Eat your way out of anxiety: three simple steps
Stress and anxiety are all normal and in many cases appropriate responses to everyday life.
However, longer-term stress and anxiety can leave you feeling low and unable to cope with the demands of everyday life.
According to the NHS, anxiety is often characterised by both physical and psychological symptoms, including:
- Dizziness and tiredness.
- A noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations).
- Muscle aches and tension, trembling or shaking.
- Dry mouth.
- Excessive sweating.
- Shortness of breath.
Longer term effects can lead to poor sleeping patterns increasing tiredness, suppressing the immune system, digestive issues, tendency to put on weight and increased blood pressure and depression.
It is possible to reduce anxiety by making changes to your life. By making simple changes to your diet, you can eat your way to good health.
Avoid stimulants and reduce alcohol
One of the worst stimulants is too much caffeine is the worst stimulant and you should aim to reduce it or eliminate it completely. If you are drinking coffee after 2pm and have difficulty sleeping then try not drinking coffee and other caffeinated drinks after lunch and/or cut down or avoid it for 2 weeks to see if your sleep and general anxiety reduces.
Alcohol, at least for the first hour, is a relaxant because it switches off adrenalin by promoting GABA, making it a highly effective way to unwind. But similar to nicotine, the effect of using alcohol on a daily
basis or more than 1-2 glasses a day is the opposite - you become more stressed – in addition to the fact that your liver works to reduce the damage of excess acetaldehyde production, a known carcinogen. So if you consume more than 1 or 2 units a day, you should reduce this as soon as possible.
Eat low GL foods
The state of anxiety is associated with raised levels of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. When your blood sugar dips (often a rebound from blood sugar highs) this promotes the release of adrenal hormones, as do stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. So, the first step towards reducing anxiety is to balance your blood sugar by eating slow-releasing carbohydrates, such as wholegrain breads, pastas and pulses in combination with protein, like eggs and avoid, or at least considerably reduce, your use of both stimulants and alcohol.
This alone may have a major effect in reducing your anxiety.
When combined with relaxation techniques, such as yoga and some exercise, you can regain energy and clarity to start tackling the underlying causes.
This is best achieved depending on your fitness levels by brisk walks, riding a bike, running or racket sports (doubles if you can't manage a full singles game!). There is a great NHS app for all those would-be-runners out there who don’t think they can do it (http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/pages/couch-to-5k.aspx).
You could also consult a trained nutritional therapist to carry out a dietary evaluation, as they will be able to work out from your diet history (past and present) how to improve what you are eating or what foods to avoid or if you are low in certain food groups, such as protein or other nutrients that may help reduce your response to stress or help with your sleep patterns. Indeed, recent research has highlighted the role of gut flora and anxiety (i.e. having good levels of gut bacteria can help reduce anxiety). So, once again, addressing digestive health may be vital, even if you don’t have overt digestive symptoms and this is where a trained nutritionist could really help.
About the author
Melody Mackeown, is a nutritional therapist who works in Putney and Earlsfield, London.
Whether you want to start a family, improve your mood, struggle with low energy, poor sleep or digestion or find it difficult reaching and maintaining your ideal weight, shouldn't you do something about it now?
Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
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