Therapies & Solutions

Nutrition for Anxiety: An Anti Anxiety Diet?

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Nutrition for Anxiety: An Anti Anxiety Diet?

While your diet is unlikely to cause you to develop anxiety, for those who already suffer from an anxiety disorder could benefit from making dietary changes. Certain foods are known to help nourish the body and relieve feelings of distress while others can cause changes in the body that may lead to anxiety increasing.

What you eat affects how you feel and if you have anxiety if affects the severity of your anxiety. It stands to reason that changing your diet to one that is full of foods that help reduce anxiety while limiting those that increase anxiety can be a valuable part of treating your anxiety symptoms.

How to Create An Anti-Anxiety Diet

We have all heard recommendations about healthy eating and may have even resolved at certain times during our lives to eat healthier. However, many of us do not know what exactly it means to eat healthier. Here we will look at some of the foods that increase anxiety symptoms as well as some that can help to decrease anxiety symptoms.

You can start by avoiding foods that may contribute to your anxiety symptoms. It is recommended to limit consumption of the following:

  • Fried Foods Fried foods are difficult to digest, have little nutritional content, and contribute to heart struggles. The stress they put on your body while working to digest can increase the feelings of distress you experience.
  • Alcohol Alcohol dehydrates you, it throws off your hormone and nutritional balance, and it can cause physical symptoms from the toxins that trigger anxiety attacks. Further, many people report increased anxiety after a night of drinking.
  • Coffee Coffee and other sources of caffeine are known to create a rapid heartbeat and some sensations that may create or mimic panic attacks. For example, caffeine may increase racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and hyperventilating.
  • Dairy Products Dairy products aren't necessarily bad for you, but in excess they may heighten your adrenaline levels and contribute to a more anxious state. Moderation is the key here, and if you find after consuming dairy products you feel more anxious, cut back.
  • Refined Sugars Refined sugar is the added sugar in products such as cookies and juice. These refined ‘white’ sugars stimulate your body in a way that can create a jitteriness that exacerbates anxiety symptoms. Naturally occurring sugar such as those found in fruit are much safer and better tolerated by the body.
  • Acidic Foods Foods like yogurt, pickles, eggs, sour cream, wine, and liver are all acid creating foods. Evidence has suggested that acid causing foods may cause a drop in magnesium levels. Magnesium levels have been shown to have a relationship with anxiety symptoms. Those who do not have enough magnesium are more likely to experience anxiety and at a higher intensity than others with anxiety and normal magnesium levels.

Avoiding these foods is will not cure anxiety, but they may provide some relief. If your diet consists mostly of these items you will likely notice more significant results.

Foods to Eat That Weaken Your Anxiety

There are several foods that may reduce your anxiety symptoms. Remember, healthy eating leads to healthy hormonal functioning, which leads to an improved sense of well-being. So the better you eat, the more likely it is that your anxiety will be more mild.

  • Fresh Fruit Your body does need carbs and sugar, it just doesn't need refined sugars. Fresh fruit has sugar that can be converted to energy, and provides necessary nutrients as well. Blueberries and peaches may be especially advantageous.
  • Vegetables Of course, vegetables are arguably even more important, especially for those with anxiety. Vegetables are rich in fiber, and many of the vitamins that those with anxiety deplete regularly.
  • Water A tremendous percentage of the population is regularly dehydrated because they do not drink nearly enough water. Dehydration nearly always leads to anxiety, which is why it's crucial that you consume enough water regularly. If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. Try to incorporate water into your daily routine where it be drinking a glass before each meal or having the goal of drinking 1 bottle over the course of every 2 hours.
  • Tryptophan Rich Foods Tryptophan has a natural relaxation component, and may increase your metabolism as an added bonus. Oats, soy, poultry, and sesame seeds all have a fair amount of tryptophan.
  • Magnesium Rich Foods As much as 25% of the country or more is magnesium deficient, and magnesium plays a role in over 300 different processes within the body. It's a crucial vitamin that few people get, so magnesium rich foods like black beans and tofu are very important.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids Research into Omega 3's is still being conducted, but there is some evidence that Omega-3 is may have a correlation with anxiety symptoms. Omega-3's can be found in fish, flax seed, and winter squash.

Eating these foods won’t cure your anxiety, but they may reduce your anxiety symptoms and make it easier for an effective anxiety treatment to work. Eating healthy does have an effect on your ability to handle anxiety, so altering your diet to include healthier foods is important.

Creating a Diet to Improve Anxiety - And More

Anxiety isn't directly caused by diet, but your diet is a contributing factor to both the experience and the severity. Since eating a healthier diet is also important for your health and your self-esteem, changing your diet when you suffer from anxiety can provide many benefits. In addition to changing your diet, you should work to learn how to manage your anxiety.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Question:

Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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