Anxiety is an emotional state; it is a normal nervous system response when someone is scared or fearful. However, it can become abnormal when you start to feel very anxious especially when there is no real threat or danger and it is prolonged.
Anxiety brings with it, an array of physical symptoms: heart palpitations, throbbing or stabbing pains in the chest, a feeling of tightness in the chest or an inability to breathe properly, headaches, muscle aches, excessive sweating, dry mouth, dizziness, digestive problems and frequent urination or defecation.
Psychological symptoms can be; a constant feeling something bad is going to happen, problems sleeping, fear of being chronically unwell, tense and agitated.
Very extreme anxiety may bring on a panic attack – this is when the feelings of fear become very intensified and breathing becomes a problem.
Certain foods and substances consumed are linked to increased anxiety. Links with increased lactate levels are associated with people with high levels of anxiety. Lactic acid is a by-product of glucose when broken down to make energy and the body is deprived of oxygen. Some foods increase lactic acid levels, therefore increasing anxiety.
Sometimes by eliminating that food, anxiety may be reduced greatly.
The foods to watch out for are:
Alcohol, caffeine and sugar
Alcohol may increase anxiety by increasing lactate in the body. I recommend avoiding as much as possible, however an odd glass of red wine once or twice a week may be helpful for someone who is suffering from extreme anxiety.
I would not advise using it as a tool for reducing anxious states but taking into account its ability to relax some people. It may be a consideration when attending an event. I recommend not drinking Monday to Friday, then having 2-3 glasses of wine or whatever your tipple is at the weekend. Keep it low!
Supporting your blood sugar levels may go along way to helping with symptoms of anxiety. Reducing refined carbohydrates and replacing with complex carbohydrates is useful.
Eating protein and or fat with a carbohydrate food will help slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream.
Cinnamon has been found to help slow down the absorption of glucose and adding lemon juice or vinegar to food may have a similar effect. Two useful tips would be to add cinnamon to porridge and make salad dressing for salads and vegetables.
B deficiency specifically niacin (B3), vitamin B6 and thiamine (B1) may be linked to anxiety.
Eat grass fed red meat, fish, vegetables, beans, pulses and whole-grains. Avoid processed, high sugar and fatty, fried foods such as baked biscuits, pastries and foods cooked in vegetable oil. These foods contain no B vitamins and may also rob you of them.
Calcium and magnesium deficiency may be linked to anxiety.
Magnesium is known as a calming mineral and they work synergistically together. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of both calcium and magnesium – broccoli, cauliflower, kale and chard. Avoid eating fast and skipping meals, both will reduce absorption and intake of essential nutrients.
Avoid eating food that you may be intolerant to.
The inflammatory response in the body maybe a factor that causes anxiety. Common intolerances: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and nuts. It is best to find this out either by doing an elimination diet under the supervision of a nutritionist or by doing a food intolerance test.
Studies have shown that eliminating caffeine alone may be enough to diminish anxiety completely.
Replace with herbal teas, water, green juices or dandelion coffee. Green tea may be useful as it contains a small amount of caffeine but also an amino acid called L-Theanine, this nutrient is involved in giving you a feeling of calm and well being.
Sugary, processed foods interfere with your gut flora.
Gut and brain are intrinsically linked and people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome commonly suffer from anxiety. A healthy environment in your gut may help with symptoms of anxiety. Eat foods rich in probiotics such as plain natural yoghurt, fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, olives and sourdough bread.
Also eat food that feeds the probiotics known as prebiotics – onions, leeks, garlic, sweet potatoes, apples and oats. A recent small study carried out by Oxford University found prebiotics compared to a placebo showed the prebiotic group responded more to positive information and disregarded the negative news. They also found cortisol levels were lower in the prebiotic group.
Stewed apples with an oat crumble topping and plain natural yoghurt is a good gut healing, brain supporting desert or breakfast.
Finally one last note on breathing
Avoid over-breathing. Some people do not breathe properly and this may lead to anxiety and panic attacks. Pay attention to your breathing. When you breathe in your tummy should move first, just like a baby, if there is more movement in the chest you may need to learn how to breathe properly.
Key foods to increase
Rainbow foods – think colour – berries, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, apples, kiwi and cabbage
Protein – grass fed red meat, organic chicken, fish, peas, pulses, lentils, beans, eggs and chickpeas
Fats – oily fish, ghee, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds
Key foods to avoid
Sugar, processed foods, fried, baked foods such as crisps, pastries and biscuits, coffee and alcohol.
Hope you enjoyed reading about how foods and anxiety are related!
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