Anxiety & Food: What You Should Know

Anxiety sucks. It’s as simple as that and there’s polite way to say it. It has been a part of my life for years and if you’re reading this I’m guessing it is a part of yours too.

 Or maybe you’re really stressed right now? The two are different but they can sometimes feel similar. In many ways, the same sorts of principles can apply for you too.

There are things about anxiety you can control and things you can’t. My anxiety got worse in 2005 when I had a brain haemorrhage, aged 24. You can read more about the crazy times that followed here.

The causes of anxiety are varied and so too are the treatments. It’s little wonder Synapse call Brain Disorders, of which anxiety is a part, the ‘invisible disability’.

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If anxiety has been a part of your life then you’ll be well aware of the havoc it can play on your relationships, career and even your self-esteem.

Through my work, I’m committed to helping you Find Fearless Freedom, unleash the Lioness and roar with courage and confidence! But an anxious Lioness can’t roam through life with fearless ambition. So here are a few suggestion (from the pros) about managing anxiety in the kitchen.

Take responsibility for what goes on your plate.

I can’t do anything to erase the permanent scarring on my brain. Yet I can do something to help myself and better manage anxiety with the food I eat.

This is not to say that you should swap Practitioner prescribed medication or professional intervention for organic spinach to ‘çure’ anxiety – NO WAY!

Anxiety is serious and sometimes treatment requires more serious intervention, beyond food. But I’m not a medical expert (and here’s my health disclaimer to explain things a little further) so I’ll leave that conversation for you and your health professionals.

Standard medications never worked for me and the side effects were horrible. After a lot of research, reading about other people’s experiences, much trial and error in my own kitchen and in consultation with professionals, I found a lifestyle that helped. It’s an integrative approach combining the expertise of my Neurologists, Naturopaths and others.

Below are 6 foods that nearly always go in my grocery basket. But don’t just take my word for it! Miranda Partridge is a qualified Nutritional Medicine Practitioner. Miranda has personal and professional experience in the power of food as medicine, not to cure but to manage anxiety and other mental health issues.

Here Miranda explores a little of the science behind why these foods are so fantastic for anxiety.

 

  1. Salmon– A potent source of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon helps to reduce inflammation, a factor that can cause and exacerbate anxiety. The oils in the fish are also essential for healthy brain and nerve tissue. Salmon is also a good source of protein, which is important for the production of neurotransmitters and energy.
  2. Spinach– Spinach contains magnesium, and if eaten raw, vitamin C. Both nutrients are important for the function and regulation of our stress hormone cortisol; vitamin 2 being depleted by cortisol in times of increased stress, such as anxiety. As it is a leafy green, it is also high in folate, a vitamin required for the production of neurotransmitters.
  3. Turkey– Like salmon, turkey has protein required for the production of our neurotransmitters. Turkey is particularly high in the amino acid tryptophan, which is required for our bodies to produce serotonin and from it melatonin. Serotonin is the ‘happy’ hormone and is often low in those with both anxiety and depression.4.
  4. Almonds– Almonds are a source of protein, important for sustained energy that doesn’t put as much stress on our bodies as simple carbohydrates do. They are also a great source of magnesium, which helps reduce muscle tension (associated with stress), generates energy production and activates the receptors for GABA (gama-aminobutyric acid), the relaxing neurotransmitter.
  5. Avocado– These little green energy bullets are packed with B vitamins for healthy nerves and brain cells, including folate which protects your DNA and aids the production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) often low in anxiety, such as serotonin. They are also full of antioxidants, monounsaturated fat and potassium to support brain function.
  6. Blueberries– Fresh or frozen blueberries are high in vitamin C, which is depleted by stress, but also required to counteract the effects of our stress hormone, cortisol. The antioxidant resveratrol is found in blueberries, and is highly protective to our cells.

Things to avoid

While the right foods can help manage anxiety, poor food choices can make matters worse. Brian Cole from the Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria suggests that you avoid white rice, white flour and over-refined products. Over refining simply strips the nutrient value out of foods so you’re missing out on the important anxiety-busting vitamins and minerals (like those mentioned above).

To drink or not to drink coffee?

Personally, I love coffee (in moderation) and the thought of giving it up probably causes me more anxiety than the caffeine itself!

The Calm Clinic says that coffee or caffeinated beverages can either help or hinder anxiety depending on the type and severity. They suggest avoiding caffeine if you are prone to panic attacks. On the other hand, the Calm Clinic says that if you have more general anxiety, moderate amounts of caffeine can actually reduce stress and improve your mood.

Some other considerations around food

The Mayo Clinic suggests eating a breakfast that is high in protein to keep your blood sugar stabalised and avoid a panic attack. They also suggest you pay careful attention to food intolerances which can leave you feeling ‘blah’ and possibly promote anxiety.

This is an interesting one for me. While the nutrients in cow’s milk have been shown to help some people with anxiety, it’s a disaster for me. The lactose would send my stomach and my mind into a meltdown and would definitely not help me to roar with fearless ambition!

That’s why it’s so important to find what works for YOU. Dr Google is great for hints and tips but treating anxiety isn’t as simple as a Google search.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been affected by anxiety and neither should you. As a proud brain health Ambassador for Synapse, I’m committed to raising awareness around Acquired Brain Injury and the side-affects that follow.

Anxiety is less of a taboo subject than it once was and I encourage you to keep asking questions, keep learning and keep experimenting with what works for you (with medical supervision if necessary).

Take back control, find freedom and just tell anxiety to GET FORKED!

Love life,

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