The Impact of Diet and Nutrition on Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry. When you have anxiety, you may experience excessive sweating, palpitations, and nervousness, which are usually described as normal stress responses (1).

Chronic anxiety is when your anxiety lasts for days or weeks. Chronic anxiety is problematic since it can eventually result in health issues. No easy or quick solutions, but you can counteract the damaging consequences by eating to increase or decrease particular substances in your body (3).

Psychotherapy and psychopharmacology are the two types of treatments that are most frequently utilized in the treatment of anxiety-related disorders.

Although many clients find these therapies helpful, a sizable proportion of people claim that they are not easily available, pleasant, or capable of reducing anxiety symptoms to a sufficient degree. These factors have sparked interest in the analysis of complementary or alternative therapy modalities.

The use of dietary therapies in the management and rehabilitation of psychological issues is the subject of the developing field of study known as nutritional psychiatry.

Nutritional advice is rarely given to mental patients in clinical practice, despite mounting evidence of its positive effects. This has been traceable to the inadequate knowledge of the impact of diet and nutrition on the mental health of patients (8).

Foods that Increase the Risk of Anxiety or Anxiety Disorder

Dietitians have explained that certain foods have contributed to the rise of anxiety disorders among people in recent times.

Your blood sugar will jump when you consume something high in sugar and will decrease more quickly compared to if you ate something more evenly balanced in terms of protein, carbs, and fat. For some people, this upswing and downswing can make anxiety worse and feel nearly like a panic attack (2).

The following are foods that should be avoided to prevent spikes of anxiety:

1. Cakes and Candy

Sugar-rich foods can cause blood sugar spikes, which are linked to anxiety. Avoid eating foods that have added sugar, or save them as infrequent, exceptional treats. Choose fresh fruit like blueberries, peaches, plums, and cherries if you’re craving something sweet.

2. Processed Meat

Inflammation is linked to certain meals, which might cause anxiety. According to Devine, these foods are likewise poor in fiber and are thought to upset the gut microbiota. The variety of bacteria that live in your gut make up your gut microbiome in most cases. The efficient functioning of the body depends on a healthy microbiome.

3. Alcohol

Some people believe that depressants like alcohol might have a relaxing effect. But if you consume alcohol, especially if you do it on an empty stomach, it can disrupt your sleep and cause blood sugar to increase. Excessive alcohol use can cause physical dehydration and migraine symptoms, which can cause anxiety. Together, hangover effects like restless sleep, B vitamin deficiency, and alcohol detox can cause feelings of worry and anxiety.

4. Smoothies without protein

Smoothies are a fantastic way to get the nutrients included in a variety of fruits and vegetables. If your smoothie mainly consists of fruits or vegetables with excessive glucose, on the other hand, you can experience a rise and fall in blood sugar levels, which can cause anxiety. Smoothies with protein can prevent high blood glucose levels and lessen the chance of sugar spikes.

5. Gluten

Although anxiety and gluten are rarely linked, there may be a correlation. There is a lot of data that suggests people who suffer from anxiety should think about eliminating or drastically reducing their gluten intake to see if their symptoms could improve. Gluten is problematic for people with non-celiac sensitivity in conjunction with celiac disease. Yet, research has shown that there is a strong correlation between gluten and anxiety (2).

6. Coffee

The majority of the coffee produced contains caffeine, and caffeine can cause one to feel nervous at intervals. Coffee is neither beneficial to anxiety nor depression, and sudden withdrawal from caffeine can cause low mood.

7. Energy drinks

Excessive intake of energy drinks will cause nervousness, insomnia, palpitations, and anxiety. This is traceable to the high level of cocaine contained in energy drinks and in most cases, they cannot be quantified. Hence, it is better to drink just water in place of energy drinks to curb most of its side effects.

8. Soy sauce

This one is intended solely for those who are gluten intolerant. It can be found in prepackaged meals like soy sauce in conjunction with bread, kinds of pasta, and pastries. Gluten sensitivity can result in sadness or anxiety. Also, it may make you feel lethargic and less than your best. Always take a good look at the labels before purchasing them and stay away from them (5).

Foods That Help Relieve Anxiety

Some people may get relief from their anxiety symptoms by switching to a more nutritious, healthier diet. Together with counseling and medicine, a person’s overall dietary consumption can help them control their anxiety. Some people may find that eating the foods listed below reduces their anxiety.

By consuming the following foods, you may be able to relieve yourself of some anxiety symptoms or feelings:

1. Eggs

Egg white, especially those gotten from chicken raised on pasture is one of the excellent ways to get vitamin D. Eggs as a major source of protein referred to ad the nutritional powerhouse of the body, containing the majority of the essential amino acids needed for human growth and development.

Another amino acid included in eggs, tryptophan, also helps serotonin to be produced. A chemical transmitter called serotonin aids in the regulation of emotions, relaxation, cognition, and activity. The brain, the intestines, and blood platelets all manufacture it.

Serotonin is believed to enhance cognitive function and lessen anxiety. As serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, foods, and drugs containing it do not immediately deliver serotonin to the brain, but they can trigger chemical events that raise serotonin levels there.

According to several studies, nutrition and gut bacteria may be important in both preventing and treating anxiety-related symptoms. To establish whether this is feasible, more investigation is required.

2. Pumpkin seeds

According to a study, pumpkin seeds are a great source of the mineral potassium, which aids in controlling electrolyte balance and blood pressure. An earlier study from 2008 discovered that higher concentrations of cortisol, a stress response released by the adrenal glands, were linked to decreased potassium and magnesium levels.

Consuming foods high in potassium, including bananas and pumpkin seeds, can help lessen the clinical manifestations of anxiety.

Another excellent source of the element zinc is pumpkin seeds. One study on Hundred female students discovered a negative correlation between serum zinc levels and mood disorders like anxiety and sadness. These findings imply that elevating zinc levels in the serum may help certain persons with mood problems.

The growth of the nervous system and the brain depend on zinc. The body’s largest zinc storage locations are found in the emotional processing areas of the brain (6).

3. Dark chocolate

Long-held theories among experts suggest that dark chocolate may lessen anxiety and tension.

According to certain studies, cocoa or dark chocolate may elevate mood by influencing the gut-brain axis. However, since a large number of the currently conducted research on this topic are observational, it is crucial to use caution when interpreting the findings.

Despite the lack of convincing evidence, dark chocolate is a good source of polyphenols, particularly flavonoids, which may help with stress or mood. According to one source, flavonoids may increase blood flow while also reducing neuroinflammation and brain cell death.

Tryptophan, which is abundant in chocolate and is used by the body to make neurotransmitters that elevate mood, like serotonin, in the brain.

Also, a great resource of magnesium is dark chocolate. Tension and anxiety symptoms may be lessened by taking supplements or eating a diet high in magnesium.

Instead of relying solely on food sources for magnesium, people with magnesium insufficiency may think about using high-dose supplements.

Use dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao. Dark chocolate should only be consumed in tiny servings of 1-3 grams (g) because it still includes additional sugars and fats (6).

4. Turmeric

Spices like turmeric are extensively employed in Southeast Asian and Indian cuisine. Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, will assist people with anxiety by lowering both oxidative stress and inflammation, two factors that frequently rise in people with mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

According to a 2015 study, individuals with obesity who took one gram of curcumin daily reported feeling less anxious. If someone is interested in items with high doses of curcumin, they should consult with their physician about taking supplements.

According to a different study, increasing the amount of turmeric in the diet likewise boosted DHA and lowered anxiety. It’s simple to include turmeric in dishes. It works nicely in milkshakes, sauces, and casseroles due to its mild flavor.

5. Yogurt

The beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus as well as Bifidobacterium can be found in yogurt. New research reveals that such bacteria and fermented dairy products benefit brain health.

Yogurt and perhaps other milk-based products may have an anti-inflammatory impact on human health, based on a 2017 clinical evaluation. According to several studies, depression, anxiety, and systemic inflammation may all be related.

Many studies have shown that eating healthy bacteria can boost mood in some people, and one from 2015 indicated that fermented foods lowered anxiety issues in some college students.

Yogurt as well as other fermented dairy products can help the body’s natural gut flora and may even lower anxiety and stress. Cheese, sauerkraut, and kimchi are examples of foods that are fermented.

6. Green leafy vegetables

When you’re under pressure, it’s easy to grab a cheeseburger, but try eating a salad for lunch instead. Green leafy vegetables include vitamins like folate, which helps your body make dopamine, a brain chemical that makes you feel good and helps you stay calm.

An analysis of nearly 14,500 participants released by the Journal of Affective Disorders in the year 2022 revealed a substantial negative correlation between depression and increased intakes of selenium, zinc, and B vitamins, especially folic acid. In other words, larger consumption of these vitamins was associated with reduced depression.

Also, a 2018 study found that college students typically felt quieter, happier, and more productive on days they ate more vegetables and fruit. This research was reported in Frontiers in Psychology.

The researchers discovered that healthy eating appeared to indicate a positive mood the following day, even though it can be difficult to determine which occurred first upbeat thinking or healthy eating (7).

Diet Health Tips in Combating Anxiety Disorder

Try the following tips/steps in your dietary plan while on the journey to overcome anxiety disorder:

A. Protein-filled breakfast: Consuming protein at breakfast will help you stay fuller for more time and maintain stable blood sugar levels, giving you more energy to tackle the day.

B. Consume complex carbohydrates: Serotonin has a soothing effect and is hypothesized to be produced in greater quantities in the brain by carbohydrates. Consume foods high in complex carbs, for example, whole grains like oats, quinoa, whole-wheat bread, and whole-wheat cereals, for instance. Avoid simple carbs, such as those found in sugary foods and beverages.

C. Stay hydrated: mild dehydration can cause mood swings. Taking adequate water and fluids to stay hydrated will help you overcome anxiety and stress.

D. Limit or avoid alcohol: Alcohol may have a soothing instant effect. Yet, alcohol might make muscles tense as your body processes it. Drinking might make it difficult to fall asleep.

E. Avoid caffeine: if you are trying to heal from an anxiety disorder, it is advisable to avoid caffeinated beverages or drinks.

F. Eat healthily: The general psychological and physical health of an individual depends on healthy nutrition. Consume a lot of fresh produce and avoid overeating. Regular consumption of fish rich in omega-3 FAs fatty acids may be beneficial (8).

Dietary changes may have some impact on your mood or your health in general, but they cannot replace medical care. Lifestyle adjustments include bettering sleep patterns, boosting social support, employing stress-reduction methods, and participating in consistent physical activity may also be helpful. Be patient because it can take a while for these improvements to reduce your anxiety.

You may require counseling (psychotherapy), medicine, or other treatments if your anxiety is serious or affects your daily life or pleasure (8).

References

(1) MedlinePlus. (2019). Anxiety. Medlineplus.gov; National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html

(2) Castaneda, R., & Esposito, L. (2021). 10 of the Worst Foods and Drinks for Anxiety. US News & World Report; U.S. News & World Report. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/foods-and-drinks-linked-to-anxiety

(3) Orenstein, B. W. (2018, January 11). 9 Foods That Help or Hurt Anxiety. EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/anxiety-pictures/anxiety-foods-that-help-foods-that-hurt-0118.aspx

(4) Aucoin, M., LaChance, L., Naidoo, U., Remy, D., Shekdar, T., Sayar, N., Cardozo, V., Rawana, T., Chan, I., & Cooley, K. (2021). Diet and Anxiety: A Scoping Review. Nutrients13(12), 4418. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124418

(5) https://www.facebook.com/WebMD. (2017). Slideshow: Foods to Avoid If You Have Anxiety or Depression. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/depression/ss/slideshow-avoid-foods-anxiety-depression

(6) Crichton-Stuart, C., & Dias, A. (Ren). (2022, April 12). 9 foods that help reduce anxiety. Www.medicalnewstoday.com. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322652#foods-that-help-reduce-anxiety

(7) Funston, L., Oehler, C., & Fisher, S. (2022, December 12). 20 Foods That Can Help Relieve Stress. Health.com. https://www.health.com/food/stress-relieving-foods

(8) Sawchuk, C. N. (2017, May 24). Find out how food and anxiety are linked. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/expert-answers/coping-with-anxiety/faq-20057987#:~:text=In%20some%20people%2C%20certain%20foods

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