Anxiety is a complex mental health condition that can be influenced by various factors, but did you know that what we put on our plates can make things worse? While it's essential to remember that food alone cannot cause or cure anxiety, certain dietary choices may exacerbate anxiety symptoms in some people – we’ll be looking at 5 of the big offenders.
Sugary Snacks and Drinks
Excess sugar is public enemy number one when it comes to anxiety – you might find yourself craving the sweet stuff when the stress hits, but there’s a marked lack of pay-off in the long-term. High-sugar foods like soft drinks and sugary snacks can lead to rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. These fluctuations can trigger feelings of irritability, nervousness, and anxiety. Additionally, excessive sugar intake may disrupt neurotransmitter balance in the brain, affecting mood regulation. One of the major problems with excess sugar consumption is that it can lower microbial diversity, according to research, which in turns lowers immunity and stimulates the growth harmful bacteria.
In particular, studies have found a high-sugar diet causes higher levels of Proteobacteria, and this is a marker for dysbiosis. Here’s where the effect on mental health comes in – an out of whack gut leaves has a knock-on effect with our hormones – and the research backs this concerning result. Studies have shown rates of depression are greater in those who eat a high-sugar diet, while another study shows anxiety is reported in higher numbers in people over 60 who consume sugar in excess. One study found people who drank 2 soft drinks a day had stress hormone levels 22% higher than those who did not, showing an undeniable link between mental health, the gut and sugar – from short-term symptoms like irritability and stress to more chronic illnesses that interfere with our lives. To reduce the impact of sugar on anxiety, opt for whole, unprocessed foods – when cravings hit, opt for a healthy-fat rich snack like avo toast or spiced nuts.
While moderate caffeine consumption can provide a temporary energy boost and enhance alertness, excessive caffeine intake can lead to jitteriness and heightened anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase heart rate and trigger anxious feelings in some individuals. If you're sensitive to caffeine, consider reducing your intake or switching to decaffeinated alternatives, herbal teas, or water.
Processed and Fast Foods
Processed foods, especially those high in trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and artificial additives, may contribute to inflammation in the body and brain. Chronic inflammation has been linked to mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. Opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to support better mental health.
While alcohol is often used as a way to unwind, excessive alcohol consumption can have a detrimental impact on mental health. Alcohol is a depressant that can disrupt sleep patterns, alter neurotransmitter levels, and lead to mood swings and heightened anxiety. Moderation is key when it comes to alcohol consumption, and it's essential to be aware of how alcohol affects your mental wellbeing.
Foods that are high in sodium, such as processed snacks, canned soups, and restaurant fast food, can contribute to increased anxiety. High sodium intake can lead to elevated blood pressure, which may exacerbate feelings of restlessness and anxiety. Reducing salt intake by choosing fresh and minimally processed foods can help manage anxiety and support overall health.
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So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, it’s not too late to join. We’d love to help you get started on your health journey. Sign up HERE today!