A little over a year ago I began experiencing debilitating anxiety that made me feel out of control of my own body. It was accompanied by the occasional panic attack, which I had never experienced before in my life - and it was terrifying. It's difficult to explain the emotional feelings and physical sensations that the panic brings to someone who has never been an anxious person or known what a panic attack feels like. But, fortunately I have had an amazing support system (thanks, mom!), been introduced to invaluable tools, and was able to lean back on my nutrition education.
Anxiety is something I've been open with, but not loudly. Because of my personal connection to anxiety and the real struggles it's brought into my life, specifically in the past year, it's always a topic that's in the back of my mind. Anxiety is actually a quite normal reaction to stress - something many of us are familiar with. However, there's still a stigma around the topic that makes it scary - or worse, embarrassing - to talk about.
As soon as I began opening up about my anxiety + panic attacks, it was incredible how many of my friends, family and even clients began to share their experiences, as well. It truly opened my eyes to how many people actually struggle with the constant nagging and worry that I grew so familiar with. So, if you - or someone you know - is dealing with acute anxiety or an anxiety disorder, share this list with them. Maybe knowing you're thinking of them and there to help is all they need right now!
Reduce your sugar intake. While added sugars in packaged foods, baked goods, or the like don't necessarily cause anxiety, they can create a steep spike + crash with blood sugar, as well as lower the body's immunity + ability to handle stress. Focus on foods with no or low added sugars, like fruit, starchy veggies, or dark chocolate!
Magnesium to the rescue. Speaking of dark chocolate, it's quite rich in magnesium, a micronutrient that's been called "nature's Valium" for it's calming effect and ability to stimulate GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps you and your brain just chill. Magnesium also acts as a filter for the brain, keeping too many stress hormones, like cortisol, from entering. This nutrient is also great for relaxing muscles, including the heart, so it may be something to look into if you get heart palpitations with stress (*aggressively raising hand*). Find magnesium in other foods like almonds, spinach, black beans, avocado and edamame, as well as my favorite magnesium supplement ever, Calm by Natural Vitality.
Ditch the caffeine. I love coffee as much as the next person, but giving up caffeine was one of the BEST things I could do for my own anxiety. Because of caffeine's stimulating effects on the nervous system, it actually can increase anxiety on its own and make you run at full-speed until it's time to crash, much like sugar. This crash then leads to moodiness and even depression in some cases. There's even a recognized condition called "caffeine-induced anxiety disorder" - seriously! Next time you reach for a cup of morning joe, try tea or a decaf coffee instead. (Just be sure to buy organic or Swiss water processed decaf.)
Stay grounded right down to your roots. Anxiety can be the complete opposite of feeling grounded, so next time you're feeling a bout of spaciness, stress or worry, roast up your favorite root veggies. A few examples include: carrots, beets, celeric root, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips. Because produce like this is alive and carries the energy of the being rooted in the ground as it grows, those energetic properties transfer to you when you eat it. I know for some this sounds a bit woo-woo, but it truly works. Try for yourself!
Get your B's (vitamin B, that is). Vitamin B complex is necessary for energy, development, and even helps with fatigue, depression and - you guessed it - anxiety. A variety of (really yummy!) food in relatively small amounts can bring you a range of all the B vitamins, including beets, salmon, eggs, black beans, mussels, avocado, chickpeas, pecans, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.
Say your goodbyes to artificial dyes. Artificial dyes and flavoring additives like MSG and high fructose corn syrup have reportedly caused mood swings and a disruption in the function of the nervous system. These items are perceived in the body as neurotoxins, which are (you guessed it) toxic to the nervous and neurological systems, possibly leading to anxiety when consumed.
Reduce your wine to Wednesdays. I see that eye roll, but alcohol can really be a tricky ingredient in the anxiety mixer. Because of it's depressant properties, alcohol can create a setback if drank every day, especially in higher amounts. Really cannot give up your nightly glass of vino? Just stick to a small glass of red wine, but try to keep that small glass to one or two nights a week max. You need to recover from the stress that anxiety puts on your body, and drinking more than that can keep you where you are instead of moving your health forward.
OMeGa-3! Salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel are all high in omega-3s, which are incredible for brain health, reducing depression and enhancing your mood. Brain health is oh so important, and omega-3s help reduce inflammation associated with the brain, keeping it in tip-top shape. This helps tremendously with anxiety - two big thumbs up!
Take your probiotics. Have you heard that the gut is the "second brain"? It's true - your gastrointestinal tract contains "good" bacteria that are helpful for nutrient assimilation and production of about 70% of the body's serotonin (happiness neurotransmitter) and dopamine (pleasure neurotransmitter), so keeping the gut's bacteria balanced is important for mental health. Taking a probiotic supplement and/or eating probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi are all super beneficial for keeping that balance in check.
Keeping your anxiety under control doesn't have to be overwhelming - and you don't have to do it alone. If you could use assistance in creating a nutritional plan to help quell your stress + anxiety, don't hesitate to reach out to me! I'd be honored to share my knowledge in balancing a diet and lifestyle that support you in your wellness.