You always hear, “you are what you eat” but this could really ring true when it comes to anxiety.
Sweaty palms, a racing heart and a hyper-active mind are all symptoms people with anxiety often suffer with. However, certain foods we eat can give us these same sensations. Which in turn, can make our anxiety worse.
Here are 4 foods to limit if you’re battling the anxious mind and things try instead:
Did you know that caffeine-induced anxiety is a thing? Studies have shown that people who take in high amounts of caffeine, 200 mg or more a day, can increase their anxiety and even induce panic attacks.
By the way, 200 mg of caffeine is just two cups of coffee!
According to American MedTech, caffeine-induced anxiety can look different for different people. Along with panic attacks, people can also see obsessive-compulsive symptoms or phobic symptoms.
Some of the physical signs you see with too much caffeine are sweaty palms, restlessness, and a racing heart. All of which people with anxiety can experience.
Being mindful is the key to really knowing how our bodies respond to anything.
“Take a moment and really reflect,” says Dietitian, Brenda Fikry. “How are we feeling before we have the caffeinated beverage? Are we feeling calm? How does our heart rate feel?”
Try Instead: If you’re used to having hot coffee every morning, Brenda suggests trying decaffeinated tea or all-natural fruit/veggie juice (that is low in sugar content).
“The really high amounts of nutrient-dense foods really give us a good boost of energy.”
2. Refined and Artificial Sugars
The thought of sugar being taken out of our diet can already be a depressing thought. However, for those already dealing with anxiety, reducing your sugar intake could be the medicine you need.
Sugar does not cause anxiety, but it can worsen your symptoms.
Side effects from sugar include blurry vision, difficulty thinking and fatigue. When someone who has anxiety is feeling these symptoms, they could interpreted these as signs of a panic attack. All the while, this is making their worry, fear and anxiety worse.
Also, it’s not just a sugar rush but the crash that has it’s own side effects similar to anxiety. Symptoms include pounding heart, racing pulse, shakiness, dizziness, confusion and irritability.
Try Instead: Brenda suggests natural sugars. Examples being pre-chopped fruit, all-natural frozen fruit bars and in moderation, chocolate covered almonds and raisins.
When you have a glass of wine… or two… or three, in the immediate, it feels great! You finally relax, stress leaves and anxiety decreases. However, that quickly changes.
In fact, your anxiety can increase within just a few hours of consuming alcohol; and the effects on anxiety can be felt the next day.
A study done by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found heavy drinking rewires our brains and can increase our chances of anxiety issues.
The CDC defines heavy drinking as:
“For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 8 drinks or more per week.”
Try Instead: Brenda suggests doing some inward reflection to learn healthy things you love which make you feel calm. Examples being: playing guitar, reading, or working out. She also suggests trying the App Calm which has free 5 minute meditations, breathing techniques and bed time stories.
4. Gluten/Processed Food
You might be saying…. “I’m not allergic to gluten” and you may be right!
However, if you suffer with an anxiety disorder, you could be a part of the 1 percent general population who has a gluten-intolerance. If you are, you’re not alone. I was diagnosed with a gluten-intolerance 8 years ago.
Most people with gluten issues have physical symptoms like digestive problems and anemia. However, there are “non-classic” symptoms of gluten which include brain atrophy, epilepsy, depression and anxiety.
“Gluten is mostly found in highly proceeded food,” says Fikry. “There was a specific study done that has proven that anxiety increases by 25-29 percent with consumption of the Western foods – which is known to be highly processed.”
Brenda also points out that our gut plays a huge role in our mental health.
“95 percent of serotonin receptors are in our gut,” says Fikry. “And serotonin is the hormone that makes us feel happy and helps ward off depression symptoms and anxiety symptoms.”
Try Instead: Gluten is found in a lot of our comfort foods like, bread, cake, cookies and pizza. You can replace those carbs with naturally gluten-free options like rice, potatoes, quinoa and beans.
Get To Know The Face Behind The Knowledge:
Brenda Fikry MS, RD, LD, EP-C
Brenda is a dog loving, yoga-practicing, health guru who is also my go-to dietitian in Tampa Bay! She’s always willing and ready to answer any of my nutrition questions and is ready to do the same for you.
Connect with her on Instagram!