GUEST POST BY NUTRITIONIST CIARA O’DEA

 

What you eat can either make you feel anxious and nervous or calm you down. Foods that are high in sugar and refined foods can make you feel nervous and tense a few hours after you eat them. On the flip side foods containing vitamins, minerals and fibre can play a key part in helping you to stay calm.

An imbalanced diet and nutrient deficiencies are not the only factors affecting our causes mood. It can also be a lack of exercise, unresolved conflict issues, chronic or severe stress, currently being in a situation that is not optimal for well being, thyroid hormone excess, hormonal imbalance, excess caffeine (coffee, tea and coke) and alcohol.

A lot of people think they are eating healthier than what they are. What you eat has a major effect on how your brain functions, so even if the root cause is not your diet, making small positive changes can make a massive difference to your wellbeing. Here are some tips that can help reduce anxiety through nutrition and lifestyle changes:

  1. Sugar is added (without you realising) to many foods, which means we consume an average of around 24 teaspoons of sugar every day. The World Health Organisation recommends no more than 6 tsp per day. When you consume a lot of sugar-laden foods, such as sweets, fizzy drinks, and fast foods you unknowingly make your anxiety worse. Normal blood sugar control is essential in stress management as a rapidly changing blood sugar level will lead to increased symptoms of anxiety, stress and feelings of panic.  When a person’s blood sugar drops adrenalin tries to correct this and the last thing an already stressed person needs is more adrenalin. Although sugar can make you feel energised in the short term, you pay a high price for that momentary burst of energy. To avoid this try to keep your blood sugar level by cutting down on sugar intake and by eating something every three hours. Each meal should contain a fruit or vegetable, a complex carbohydrate and a protein. Aim to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid morning and one mid afternoon.
  2. Caffeine (in tea, coffee, chocolate, Coca Cola) has long been recognised as a nervous system stimulant.  The majority of people can cope with a maximum of 2 cups per day without ill effects, but a some people are extremely sensitive to all caffeine and must stop it completely. Over consumption of caffeine is like liquid anxiety.
  3. 3. B vitamins get used up rapidly under stress and sugar steals B vitamins from your body. Low B vitamins can cause anxiety. To boost yourBvitamins, eat plenty of fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, bananas, leafy green vegetables and beans like chickpeas.
  4. Serotonin is often called our happy hormone, if levels are normal then we do not feel the need to overeat sugary and refined carbohydrate foods which give us a short term serotonin boost, at the expense of a sharp drop-off soon after. We make serotonin from an amino acid called tryptophan. By eating tryptophan rich foods we can naturally boost levels of serotonin. Tryptophan is found mainly in: eggs, avocados nuts, turkey, chicken, fish, chickpeas and lentils.
  5. Taking probiotics, drinking fermented kefir products and eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, tempeh, or miso can add the good bacteria you need to produce your own B vitamins to help balance brain chemistry.
  6. More regular exercise – this can release endorphins which have a relaxing affect on the body and can also help with sleep. Some studies show consistent exercise works better than drugs for mild to moderate depression.
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