Nutrition for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric conditions diagnosed in the United States, effecting more than 40 million American’s each year. What you eat and drink can significantly impact anxiety levels and your nutritional status can either support or undermine other treatments you may be receiving for anxiety.

Foods and Drink to Avoid:

  • Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, found in things like coffee, teas, soda, energy drinks and chocolate. If you are experiencing anxiety, you should avoid these.
  • Processed foods. Processed foods are found in abundance in the US but should be avoided when possible by people experiencing anxiety. Processed foods include most anything found in a package and many foods found in restaurants. As a general rule, it is best to chose foods with 4 or less ingredients to ensure minimum exposure to preservatives, additives and excessive amounts of salt and other harmful chemicals used to extend the shelf-life of foods. Processed foods often contain high levels of simple carbohydrates which lead to sudden fluctuations in blood sugar levels after consumption. These sudden changes in blood glucose can leave us feeling on edge and exhausted.
  • Alcohol. It is fairly common for people suffering from anxiety to turn to alcohol to temporarily reduce those anxiety symptoms. This is especially true for people who suffer from social anxiety: A glass of wine can make or break that afterwork cocktail party for a person suffering with anxiety induced by social situations. However, using alcohol to treat anxiety is risky for several reasons. First, people with anxiety who are using alcohol to treat their symptoms are at a much higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Also, anxiety sufferers are often prescribed medication that works on the same areas of the brain that alcohol impacts. These medications include benzodiazepines which, when combined with alcohol, can cause a reduction in breathing rates and depth, putting a person at risk of death. Use of alcohol can also lead to chronic dehydration, which can worsen anxiety symptoms.

Food and Drink to use More of:

  • Whole grains and legumes. Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates which take longer to break down and promote more stable blood sugar levels. This helps your mood stay calm and pleasant. Legumes contain high levels of magnesium which appears to help lower anxiety.
  • Water. Drinking at least 60 ounces of purified water will help you maintain adequate levels of hydration and reduce your risk of anxiety symptoms.
  • Foods rich in pre/probiotics. Kiefer, sauerkraut, kimchi and Kombucha all help regulate your gut health, which we now know is critical to your mental wellbeing. Serotonin, the “feel good hormone” that is often disturbed during episodes of anxiety and depression is found extensively throughout the gut, as well as the brain. Eating foods that promote good gut health helps regulate your serotonin levels which can help reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Foods rich in zinc. Garlic, peanuts, lima beans, oysters, shrimp, beef and spinach all contain high levels of zinc. Adequate zinc levels have been linked to lower levels of anxiety so eating these foods regularly is a good idea for anyone suffering with anxiety symptoms.
  • Plant-based whole foods. Any whole plant sourced food is a good choice for supporting optimum brain health and reducing anxiety. Try eating a variety of fruits and vegetables do maximize your intake of vitamins and antioxidants.

Including these food and drink suggestions into your treatment plan for any anxiety disorder will help ensure your full recovery. Anxiety is treatable and responds well to a holistic treatment approach which includes nutrition, life-style changes, medications and therapy. If you are suffering with anxiety, know you are not alone, that you can achieve full recovery from these symptoms and that there are mental health specialists available at WellPsyche to help you create a treatment plan that works best for you.

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