Anxiety Low-Carbohydrates Whey and BCAA

Question: Hi Lyle. I happened upon your site while researching the connection of dieting leading to anxiety. I am prone to anxiety and panic attacks and have been on zoloft 50mg for years. As of mid November I did Isagenix 30 day program with one day a week of a cleanse. The cleanse days were horrible for me as I don’t do well on not eating. Anywhoo…after I completed the month of cutting out a lot of carbs and drinking their whey protein shakes 1-2x a day, drinking BCAA’s and eating healthy, I had a major panic attack about a week and a half later. It was odd. I hadn’t had one in years. I am very active.

I teach Cycle, Boot Camp and am a long distance runner. I workout 5-7 days a week. This panic attack was about 4 weeks ago. Since then, I have had to increase the Zoloft to 75mg and I’m trying to get through the upstart side effects (ironically, agitation and anxiety increased) that I can’t seem to shake just yet (4-6 weeks to feel a difference. I am on week 3). I just wanted to get your opinion on the correlation between dieting and anxiety. I am curious if the addition of adding Whey protein with amino acids and BCAA’s once / twice a day caused this issue. I am SO frustrated to not feel normal again and it has definitely hindered my outlet – running. Thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Answer: Ok, I swear this will be a short one.   I addressed this a lot of this within the context of depression as well and you can go read that for most of what you need to know.  Tangentially, re-reading that piece, I couldn’t honestly write it today.  I suspect I was mired in a bunch of research on the topic because most of those details are completely wiped from my brain.  In any case, reading that will give at least some background to this question along with some general concepts of how to address it.

Now, first let me state that anxiety spans a lot of different types of things; interestingly, and suggesting that serotonin plays a role in many of them is the fact that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhitibors (SSRI’s), drugs that raise serotonin in the nerve space by preventing it’s re-uptake appear to have major benefit for treatment of anxietyZoloft which you mentioned being on is an SSRI (and note that SSRI’s take 3-4 weeks to really kick in for some reason). As well you didn’t mention if you’re still on a low-carbohydrate diet.