Today I wanted to share some foods that are medically proven to worsen anxiety, and some foods found to help lift anxiety.
Did you know treating anxiety actually adds years to your life span?
More on that in a moment.
But first, let’s not worsen or trigger your underlying anxiety with the wrong foods.
Nutritional psychiatry is a real thing — using nutrition to treat mood disorders can transform your life and make huge shifts in your ability to function and even thrive, despite having a predisposition towards anxiety.
Two foods that might be worsening your anxiety:
1. Gluten —
This medical study followed anxiety in patients with celiac disease after being placed on a celiac free diet.
Researchers followed these patients for an entire year, and found the rate of anxiety dropped significantly… from 72% of patients having high levels of anxiety at baseline down to only 25% of patients having anxiety after going gluten free.
The control group had no change in anxiety levels after a year, and interestingly, depression rates did not change at all. This transformative lessening of anxiety after going gluten free was very impressive and suggests that a gluten free diet can improve anxiety, but may not impact depression.
Although now we need continued research to see if the same reduction in anxiety is true for non-celiac patients, I can completely understand why gluten might trigger anxiety and why going gluten free may help alleviate it. As I reported years ago that gluten is an irritant to the central nervous system and can even induce brain fog and add to dementia risk. Read more on that here.
2. Sugar —
A huge meta-analysis correlated blood sugar control in diabetics with anxiety.
Researchers found that when patients were hyperglycemic, they had significant spikes in anxiety levels.
This after research in vivo showed that rats who binged on sugar became anxious and rats fed sucrose had significantly more anxiety than rats fed honey.
Again, it would be very helpful to have more medical studies confirm if this reduction in anxiety happens with non-diabetic patients, but since sugar is so inflammatory for the body and immune suppressive as well, reduce sugar as much as possible and see if this helps reduce your anxiety levels too!
Two foods that can help relieve anxiety:
In fact, this medical study showed that taking Omega 3 fatty acid supplements dropped anxiety rates by 20%!
Krill oil (like this high quality supplement) is an easy way to boost your intake of Omega 3s.
In fact, this interesting study showed that patients who ate fermented foods actually lessened social anxiety.
If you don’t enjoy yogurt, kefir, kombucha or fermented foods routinely, get started on a high quality probiotic supplement like this one.
And a few more tips about eating:
1. Eat regularly —
I’ve found in my past 17 years of practicing medicine that patients who do not eat consistently and routinely have more anxiety and even panic attacks when they are skipping meals and/or not eating enough grounding protein and healthy fats.
If you tend to get panic or anxiety symptoms, look over your eating habits and be certain you are actually getting enough protein and healthy fats to keep your body feeling grounded and stable.
Make sure your home and work areas have nutrient dense foods such as nuts, cheese, yogurt, nutritional rich veggies like avocado and coconut, chia seeds, granola bars with nuts and seeds in them, and other easy to grab foods. Start your day with an egg or other protein rich food.
Don’t skip breakfast!
2. Hydrate fully —
The symptoms of dehydration can give you the same symptoms as anxiety — racing heartbeat, cloudy thinking, overwhelm, muscle fatigue, etc…
If you feel anxiety coming on, take a few deep breaths and drink a big glass of clean filtered water.
3. Make sure you are getting enough minerals, especially magnesium.
Just like with dehydration, being mineral deficient can trigger anxiety symptoms too… especially shakiness, muscle tension and irregular heartbeat. Your muscles (including your heart!) and your central nervous system absolutely need minerals to function.
I highly recommend magnesium replacement if you tend to feel anxious, get trigger points or other areas of muscle tension, have difficulty relaxing at night, grind your teeth or have restless legs, or any other difficulty allowing your body to unwind.
Nightly magnesium bath soaks or topical application of magnesium lotion, as well as trace mineral drops in water throughout the day can do wonders to settle a hyper-irritable central nervous system and soothe a tense musculoskeletal system.
Don’t ignore anxiety.
There is no reason to suffer, accelerate aging, or even shorten your lifespan because of untreated anxiety.
Did you know that addressing and treating anxiety actually slows the aging process and reverses the damage that anxiety does to your body? It’s true.
Published February 5, 2015 in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found that anxiety increases the rate of aging AND that treating anxiety helps reverse the aging process!
Telomeres are complexes of DNA that cap the ends of your chromosomes. They shorten with age.
The length of your telomeres are considered a direct indicator of cellular and biological aging, because telomere shortening is accelerated when the aging process is accelerated.
This has been shown in other disorders such as depression, stress, increased cortisol levels, oxidative stress, higher levels of inflammation and now… anxiety conditions.
- The study looked at 1283 patients with active anxiety disorders, 459 patients with a resolved anxiety disorder, and 582 control patients with no psychiatric disorders… over 2,300 patients total.
- The average age was 42 years and 66% of the participants were female, 34% male.
- Telomere length typically shortens by about 14 base pairs a year.
- Accelerated aging was found in all anxiety disorders including social phobias, agoraphobia, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorders (GAD).
- Even after controlling for sex, weight, health, lifestyle factors, smoking, drinking, etc… patients with active anxiety disorders had significantly shorter telomeres than those without anxiety (by 75 base pairs on average — over 5 years!)
- BUT! Participants who had their anxiety disorder adequately treated had telomere length almost the same length as their non-anxious counterparts… only a 7 telomere difference (about a 6 month difference.)
This shows the incredible resilience of our body to stress, disease, and trauma!!
- After the anxiety was alleviated, telomere length returned to almost the exact length that non-anxious patients had!
- And the longer the patient has been anxiety free, the closer it was in telomere length to those who had no history at all of any anxiety disorder.
Just as it is never too late to stop smoking (because there are immediate health benefits as the body immediately starts to repair) it is NEVER too late to address anxiety… as the body is fully capable of reversing the aging effects of anxiety on our DNA.
So this is yet another study to prove:
Our psychology has a direct effect on our physiology.
In other words… our emotions and state of mind matter.
As I write about here, our outlook impacts our physical body.
This latest study showed an average life span shortening of about 5 years or more just due to anxiety.
And a near complete reversal by addressing that anxiety.
Add years to your life by getting help when you need it.
Don’t ignore anxiety. Anxiety is extremely common and there is a lot of support out there just waiting to help you.
I’ve blogged about anxiety quite a bit because just like many of you, I’ve had my own share of anxiety and have learned how to work with this energy to optimize my own health and the health of thousands of my patients who have anxiety struggles.
Other blog posts I’ve written over the years to the help decrease your anxiety:
7. Decrease your anxiety when Googling health information or seeing a physician a the doctor’s office: specific tips for navigating health info online and in the office (blog + video).
8. The top 5 ways to navigate an immediate crisis and protect your health. A crisis is an opportunity for transformation… here’s how (video).
I really hope these resources help!
I truly believe in the power of positive, uplifting, empowering health information.
Positivity, support, wellness tips, encouragement, fun… all of these things make a difference and ACTUALLY IMPACT LONGEVITY… adding years to your lifespan!