and don't use that 5% margin of error to avoid trying it. Shit works. If you can't afford panic therapy, let me know and I'll put up some legitimate online literature that will help you out.

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In terms of your anxiety, if you can afford it, I honestly and seriously recommend panic therapy (specifically panic therapy, not general psychotherapy) if you haven't already tried it. I don't know if you know this, but there is essentially a cure for panic attacks and more severe anxieties. 95% of the time it works, and don't use that 5% margin of error to avoid trying it. Shit works. If you can't afford panic therapy, let me know and I'll put up some legitimate online literature that will help you out.

I also have anxiety/panic and that is why I started working out. It has gotten better, but I still find it coming back on the days I don't work out. I can't afford any panic therapy unfortunately, so if there was any legitimate literature you could post I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

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The increased PROTEIN has absolutely nothing to do with anxiety. There hasn't been a single study to support this, and the report in the link doesn't really identify protein as the culprit. Low carbs on the other hand...

Your body needs 50g of carbs to function somewhat normally, preferably 100-120 if you want to have healthy brain function. Feeling dazed, sluggish, and slow in the head is not uncommon when you go below 100g. When you exercise, you need some extra carbs to make up for that as well, because the carbs you consumed are being used to replenish glycogen stores and are not available for brain function. I'm just quoting Lyle McDonald here, fyi.

In addition to that, a low overall calorie intake often does cause irritability. That shouldn't be a surprise - your body is frustrated and wants FOOD. Between low calories and low carbs, I wouldn't be surprised if some people experience anxiety. This has nothing to do with high protein.

That's my response to that link and reports of anxiety on keto diets in general. In your case, the carbs aren't *that* low, unless you do endurance training...so I'd look for other reasons why you might be experiencing more anxiety. The first thing to cut out would be heavy drinking, imo. I have experience with anxiety and depression, and I used to drink more than I should when going out. It helps to stop doing that. Trust me.

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I"ve never heard of that. Just heard, around these boards, that one's diet shouldn't have more than 30% of protein over a long period of time, it's too much for the body.

Diet is especially important to mood, and sometimes i tell myself that what I eat today will affect how I feel tomorrow. you mentioned that you were hung over and haven't exercised yet, two triggers for you. Try a week of being good to yourself (exercise, no alcohol, normal diet with the protein) and see how you feel.

Hope you feel better!

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So things to keep in mind - sometimes when increasing protein, there is a requisite decrease in carbs. Carbs, especially simple carbs, can act like opiates in some cases, leading to a chemical dietary calming. That's why things like mac and cheese make some people feel 'safe' or 'at home'. I notice a HUGE uptick in my generalized anxiety when I go to a low carb diet, but this gradually decreases until my general anxiety level is lower than baseline. Have I been diagnosed with anything? No - this is mostly personal observation without the benefit of professional intervention.

My point is thus: It is unlikely that higher protein is responsible, but rather it is likely a result of the reapportioning of your calories resulting in less carbs, which may result in higher anxiety levels. ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE TRANSITIONING FROM POOR DIET CHOICES. Going from pasta and pizza to high quality proteins, vegetables and sensible carbs is a huge shock to your system and it CAN cause neurological imbalances. My thoughts? Try adding more carbs in if you feel anxious and aren't trying to lose weight. If you are trying to lose weight, try to ride it out for a week or two with faith that it WILL get better provided you stick faithfully to your diet. Part of what you're likely going through are traditional withdrawl symptoms - obsessive thoughts, feeling of physical need, etc - and those will only go away if you stick off the bad stuff.

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Link? I routinely take in 30% or more of my daily calories from protein and have had no adverse effects.

Something tells me that statement was based on misinformation, or they meant that having low carbs and fat for too long is not good. Protein is not a macronutrient you would lower under any circumstances, so if someone were to lower carbs and fat enough, protein would become 30%+ of their diet. Although, that's actually not that much - I regularly have protein take up 30%. But any issues arise from low calories and low carbs and/or fat. The protein isn't "high", only high *relative* to a lowered consumption of the other macros, and has nothing to do with anxiety.

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Carbs don't act like an opiate, but low carb does decrease serotonin production. I don't remember if this is temporary or not, but I believe a typical brain gets used to the new levels - this probably isn't true of people with anxiety or depression issues.*

One thing you can try is to supplement zinc, magnesium, and Vit. B. These are catalysts in serotonin production and a lot of people are deficient in at least one of these.

*I read the article on this a long time ago, so my information may not be entirely accurate.

“We might as well start where we are, use what we have and do what we can." – Caitlin Rivers

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