As always, these are simply my suggestions through my continued research on helping people with anxiety. As well as what has worked in my life, and may work in your life. I can only hope it takes away the confusion for many people in terms of what they think is best to eat to combat their anxiety naturally, as well as what things to take out of their diet...
Did you know that your diet can have a HUGE affect on your mood and how you feel? The foods you eat or don't eat in fact have a huge effect on curbing or causing panic attacks, but most of us know this and yet still don't take daily action to provide themselves with the right foods to counter their anxiety.
In the fast paced world we live in it's very easy to forget the needs of your body, in order to provide the fuel necessary for achieving your day to goals effectively. Studies have shown that certain foods can impact people with panic disorders by potentially intensifying the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, which increases the frequency of panic attacks as well as making it very difficult to achieve a good nights rest.
Many anxiety sufferers find incredible relief in their anxious sensations when focused on certain dietary triggers, as well as replacements and foods that will help on the road to recovery.
Lets take a look at what needs to be avoided in your diet or cut down to small amounts:
Caffeine: Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system, Americans and Europeans rely on coffee in their everyday lives and many studies have in fact found a connection between this addictive stimulant, and the increase of symptoms of anxiety as well as insomnia. Quitting on coffee suddenly can in fact cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and nervousness, so gradually cutting down the amounts you consume and finding a replacement to coffee with herbal teas for instance is important. Caffeine is also found in green tea (more on green tea later), chocolate, many soft drinks and sodas, certain medications, some cold remedies and pain relievers.
Alcohol: A temporary relief for many people suffering from panic and anxiety, alcohol is thought of as a way to relax and calm down, alcohol is also a way that sufferers can produce the free feeling person they want to be again, their confidence rises which leads to temporarily being able to communicate with friends and family members the way they always wanted to.
Alcohol causes sugar fluctuations as well as increased lactic acid buildup in the blood, which results in an increase in anxiety, irritability and disturbed sleep patterns. Just the thought of what the morning will bring in terms of the increase in physical sensations, and restlessness that in the past might have turned into full blown panic attacks, will be enough to start the cycle of fear adrenaline fear the night that alcohol is being consumed. This kind of “nervous hangovers” can easily last a few days, and the second day sometimes being much worse then the day after consumption.
Sugar: Sugary foods quickly get absorbed into the bloodstream which may cause an initial 'high' or increase in energy, but soon will wear off as the body increases the production of insulin, leaving you feeling tired and low. The lack of endorphins in the brain, plus the insulin's effect, can result in high amounts of anxiety as well as depression. The individual might then eat more sugary foods to try and feel better, which results in a vicious cycle of addiction which can be difficult to stop. It's important to consider the negative effects that sugar might cause to your mental health the next time you think about consuming sugary foods, it just might put a hold on your recovery and it's not worth it.
What needs to be ADDED to your diet to combat anxiety:
Mixed nuts: Did you know that just one ounce of walnuts can help replace the stress-depleted B vitamins. As well, damage to cells can be caused by chronic stress but can easily be rebalanced by adding almonds to your diet, which give you a huge boost in vitamin E. Finally Brazil nuts provide large amounts of zinc which easily gets drained by high amounts of anxiety. One last thing is try buying the nuts in their original shells as putting your attention to opening the shells can not only be a great distraction from internal checking in, but also a great stress reliever.
Salmon: Low in mercury and high in Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is rich in vitamin D which is in fact a well known mood stabilizer. Studies have shown a connection between low levels of omega- 3s and depression, as well as a number of other nervous disorders including anxiety and attention deficit disorder. Alaskan Wild Salmon and Wild Coho Salmon have been found to contain 33% more omega-3s then their farm raised counterparts due to the differences in diets. If you don't like eating much Salmon, some other great sources of essential omega-3s to add to your road to recovery diet are flax seed oil, walnut oil, avocados, and organic butter.
Tryptophan Rich Foods: Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which means the body can't manufacture it and must be taken through diet, a protein that would not allow humans to survive if neglected. Ever become sleepy after eating turkey? Could be because of the Tryptophan in a turkey that is know to be a natural sedative. Tryptophan has been effectively used to treat insomnia in many people and usually 1 to 2 grams of L-Tryptophan is enough to increase blood levels sufficiently to induce sleep.
The body uses Tryptophan to produce niacin and Seratonin which produces a healthy mood, but in order for tryptophan to be converted into niacin the body needs enough iron and vitamin b6. Tryptophan rich foods include eggs, soybeans, cheese, sunflower seeds, turkey, chicken, salmon, beef, milk, banana and potatoes.
Blueberries: Blueberries are a superfood and rich in vitamins and plant nutrients with a variety of antioxidants that are considered to be extremely beneficial for relieving stress. These tiny stress busters are loaded in vitamin C and will help repair and protect our cells.
Guacamole: Having a craving for something creamy? Guacamole is loaded with b vitamins commonly known as the stress vitamin, which aids our brain cells and nerves which are lost through continuous stress. Mixed with whole grain baked chips and your craving for something salty is taken care of.
Complex Carbohydrates: Complex carb are a source of energy that our bodies break down slowly that results in a steady stream of energy throughout the day, and helps in escaping that slumping hitting a wall feeling mid afternoon. Complex carbs come in the forms of breads and pasta while simple carbs are things like sugar and cakes. Other complex carbs that should be added to an anti anxiety diet are fruits such as oranges, apricots and pears, Vegetables like Broccoli, spinach and cucumbers and Legumes such as Kidney beans, soy beans and pintobeans.
Green Tea: Green tea contains L-Theanine which is involved in the formation of GABA. GABA is a chemical in the brain responsible for creating the calming and rhythmic electrical impulses in the brain.
Despite its caffeine content which is significantly lower then the levels found in beverages such as coffee, this replacement for coffee drinkers will lead to huge improvements in your mood.
Question – let's start simple, if you already have a “clean diet” that doesn't add unneeded anxiety to your life well done! But if you're like most people and on the go all the time, find 2 things from the list of “not to eats” and completely eliminate them from your diet, now find 2 things that you will add to your diet from the list mentioned that will replace what you are taking away from your diet. For example, cut out caffeine and add green tea, or cut out cakes and add a piece of fruit etc, take your time thinking this over and apply to you diet daily.