Anxiety and Memory Loss? Foods that help memory loss for vegans?
March 10, 2015 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I seem to have acute anxiety lately, which is causing a cognition deficit for me. My memory is quite poor and lax these days - I'm not certain if it is due to my vegan diet, or my ongoing intensive anxiety? Are there any tips on how to improve my memory and stabilize my anxiety?

I suffer from OCD, hypochondria, low self esteem, racing thoughts, social anxiety, and existential depression. I used to be mentally adept and quick on my toes - reading voraciously and pursuing my hobbies. I think lately though, all of this psychological anxiety has jeopardized my memory loss and ability to learn at a quick pace/retain memory.

I rarely read anymore, and I eat poorly, cutting out gluten, dairy, and meat has made veganism sparse and quite difficult -- lacking nutrients, maybe. I'm constantly in an anxious conscious state, and I seem to have difficulty relaxing and having fun. I do see a therapist, but I have not made an appointment in nearly a month now. I'm not sure what to do. Perhaps I'm lacking some key vitamins that contribute to a sharp memory?

Are there any vegan and gluten-free super foods that can contribute to a better memory and relaxed body/mind? Wealthy advice would be much appreciated. I have attempted supplementing Omega-3 oils, but it has only contributed to an upset stomach -- and I rarely eat walnuts, which can help Omega-3 fatty acids.

P.S. I have read that severe depression can inflict memory loss.

posted by RearWindow to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Please go to the doctor. This is something you should share with them. See what they say. My sense is that your concerns are real.
posted by tooloudinhere at 10:45 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

All three of your questions here so far have been about anxiety, depression, and worry over cognition deficits. Please, for the love of your own life, go to the doctor.
posted by rtha at 10:50 AM on March 10, 2015 [19 favorites]

I will also add that it could be a vitamin deficiency -- I once went to the doctor with similarly amorphous symptoms, and I would have never known, except for the blood test, that I was extremely deficient in vitamin D.
posted by tooloudinhere at 10:50 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

Could taking supplements at a different time of day and/or with food help? I know I feel a little queasy when I take some on an empty stomach. I was reading a few studies just this morning on anxiety and O3, and that would have been my first suggestion. So instead I guess my suggestion is "O3 with food or at bedtime, see how it feels."

But actually, have you considered asking a nutritionist? I spent about 6 months working with a registered dietitian (on the mobile app Rise), and I found her super knowledgable about different foods to eat for different purposes. It was also super convenient and not-weird to interact via an app, as opposed to having to schedule an appointment and drive somewhere to meet with somebody. I also felt like she did a pretty good job of giving general diet overhaul advice on a daily basis. I was more opposite-to-vegan, so I don't know if her name is useful, but feel free to MeMail me if you want it.

On preview: yeah, the advice to go to a doctor is REALLY GOOD. (I got bloodwork done to determine any deficiencies during the time I was working with an RD-- I tend toward vitamin D deficient, and when I am low, it makes anxiety worse.)
posted by instamatic at 10:54 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was vegan for nearly a decade and have suffered from low-to-mid grade anxiety for my entire adult life - I have never noticed any direct relationship between the two. My advice:

1. Vegan or non-vegan, make it a priority to eat well and (this is important) stay hydrated - there is a direct, well-documented link between poor nutrition and depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. There are many gluten free vegan recipe blogs out there to get ideas from.

2. Do the best that you can to get enough sleep.

3. Exercise regularly - cardio is best, but even just walking outside will help.

Paying regular attention to these three things has moved anxiety from a primary factor in my life to a manageable background noise.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:57 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

You definitely need to go to the doctor and get some bloodwork done. Even one year of mostly veganism dropped my B-12 levels precipitously, even with taking supplements sometimes. That could absolutely be causing those type of symptoms.
posted by something something at 11:00 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Doctor. If your diet is causing issues, it is time to change your diet yesterday. Doctor. Did I say doctor? Go to a doctor. Take printouts of your AskMes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:01 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

You could very easily be suffering from anemia. Depression, anxiety and lack of mental sharpness can be common side effects.
posted by sardonyx at 11:03 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had similar symptoms and it turned out to be acute Anemia, aka Iron Deficiency. Nthing doctor visit, stat.
posted by jbenben at 11:20 AM on March 10, 2015

Doctor is a good idea! Definitely doctor.

But in case you didn't know this, if you are strict vegan, you need to be taking B-12 supplements regularly; that's the one nutrient humans need that isn't found in plant foods. You can get them over-the-counter at any pharmacy/vitamin-selling place. B-12 deficiency is serious stuff that affects the brain and can cause memory problems, anxiety, loss of focus, hallucinations, etc. But fortunately if this is your problem it's super treatable!
posted by anotherthink at 11:27 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

Please see a doctor for a blood test as directed above and please also consider psychiatric medication whether or not the blood test finds anything. I recently spent months of unhappiness trying to cure my general anxiety (which would spiral into obsessive rumination and intense hypochondria and all sorts of other fun stuff similar to what you're describing) with expensive superfoods and supplements and vitamins and minerals (as well as doing intense cardio, yoga, and meditating daily) because I didn't want to go to a doctor and because I was afraid of medication side effects. I got nowhere with this approach except to a state of near-constant stress and tension which drove my blood pressure to unhealthy levels and kept me from sleeping more than a few hours a night. After a few weeks on an SSRI, I am side effect-free and feel great all the time and am making progress on various pursuits (creative and otherwise) that I had stalled out on because I was spending so much time managing feeling unwell. It is so not worth it to continue to suffer.
posted by raisindebt at 11:37 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

go to the doctor, please. this is beyond the ability of internet strangers.
posted by zdravo at 11:42 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

Doctor doctor doctor. B12 deficiency can cause or contribute to every single one of the problems you've listed, and you may need supplementation beyond a daily pill.
posted by blue suede stockings at 11:46 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

I agree with the advice above. You need to go see a doctor. They can do medical testing and determine what you need to do next.

Sure, you could start supplementing D and B12, but do you know which KIND you need? Also, if you're severely B12 deficient, taking tablets is basically useless -- you may need a shot (or shots) to get things headed in the right direction. And you need to know what TYPES of vitamins to take. Vegan D2 is not nearly as useful as D3 (and there is vegan D3 out there, but you have to know to look for it!).

As a supplement to seeing a doctor, I also like Denise Minger's advice for vegans, which is generally compassionate and evidence-based; she's a former vegan herself and ran into some health challenges on the diet. However, I want to note that I am linking to this as background reading, not something you should use as a substitute for seeing an actual doctor.

You should go see an actual doctor. They can help you. If you do have an untreated deficiency (or something else -- other things can cause this, like say hyperthyroidism), you will feel SO MUCH BETTER once you are being treated.
posted by pie ninja at 12:11 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Healthy eating is kind of a relative thing. Some people thrive on veganism, others require a Wahls Protocol (watch her TED talk! dr Terry Wahls , something about mitochondria). Lots of different diets in between.
There's been an article circulating this year positing that depression and anxiety are a side effect of food allergies. So you may be eating the wrong foods for you.
Look into Leaky Gut Syndrome, aka Increased intestinal permeability - that can cause all sorts of havoc. Unfortunately, a lot of doctors can't really help much with any of the above. It's stuff you need to figure out on your own, through trial and error and a whole lot of patience.
A doctor can, however, test you for nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, celiac (maybe not test-able since you are already GF), Hashimotos, etc.

Hang in there, it's worth it!
posted by Neekee at 12:35 PM on March 10, 2015

Oh, and I wanted to add - waiting to get in to see your primary care doctor can take a while (and if you don't have one, getting one can seem daunting and take longer), but you could go to an urgent care center to get bloodwork done and a prescription (as well as a referral to a PC) and start feeling better TODAY.
posted by raisindebt at 12:39 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

And if you do get a doctor appointment, ask on the phone about getting lab work done *before* your appointment. Enough days in advance that your results will be at the doctor's by the time you get there. That way your doctor will be able to give you useful advice immediately instead of "get lab work and come back next week."
posted by instamatic at 6:48 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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