Photo of a kale plant
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and chard can supply both B vitamins and iron

Panic attacks linked to low B6 and iron

1 October, 2013

Natural Health News — People prone to panic attacks accompanied by hyperventilation may want to check their diets for adequate amounts of iron and vitamin B6.

A small study done in Japan suggests that low blood levels of these two nutrients is linked with the anxiety, distress and hyperventilation, that come with panic attacks.

The study participants were 41 premenopausal women. Half had been admitted to the emergency room (ER) and diagnosed with having panic attacks or hyperventilation attacks, while the others were free from such symptoms.

The blood levels of B2, B6 and B12 and iron were measured in the first group when those individuals went to the ER. The second group was tested for vitamin and iron levels during periodic health checkups.

The researchers found that vitamin B6 and iron were significantly lower among the panic attack and hyperventilation attack subjects compared to the control subjects.

The investigators did not find a significant difference in vitamin B2 and vitamin B12 between the two groups.

Previous research indicates that low serotonin levels are associated with panic and hyperventilation attacks. Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan and requires vitamin B6 and iron as cofactors.

A global problem

Anxiety disorders are common throughout the world affecting around 7%. The incidence tends to be low (around 5%) in African cultures 0.9%) and higher (11%) in Euro/Anglo cultures.

In the US around 18% of the population has experiences a panic disorder in any given year with women much more likely than men to suffer from this problem.

The rise in anxiety disorders, which is blamed on rising stress levels, an ageing population, increasing global problems such as the recent financial crisis and significant unmet needs amongst the population has been a boon for pharmaceutical companies who project that treating such diseases will be worth $5.9 billion by 2017.

Drugs for dealing with panic disorders – such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) come with a host of adverse effects such as nausea, dizziness, weight gain, dry mouth, insomnia, and diarrhoea and many people are interested in non-drug options where they are available.

Dietary sources

You can, of course, supplement with B-vitamins and iron, but it is also a good idea to ensure you are eating the foods that supply them naturally.

The whole family of B vitamins is necessary for good mental and physical health. Deficiencies have been linked with irritability, restlessness, lethargy, anxiety and mood swings. Ensuring you get plenty of dark leafy greens and whole grain foods can help you maintain a good intake of B-vitamins.

For B6 you best food sources are:

  • Chickpeas
  • Beef liver
  • Tuna, fresh yellowfin
  • Sockeye salmon
  • Chicken breast

Other good sources include boiled potatoes, turkey, bananas, ground beef, marinara sauce, cottage cheese and winter squash. You can also top up by snacking on mixed nuts and raisins.

For iron your best food sources are:

  • Mollusks (clams, oysters, mussels, shrimp)
  • Pork, chicken or beef liver (but make sure it’s organic!)
  • Nuts (cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, pine nuts)
  • Lean beef and lamb
  • Beans (white beans, kidney beans, lentils, soybeans)
  • Whole grains such as oatmeal
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, swiss chard, kale)
  • Tofu

Dark chocolate and cocoa are also god sources of iron – but watch the sugar!