Diet Plan For Anxiety

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Diet plan for anxiety can help you be more healthy and active. But if you have anxiety, you may also want to think about a few changes in how you eat and switch to this foods that calm anxiety. Healthy eating for people with anxiety disorders is important for many reasons.

Have you ever wondered if anxiety affects the brain? Anxiety as a mental disorder has been known for long. It is a common condition that troubles almost all children and adults at some point of time in their lives. It is characterized by various symptoms like nervousness, worry, fear, restlessness, trembling and fatigue.

Diet Plan For Anxiety

Is it true that certain foods worsen anxiety and others have a calming effect?

Answer From Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P.

Anxiety symptoms can make you feel unwell. Coping with anxiety can be a challenge and often requires making lifestyle changes. There aren’t any diet changes that can cure anxiety, but watching what you eat may help.

Try these steps:

  • Eat a breakfast that includes some protein. Eating protein at breakfast can help you feel fuller longer and help keep your blood sugar steady so that you have more energy as you start your day.
  • Eat complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains — for example, oatmeal, quinoa, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals. Steer clear of foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and drinks.
  • Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. The immediate effect of alcohol may be calming. But as alcohol is processed by your body, it can make you edgy. Alcohol can also interfere with sleep.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine. Avoid caffeinated beverages. They can make you feel jittery and nervous and can interfere with sleep.
  • Pay attention to food sensitivities. In some people, certain foods or food additives can cause unpleasant physical reactions. In certain people, these physical reactions may lead to shifts in mood, including irritability or anxiety.
  • Try to eat healthy, balanced meals. Healthy eating is important for overall physical and mental health. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and don’t overeat. It may also help to eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, on a regular basis.

Changes to your diet may make some difference to your general mood or sense of well-being, but they’re not a substitute for treatment. Lifestyle changes, such as improving sleep habits, increasing social support, using stress-reduction techniques and getting regular exercise, also may help. Be patient, as it may take some time before these changes have an effect on your anxiety.

If your anxiety is severe or interferes with your day-to-day activities or enjoyment of life, you may need counseling (psychotherapy), medication or other treatment.

The One-Day Anti-Anxiety Diet This Doctor Prescribes To His Patients

Dr. Vincent M. Pedre is a board-certified internist in private practice in New York City since 2004. He serves as medical director of Pedre Integrative Health, president of Dr. Pedre Wellness, and is the author of Happy Gut.

“You’ve got a pacer in your office,” my medical assistant told me. I took a deep breath and entered the room to feel a palpable tension where I found my 29-year-old patient Thom pacing restlessly as he gulped from a giant coffee cup.

I get patients like Thom more often these days. They’re overworked, underslept, sometimes feeling spiritually empty, and oftentimes wanting to discuss tapering off pharmaceutical drugs (like Xanax or Prozac) their conventional doctors prescribed, seaking a more holistic, natural regimen to alleviate depression or anxiety (of course, never go off prescription medicine without a doctor’s guidance).

As a medical doctor who specializes in gut health, I regularly see how the gut microbiome affects these and other mental conditions. Among its roles, optimized gut health improves depression by reducing inflammation and boosting hormones like serotonin. About 95 percent of this feel-good neurotransmitter, in fact, gets manufactured by your gut.

Newer studies show your microbiome can also influence other emotions like anxiety, which I see far more often among patients like Thom these days.

“Anxiety has become our everyday argot, our thrumming lifeblood,” writes Alex Williams in a recent New York Times article titled “Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax.”

The most striking statistics mentioned by Williams include:

  • According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, some 38 percent of girls ages 13 through 17, and 26 percent of boys, have an anxiety disorder.
  • A 2016 national study of more than 150,000 students by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University found anxiety has taken over depression as the No. 1 mental-health concern.
  • According to Google Trends, the number of anxiety web searches has nearly doubled over the last five years.

For Thom and other patients, I take a comprehensive approach to treating anxiety that focuses on a multifaceted approach, balancing sleep, stress levels, exercise, nutrition, and of course, gut health.

Among the science-supported tactics I use to reduce anxiety and restore calm are:

  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Eight hours of quality sleep every night
  • Yoga
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

All of those things improve long-term anxiety, but Thom also needed fast relief. Like with most patients, I started with his diet. That’s because food significantly affects your anxiety levels, and foremost among its anxiety-inducing culprits are sugar and caffeine.

Thom’s breakfast usually entailed a muffin and several cups of cream-and-sugar-infused coffee. Working in a hectic high-stress job, he often skipped lunch and grabbed a few slices of pizza or Chinese takeout before he hopped on the subway.

The spike-and-crash feeling of even a few teaspoons of sugar in your coffee (or any other sugar-filled breakfast) can ramp up anxiety, impair your ability to cope with even the minor stressors life throws your way, and leave. you feeling lethargic and groggy.

Here’s what a day in the “anti-anxiety prescription” looked like:

Upon Waking: Meditation, Yoga & Supplement.

Instead of immediately checking his smartphone and rushing to get out the door, we started with five minutes of meditation (simply slowing down and observing the breath), followed by a yoga routine for grounding and relaxation to start the day off on the right note.

Yoga means “union.” In essence, when you do yoga, you connect with your body and ground the nervous system. I recommended 10 minutes of yoga stretches right after his morning meditation. This sets the tone for the day. If it means waking up a few minutes earlier, that’s OK because you don’t want to start the day in sympathetic nervous system “fight-or-flight” mode. It’s easy enough to find short yoga routines to follow online.

This was followed by a nutrient-packed, herb-infused smoothie for breakfast. I had him skip the coffee as well.

Breakfast: Zen Smoothie.

This anxiety-lowering blend is not only filling, but it also helps you start the day on a grounded note. Lavender, along with passion flower and valerian root, are widely used for their calming properties. Lucuma is a fruit very similar to an avocado with a yellow flesh and a maple-like taste that was known as the “Gold of the Incas.”

Low on the glycemic scale, it is rich in beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), minerals, protein, and niacin (vitamin B3). Kefir offers a healthy dose of the probiotic lactobacillus, which produce calming neurotransmitters like GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • ½ cup plain organic kefir
  • 1 scoop hemp protein powder
  • 1 cup frozen organic blueberries
  • ½ banana
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon passion flower extract
  • 1 teaspoon lucuma powder
  • ½ teaspoon valerian root extract
  • 2 to 3 ice cubes (optional)

Method

  1. Add all ingredients in the order listed.
  2. Blend in a high-speed blender, making sure all ingredients are smoothly emulsified.
  3. Serve and enjoy while you get ready for work.

Midmorning: Skip the Caffeine and Go for Tea & Supplements.

There was endless-refilled coffee and to a lesser degree, energy drinks that fueled Thom’s overscheduled, adrenaline-fueled work days. I don’t oppose caffeine in small doses for most people, but overuse can become a crutch and impede things like solid sleep. In Thom’s case, too much caffeine exacerbated his anxiety.

One study looked at caffeine’s effect on brain regions implicated in social threat processing and anxiety among 14 healthy males who either used caffeine infrequently or not at all. They either got a 250-milligram amount of caffeine (about what you’d get in a tall brewed coffee) or a placebo. Among their findings, researchers found caffeine increased self-rated anxiety and the feeling of being threatened.

Another study looked at caffeine intake in secondary school children. Researchers found significant connections between total weekly caffeine intake and mental disturbances like anxiety and depression.

Living in Manhattan, I especially see the connection between increased anxiety levels and overworked, sleep-deprived folks (including high schoolers) who suck down sugar-loaded, caffeine-laden liquid desserts.

With the breakfast smoothie powering his morning, I made sure Thom wouldn’t suffer from caffeine withdrawal with a better alternative—green tea. With its smaller dose of caffeine than coffee, and anxiety-lowering l-theanine in the tea leaves, green tea offers more steady energy without the peak/trough produced by sympathetic “fight-or-flight”-accelerating coffee. I had him go for a cup of Tazo Zen Tea, which includes green tea with calming lemon verbena, spearmint, and lemongrass.

I also had Thom start taking 100 milligrams of L-theanine three times a day. L-theanine is found in green tea but can also be taken as a supplement to lower anxiety and stress by working directly in the brain. It bears a close resemblance to the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, but by binding to glutamate receptors it blocks the effects of glutamate, instead having an inhibitory, relaxing effect on the central nervous system. And it promotes the production of GABA—an inhibitory, relaxing neurotransmitter. The great thing is it does all this without causing drowsiness while actually improving alertness and focus.

Lunch: Anti-Anxiety Salad.

Skipping meals crashes blood sugar, leaving you feeling lethargic and anxious.

Rather than working through lunch without a break, I asked Thom to prepare a well-balanced salad that included optimal protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, and fiber. Among the superfood ingredients you may include in an anxiety-busting salad are raw Jerusalem artichoke, raw dandelion greens, and scallions, which are all excellent sources of gut-boosting, anxiety-lowering prebiotic fiber.

For the salad, I had him toss chlorophyll-rich, cleansing baby spinach with a protein of his choice (like chicken, salmon, or shrimp) and a healthy fat (like avocado, walnuts, almond slivers, hemp hearts). You can enhance the salad’s nutrient power with raw carrots, scallions, red beets, radishes, and broccoli. Separately, in a small Mason jar, I had him put ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon (about 2 lemons), and ½ teaspoon of mineral-rich Himalayan sea salt with cracked black pepper to taste. It’s easy to mix in the Mason jar and add just before eating the salad.

Afternoon Snack: Walnuts.

Walnuts provide a blood-sugar-steadying blend of fiber, protein, nutrients, and the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). One study found mice fed walnuts showed a significant improvement in memory, learning ability, anxiety, and motor development compared to non-walnut-eating mice. To keep Thom’s blood sugar stable (and his sugar cravings at bay), I had him snack on a handful of raw walnuts in the afternoon.

Dinner: Salmon With Greens.

Thom didn’t like to cook, and made that emphatically clear. However, I’ve been able to convince even the most stubborn anti-chefs to venture into the kitchen. To make his long workday easier, I gave him a few healthier dinner options. Instead of a grab-and-go pizza, I had him visit the local hot bar, which featured several paleo options including coconut curry chicken and cauliflower rice. Cooked onions and asparagus provided more gut-boosting, calming prebiotics. To lower anxiety, slow starches like butternut squash and sweet potato are better alternatives to white rice, bread, and pasta.

Basically, dinner should focus on high-quality fat and protein like grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, or wild-caught fish along with plenty of leafy and cruciferous veggies. I’m seeing more “paleo rice” options, including broccoli and cauliflower. They add variety to your meals.

Another alternative to his fast carb-laden on-the-go dinners is the Happy Gut–approved Wild Salmon on a Bed of Spring Greens. The salmon filet can be prepared the day before or over the weekend to make heating up dinner easier on a busy workday. A simple salad dressing will do with just a touch of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste (as described above). A 3- to 4-ounce serving of wild salmon will provide half of your weekly anti-inflammatory omega-3 requirements, which also helps lower anxiety. Toss in a slow, complex carb, like a baked sweet potato, to make it a filling meal and promote harmony-inducing serotonin production.

Evening Ritual: Herbal Tea and Zen Breath.

Instead of his several glasses—or more likely, bottle—of wine, I had Thom turn off overstimulating electronics (it wasn’t easy!), take a magnesium-rich Epsom salt bath, practice another 5 to 10 minutes of deep breathing in the evening, and sip chamomile or peppermint tea to unwind before bed.

Thom gradually added a five-minute break every few hours at his office to practice a breathing technique I taught him. Here’s what I had him do:

Find a comfortable place to sit quietly where you won’t be disturbed. Begin to listen to your breath. Don’t try to change it; simply listen. How does it sound to you? Is it deep or shallow? Is it comfortable to breathe? Does breathing make your mind calm or anxious? Try not to judge this information. Give yourself the space to be curious about what you feel. Now let the breath lead you around the body like a guide. Notice what you feel. What part of you moves easily with the breath so that it feels free and open? What part feels sore, agitated, tight, or disconnected? Slowly create movement in the places that feel tight. For example, if a part of your chest wall is not moving, then breathe into it and create more movement there. If a part of your abdomen feels tight, then take your breath there. Listen to your body. Use this exercise to create more space in those areas.

Over time I developed a more comprehensive protocol for Thom, but taking control over his eating and practicing a simple breathing technique helped him gain control over anxiety almost immediately. This eating and lifestyle prescription is a start to resetting your anxiety meter for good.

Foods That Calm Anxiety

Roasted salmon

1. Salmon

Salmon may be beneficial for reducing anxiety.

It contains nutrients that promote brain health, including vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

These nutrients may help regulate the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which can have calming and relaxing properties.

In particular, a diet rich in EPA and DHA is associated with lower rates of anxiety. It’s believed these fatty acids may reduce inflammation and prevent brain cell dysfunction that is common in people with anxiety.

This may also support your brain’s ability to adapt to changes, allowing you to better handle stressors that trigger anxiety symptoms.

Vitamin D has also been studied for the positive effects in reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms. One 2020 meta-analysis showed vitamin D supplementation was associated with lower rates of negative mood disorders.

In another study, men who ate Atlantic salmon 3 times per week for 5 months reported less anxiety than those who ate chicken, pork, or beef. Moreover, they had improved anxiety-related symptoms, such as heart rate and heart rate variability.

For the most benefit, try adding salmon to your diet 2–3 times per week.

2. Chamomile

Chamomile is an herb that may help reduce anxiety.

It contains both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help lower inflammation associated with anxiety

Though the mechanisms aren’t clear, chamomile is believed to help regulate neurotransmitters related to mood such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Further, it may help regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, a central part of the body’s stress response

Some studies have examined the association between chamomile extract and anxiety relief.

One 38-week randomized study in 179 people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experienced a significantly greater reduction in symptoms after consuming chamomile extract (1,500 milligrams daily) compared to those who did not.

Another study found similar results, as those who consumed chamomile extract for 8 weeks saw reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Though, the study’s low sample size could not provide enough statistical power to demonstrate cause-and-effect.

While these results are promising, most studies have been conducted on chamomile extract. More research is necessary to evaluate the anti-anxiety effects of chamomile tea, which is most commonly consumed.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that contains curcumin, a compound studied for its role in promoting brain health and preventing anxiety disorders

Known for its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin may help to prevent damage to brain cells related to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress

Moreover, animal studies suggest curcumin may increase the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) — an omega-3 found in plants — to DHA more effectively and increase DHA levels in the brain.

One double-blind, randomized study in 80 patients with diabetes found daily supplementation of nano-curcumin (80 milligrams/day) — a smaller, more bioavailable form of curcumin — for 8 weeks resulted in significantly lower anxiety scores compared to a placebo.

Another small randomized crossover study, consuming one gram of curcumin per day for 30 days was shown to significantly lower anxiety scores, compared to a placebo.

An 8-week randomized, double-blind study observed similar effects in those with major depressive disorder after taking 500 milligrams of curcumin for 8 weeks.

Though promising, most studies observed the effects of curcumin supplementation rather than obtaining curcumin from turmeric. Therefore, more research in this area is needed.

That said, incorporating turmeric into your diet is certainly worth a try. To increase curcumin absorption, try pairing it with black pepper.

4. Dark chocolate

Incorporating some dark chocolate into your diet may also be helpful for easing anxiety.

Dark chocolate contains flavonols, such as epicatechin and catechin, which are plant compounds that act as antioxidants.

Some research suggests that the flavonols found in dark chocolate may benefit brain function and have neuroprotective effects. In particular, flavonols may increase blood flow to the brain and enhance cell-signaling pathways.

These effects may allow you to adjust better to the stressful situations that can lead to anxiety and other mood disorders.

Some researchers also suggest that dark chocolate’s role in brain health may simply be due to its taste, which can be comforting for those with mood disorders.

One cross-sectional study in 13,626 participants found those who consumed dark chocolate had significantly lower depressive symptoms compared to those who seldom ate dark chocolate.

Further, in one randomized study, individuals who consumed dark chocolate twice daily for 2 weeks reported immediately lower levels of anxiety after eating it. This effect continued for 2 weeks, suggesting its effects may not level-off over time.

While this is promising, more research investigating dark chocolate’s effects on anxiety and mood is needed. Further, dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation, as it’s high in calories and easy to overeat. Enjoy a 1.0- to 1.5-ounce serving at a time.

How Does Anxiety Affect The Brain

Anxiety is a normal part of life. For example, you may have felt anxiety before addressing a group or in a job interview.

In the short term, anxiety increases your breathing and heart rate, concentrating blood flow to your brain, where you need it. This very physical response is preparing you to face an intense situation.

If it gets too intense, however, you might start to feel lightheaded and nauseous. An excessive or persistent state of anxiety can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health.

Anxiety disorders can happen at any stage of life, but they usually begin by middle age. Women are more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men, says the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)Trusted Source.

Stressful life experiences may increase your risk for an anxiety disorder, too. Symptoms may begin immediately or years later. Having a serious medical condition or a substance use disorder can also lead to an anxiety disorder.

There are several types of anxiety disorders. They include:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is marked by excessive anxiety for no logical reason. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates GAD affects about 6.8 million American adults a year.

GAD is diagnosed when extreme worry about a variety of things lasts six months or longer. If you have a mild case, you’re probably able to complete your normal day-to-day activities. More severe cases may have a profound impact on your life.

Social anxiety disorder

This disorder involves a paralyzing fear of social situations and of being judged or humiliated by others. This severe social phobia can leave one feeling ashamed and alone.

About 15 million American adults live with social anxiety disorder, notes the ADAA. The typical age at onset is around 13. More than one-third of people with social anxiety disorder wait a decade or more before pursuing help.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD develops after witnessing or experiencing something traumatic. Symptoms can begin immediately or be delayed for years. Common causes include war, natural disasters, or a physical attack. PTSD episodes may be triggered without warning.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

People with OCD may feel overwhelmed with the desire to perform particular rituals (compulsions) over and over again, or experience intrusive and unwanted thoughts that can be distressing (obsessions).

Common compulsions include habitual hand-washing, counting, or checking something. Common obsessions include concerns about cleanliness, aggressive impulses, and need for symmetry.

Phobias

These include fear of tight spaces (claustrophobia), fear of heights (acrophobia), and many others. You may have a powerful urge to avoid the feared object or situation.

Panic disorder

This causes panic attacks, spontaneous feelings of anxiety, terror, or impending doom. Physical symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

These attacks may occur at any time. You can also have another type of anxiety disorder along with panic disorder.

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