In England about 4.7 in 100 people suffer from anxiety, 2.6 from depression and 9.7 from depression combined with anxiety. That’s shit loads of people. Overall, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem this year and I am a one in four because I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder.
What you may not realise is that diet can make symptoms worse..
Anxiety isn’t necessarily caused by our diet but it can definitely make the symptoms worse. When it comes to anxiety eating healthily really does make a difference.
Before I got carted off to A&E with my epic (I’M DYING) panic attack, I’d noticed that I was getting palpitations after eating my daily Kit-Kat (four-fingers) and a pint of real ale would have me waking up at 2am with a 10/10 scale panic attack. The night I was taken to hospital, I’d downed a take-away and a pint of 7% beer. Not excessive by any means but a) I’m a lightweight and b) I was on the brink of nervous exhaustion due to the amount of adrenalin that had been surging through my body over the previous two years. There is NO doubt that it triggered the panic attack.
It makes sense to avoid foods which could be making your anxiety worse.
Relaxes you initially but you wake up at 3am with a gob like a flip-flop because you are dehydrated. Dehydration can trigger a panic attack. Alcohol also mucks about with the serotonin levels in your brain which makes things worse once the alcohol has worn off.
It’s a stimulant so it makes your heart beat faster and can give you palpitations. It’s a known anxiety stimulant. Remember Tweak in South Park? One cup a day preferably in the morning is OK for most people but anything more than that is a panic attack waiting to happen. I’m an all or nothing type of girl so I’ve given it up completely and I have to say that some of the decafs on the market aren’t too bad at all!
I noticed that I felt iffy after trawling my way through a full English and now I understand it’s because the digestive system has to work it’s arse off to digest it all. OOPS!
AVOID! AVOID! AVOID!
Naturally occurring sugars are fine but the nasty white refined stuff will have you hyperventilating into a paper bag before you can say ‘One lump or two?’
Dairy isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things but when it comes to anxiety it can raise your adrenalin levels so if you’re already ‘buzzed off your baps’ it’s not rocket science to understand how eating a lot of dairy can contribute to your anxious state. I’ve ditched the cheese but can recommend the vegan cheese-less cheese slices which are relatively palatable with some imagination.
Acid Forming Foods
Acid forming foods play havoc with your magnesium levels. Many people are deficient in this mineral due to food processing. Low magnesium levels can also contribute to anxiety and many people say that taking a magnesium supplement greatly improves their symptoms. Some even say that it makes them disappear completely but low magnesium levels can cause the same symptoms anxiety.
That’s the depressing part but it’s worth looking at what you are ingesting to feel less anxious. As Del Boy says, ‘You know it makes sense, Rodney!’
So what can you eat and drink to make you feel a bit calmer?
Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Valerian are all calming drinks. Be careful with Green Tea though.. It has numerous health benefits but it’s also a stimulant, so make sure you drink it decaffeinated.
Fruit will give you the energy you need without the buzz that sugar gives you. Bananas are also a good source of magnesium.
They make you fart but farting ‘trumps’ a panic attack any-day of the week. See what I did there?
Foods such as poultry, oats, dates, fish, peanuts, sunflower seeds, soy and chickpeas are rich in Tryptophan which is known to reduce anxiety.
Most of us are dehydrated and dehydration nearly always leads to anxiety symptoms so increasing how much you drink will improve things. I’ve found that knocking back a glass of Lancashire tap settles my palpitations down a treat.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Evidence suggests that Omega 3 is important for anxiety so Flaxseed oil, fish like salmon and tuna are good for you. Your house will stink like Grimsby Docks but your body will adore you for it. I also take a supplement and as well as the improvement in my anxiety, I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t feel as ‘foggy’.
Magnesium is a calming mineral. It supports the nervous system and helps to prevent anxiety. In my opinion it definitely helps so I take a daily supplement to make sure I’m getting enough.
B12 is the most common, but all B vitamins may have an effect on anxiety. B-vitamins play a strong role in the nervous system, so studies indicate that supplementing B vitamins could also improve anxiety outlook.
A word of caution about B Vitamins
I was taking a B vitamin complex until I realised that it was increasing my anxiety and I learned that Vitamin B6 is used in most energy supplements because it can increase the production of various energizing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It’s better to take it in the morning and with food.
The general function of norepinephrine is to mobilize the brain and body for action
When you are in a state of anxiety, your body is permanently ready for action so pumping more of this stuff into your body is going to increase anxiety levels. However, everybody is different in how things affect their body so the best idea is to see how it affects you and adjust the strength accordingly or leave them off altogether until you’re body isn’t constantly flooded with adrenalin and cortisol.
Cutting out the crap and eating more healthily will not cure your anxiety but I can assure you that it will improve how you feel. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar etc are all known to worsen anxiety and trigger panic attacks so removing those from your diet means less triggers to deal with. Less triggers means less adrenalin and cortisol. Try it. You may feel worse to begin with as withdrawal from any addictive substance makes you feel like you’re coming off crack (not that I know) but after a while you should notice an improvement. You will also notice that your skin is clearer and you don’t have ‘brain fog’.
I know how comforting food can be. My heart has soared many a time over the glorious sight of a Yorkie bar hiding at the back of the cupboard but I’ve also learned that those few minutes eating sugar-laden goodies isn’t worth the ambulance ride at 5am in the morning. If you want to get better, I strongly suggest you cut out the stimulants. This is not to say that you can never enjoy these things again. Once your body recovers and is no longer releasing stress hormones 24/7, you will be able to snaffle the odd doughnut and cappuccino again without it being a problem.
Until then, do the right thing by your bod, eh?