We all experience anxiety differently, symptoms can range from butterflies in the stomach area to panic and heart pounding fear and inability to cope with daily life. I have experienced a full spectrum of feelings and sensations. There are many reasons for anxiety from pressures of day to day life, fear of the future, work stress, financial pressures, relationship issues, hormonal issues… as well as many subconscious fears we may not even understand! Oh it is hard being human.
There is much we can do to help with symptoms of anxiety from exercise, to support, talking therapies, GP support, mind techniques, learning to accept rather than fight our feelings, mindfulness, relaxation and breathing techniques and so on.
But have you ever thought that what you eat can make your anxiety worse or help calm it in some way? Good nutrition won`t magically make anxiety disappear but it can help greatly to support your body and mind and stress response.
Nutrients from the food you eat are important for the health of your body and mind. They help nourish and support our body and mind. I know we can often feel like not eating with anxiety but we still need to fuel ourselves. Here are some suggestions and ideas I hope may benefit you with your mental health:
When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to crave or reach for foods such as junk foods, deep fried foods, fizzy drinks, sugary foods, alcohol, cakes, biscuits, coffee or energy drinks. Unfortunately these foods and drinks can make anxiety and mood issues worse as they stimulate stress hormones such as adrenalin, heightening the “fight / flight” response in our body. Think palpitations when you have too much sugar or coffee. These foods also rob the body and brain of vital vitamins and minerals which are needed for our health. Aspartame, a sweetener found in fizzy juice and sugar free products can also increase anxiety.
Balancing our blood sugar is a key to stable mood and energy levels. When we eat too many of the foods above or skip meals our blood sugar can make us feel on a rollercoaster of highs and lows. To support your blood sugar try to eat regular meals and healthy snacks if required. Have some protein at each meal such as meat/fish/dairy products/eggs/beans/lentils or nuts/seeds. Protein rich foods such as turkey, chicken, fish, eggs and cottage cheese also help boost levels of our happy chemical serotonin. When our blood sugar goes to low this actually makes symptoms of anxiety worse.
Choose complex or wholegrain carbs over simple or white carbs. Try wholegrain rice and pasta, quinoa, oats, oatcakes or sweet potatoes.
Eat more “real” food what “God” or nature provides us with, over food “manmade” in a factory! Plenty lean proteins, wholegrain carbs, fruit, veg, water and healthy fats.
Healthy fats are important for our brain and mood – they help keep our brain and nervous system health and well oiled and reduce inflammation. Try oily fish such as salmon, mackeral, trout, herring, sardines; olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds such as flax, chai, sunflower, pumpkin, almonds and cashew nuts. Walnuts are rich in Omega 3 fats which support our brain – and they look a bit like a brain too! Omega 3 fats also help calm adrenalin levels.
Happy snacks could include a boiled egg and some berries, and oatcake with cheese/hummous etc, apple slices with peanut or almond butter, veg sticks with hummous or cream cheese or homemade flapjacks.
Our gut health can affect our brain and mood. So if we eat foods our body doesn’t like or is intolerant too such as too much sugar, processed foods, milk or wheat or if we have had antibiotics this can negatively affect our healthy gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria as well as supporting our digestion and immunity help support our mental wellbeing.
There are many nutrients which support anxiety and mental health such as magnesium (natures calming mineral), B vitamins, Vitamin C, Zinc and Vitamin D. Here are some foods which can support anxiety and have a more calming effect on the body. Try natural yoghurt, almonds, bananas, Green Tea, oats, lentils, broccoli, mushrooms, brown rice, onions, lean meat, green leafy veg, avocados, kiwi, berries, sweet potatoes, carrots, fish, chickpeas and eggs.
Calming teas include chamomile, lavender, lemonbalm, valerian and passionflower.
Try porridge with berries/natural yoghurt and nuts or scrambled egg/veg/avocado for breakfast. Homemade soup and egg/chicken/fish/bean salad for lunch and stirfry with rice, casserole or curry, fish and steamed veg or turkey and butter bean stew for dinner.
There are supplements which can help support anxiety such as magnesium, probiotics, B vitamins, taurine, ashwaghanda, Valerian and Vitamin C but always get support from a healthcare professional. Anne xx