Is there a link between anxiety and food?

When your nervous system is under pressure – your body responds with a switch to fight or flight mode.  Whilst some stress is normal, a prolonged state of high-level stress is not.  It will push your body into overdrive & can actually increase how often you experience anxiety attacks. 

Food choices can have an impact on how your anxiety affects you.  How you deal with anxiety can be a challenge which often requires lifestyle changes.  Whilst neither diet nor lifestyle can cure anxiety, they can set you on an improved path which helps you cope with anxiety better.

OK, the limit or avoid scenarios

Limit or avoid caffeine.  I know the smell of fresh coffee is divine, but caffeine actually increases your cortisol (which is your stress hormone).  Whilst some cortisol is good, you do not want it to always be on high alert.  High levels of caffeine  exacerbate anxiety & nervousness, as well as decreasing the production of serotonin (a feel-good chemical).  Avoid or limit coffee, black tea, &/or energy drinks, instead try a matcha green tea.  It does actually contain caffeine however it also has a high amount of the amino acid, L Theanine, which inhibits the possible caffeine side effects.  Even try a herbal tea, there are loads to choose from & most are caffeine free.

Also limit or avoid alcohol.  Why?  It is altering the levels of neurotransmitters, again serotonin, in your brain.  Initially you may feel calmer (it varies for each person) but as your body processes it, levels of anxiety can worsen.  Alcohol depresses the central nervous system which may make you feel calmer, almost sedative effect, which is why alcohol can feel like a relief from anxiety.  Alcohol induced anxiety can actually last for several hours & for some the whole day after. 

Food sensitivities can also impact anxiety levels, pay attention to when you feel anxious.  Some people suffer from unpleasant physical reactions from particular foods or additives.  Think about symptoms of allergies & compare them to symptoms of anxiety, there is a big overlap. (THINK rapid heartbeat, sense of dread, irritability, headaches, restlessness, hot flushes, or feeling dizzy/lightheaded). 

Now more about what to include.

Complex carbohydrates.  Definitely add these in, they are thought to increase serotonin which has a calming effect.  What is a complex carb?  THINK whole grains (oats, brown rice, or quinoa), or sweet & white potatoes, or even kidney beans.  Steer clear of foods containing simple carbohydrates THINK  sugar & sugar sweetened foods.

Breakfast should include a protein.  It will keep you feeling full for longer as well as assisting your blood sugar regulation.  Basically, it will give you energy & keep your mood more consistent.

A good brekky sets you up for the day
Image Source: Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

Keep hydrated –  yup, that old chestnut.  Keep up the water – even mild dehydration can affect your mood.

Be patient, it may take time & the addition of some lifestyle changes to make improvements but remember little changes add up to be big changes.  If your anxiety is proving difficult to manage seek help from a professional.

#MentalHealth #SelfLove #HappyHealthyLife #Life101 #HolisticHealth #ConsciouslyNutritious

Published by Shân

I am incredibly passionate about food and its healing power – it is pretty amazing how what you eat affects how your body works! In fact, I was so fascinated, I went & got myself a degree in it – a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine). Now in all honesty I don’t eat or live a perfect lifestyle, nor will I ever pretend I do. Realistically I know you won’t be perfect either. And that’s OK. As a Clinical Nutritionist I focus on what we eat and how this has an impact on our health and wellness – everyday.

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