Anxiety and what we put in our bodies
We all experience days when things can be soooo overwhelming. Occasional bouts are one thing, but constant feelings of being anxious can become unbearable. Sometimes we wait until we feel SO overwhelmed before we seek answers and sometimes we know the path ahead so we start looking for answers sooner. Wherever you may be on your journey, I hope you find support in the information below.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (IV-TR) has a category for very severe anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In order to meet their criteria for anxiety, you must have persistent and prolonged excessive anxiety and worry for at least 6 months. You also need to meet a plethora of other criteria.
However, there is a growing amount of people self-reporting as feeling anxious. Perhaps, you can relate? Maybe it’s several times a day or a few times a month. You may have been unfortunate enough to experience a panic attack, these can be incredibly crippling. Maybe you know your triggers (claustrophobia in my case) maybe you don’t.
Have you ever noticed that certain foods or even situations can increase your anxiety? For example, caffeine, lack of sleep, stress, food additives. The reason for this is caffeine, lack of sleep, and stress put your body into a state of high alert, so a situation that would normally cause a mild degree of anxiety can cause a severe amount. In addition, caffeine increases your heart rate. This sets the scene for anxiety because what happens when we’re anxious? Our heart rates go up and if our heart rate is already elevated the experience will worsen.
When you know the impact food has on shaping your mood you are better equipped to balance your emotions throughout your days, imagine the power in that. Things that can worsen anxiety:
Caffeine is a stimulant that initiates the fight or flight response. This causes us to become more edgy, tense and nervous. Caffeine also plays a critical role in insomnia which can lead to more anxiety which leads to more caffeine, see the cycle?
Insomnia and Stress
A lack of sleep and stress aggravate anxiety because a sleep deprived state causes irritability, moodiness, agitation and sometimes more anxiety if insomnia is a chronic issue for you. More often than not, stress is caused by finances, personal issues, family, health, etc if you’re experiencing stress than you’re most certainly experiencing anxiety. It’s important to introduce techniques to help you at least manage your stress. Being in a constant state of stress wears away at your immune and digestive system, your heart, your brain, and kidneys.
Some food additives are considered neurotoxins. What does this mean? Although the scientific link between food additives and our emotional state is yet to be established, people continue to report adverse reactions to consuming food additives, such as food dyes, MSG, aspartame, and sulfites to name a few. Reported symptoms include fogginess, confusion, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, fatigue, and poor memory.
Remember that alcohol is a depressant. So, in the short-term, yes your anxiety will probably decrease but chronic and excessive alcohol consumption will lead to a depressive state, ripe for anxiety.
What happens when we consume something that
we’re sensitive to? Well since our bodies are not able to break down and eliminate the food, it builds up in our systems and as the food continues to build our immune system recognizes it as a foreign invader and attacks it. The response from this attack can elicit a wide array of symptoms, varying from person to person which is one of the reasons why there are no universal reactions to identify how we react to specific foods.
Because our reaction to a food or additive is rarely severe enough to cause concern we continue to ignore it as it slowly increases. For example, in my case I developed a rash on my lips for months and I just assumed it was dry skin and then as time went on I realized I was reacting to something. Naturally, I assumed it was something external so I changed my Chap Stick and toothpaste only for the rash to keep getting worse. It was only when I sat down and thought about my diet did I realize that I was eating eggs every day (eggs are amazing, but eating the same food everyday is a big no-no). My body was finally showing symptoms of a lack of food rotation in my diet. The same mechanism happens to people who experience digestive issues, intestinal issues and mood issues in response to certain foods. If you suspect that certain foods are causing your symptoms then eliminate them for at least 6 weeks, before re-introducing them one at a time.
As you try to manage the symptoms of your anxiety, make an effort to include the following nutrients in your diet on a regular basis:
Zinc levels have been shown to be lower in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. Zinc can be found in beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Magnesium is known as the anti-stress mineral because of its calming effect on the body. Sources of magnesium can be found in cacao, dark leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, swiss chard, and collard greens), quinoa, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to maintain normal levels of dopamine (chemical messenger in the brain). Dopamine plays a pivotal role in anxiety and mood disorders. Higher omega-3 levels are linked to a reduced risk of mood disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids can also have a protective affect on the brain by protecting it from the effects of stress. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in mackerel, salmon, sardines and flaxseeds.
Fermented foods are excellent for introducing beneficial bacteria into the intestine. The use of prescription medications can cause our intestinal bacteria to be thrown off in favour of the “bad” bacteria. There is a delicate balance that takes place in our intestinal systems between the good and bad bacteria – both are necessary. Because bad bacteria produce at a faster rate, they can overpower the good bacteria in our intestines. Fermented food is excellent at introducing various strains of beneficial bacteria. Sources of fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, dosa, miso, tempeh, and chutney.
Wishing you Good Mood and Good Health,
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: Author.
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