It’s not all in your head, Sis……. Anxiety is on the rise. If you’ve been around here very long, you know that I’m all about the “food-as-medicine” line of thinking. I strongly believe that in most cases, when we give our body a wide variety of good, healthy, ingredients, it knows just how to put them to use for its own highly specific needs. In other words, the food we eat can either contribute to disease and dysfunction, or it can promote healing, prevent disease and anxiety. A lot of people are struggling with stress and anxiety right now, along with the myriad of other unpleasant symptoms that go along with them. Since May is mental health month I thought I’d write about some ways to help your body help its self by eating foods that help relieve anxiety.
*I am not a medical provider or practitioner. This is not meant to be medical advice.
What You Need to Know
Your gut health. It’s important in relieving anxiety. People with anxiety typically have high levels of inflammation in their body. 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, so when it’s inflamed the production of serotonin can be obstructed. Less serotonin will actually increase your feelings of stress. Changing the way you eat can also change the rate of glucose metabolism in the brain, to create more available GABA(the “happy” hormone). GABA is a neurotransmitter that acts as a mood stabilizer among other things.
More happy hormones and less stress and anxiety just by changing the way you eat? What have you got to lose?
Foods to Eliminate if you Struggle with Anxiety
Now, obviously you don’t need to eliminate these for all eternity, but for the sake of giving this a real go, you need to eliminate “inflammatory” foods for 4-6 weeks to notice a difference in your stress and anxiety. For example all processed and fast food. If your meals are coming in a package, chances are good that they will cause an inflammatory response in your body. Also- too much alcohol causes inflammation, as well as white sugar and refined carbohydrates (most of the typical bread, pasta etc that you find en masse in American grocery stores). Regular dairy is inflammatory. If you eat meat be sure it’s the highest quality. For example, cows fed on grain can cause inflammation while cows fed on grass as nature intended, can be a great source of healthy protein and fats. For the sake of helping you feel better and combat anxiety, just ditch all the inflammatory foods for 4-6 weeks.
- NOTE: If you are used to eating mostly the foods above, you may feel ill with almost flu like symptoms when you cut these out of your diet completely. Obviously if you are sick, contact your doctor, but realize that what some have deemed “keto flu” is a real and normal part of healing your body. It’s temporary and the way you feel when it subsides is 100% worth it!
Foods to eat to Relieve Anxiety
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Pile ’em on because they make your brain happy! Found in fatty fish like wild salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds. Your brain NEEDS energy and very specific nutrient requirements. It needs fat from dietary sources to function properly. Put simply- if you aren’t getting enough good fats, your brain will suffer.
All the fresh fruits and vegetables! Pile those veggies high and get a large variety. Antioxidants help calm your mood by protecting your brain from oxidative stress. Studies (and my own personal experience) also show that increasing your zinc can have a calming effect. Cashews are a good source of zinc, but I added this in supplement form to my diet and its been very helpful.
Increasing your magnesium intake is very calming for the brain. Up to 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium! Without enough of this important nutrient in your body it reduces the levels of serotonin (again!). Magnesium can actually prevent the entrance of stress hormones into the brain! You can take magnesium in supplement form and you can get magnesium in tings like eggs, spinach, Swiss chard, legumes and avocado.
Breaking it Down
If you look at the foods that I’ve listed as inflammatory as well as the ones that are listed as inflammatory- the closest popular “diets” on the market (in their TRUE forms) that fit these protocols are the Mediterranean Diet and the Paleo diet, with the Keto diet probably falling in there somewhere as well. All three diets are anti-inflammatory so choose the one that best fits your needs and the needs of your family. We more closely follow somewhere between a Paleo and Mediterranean diet as this just suits everyones tastes and needs in my family.
What you put into your body truly matters. If you struggle with anxiety (or you just want to get healthy!) let your diet be a part of your traditional therapy and self care.
I hope that this information about foods that relieve anxiety has been helpful and encouraging for you. It’s always a good thing to check in with yourself and listen to your feelings. LISTEN to them, but you don’t have to be LED and CONTROLLED by them. And if you can’t sort it out on your own and get your head above water, never hesitate to seek help from a professional. And speaking of professionals- be prepared to stick with it until you find one who is a good fit for you- one that is truly knowledgable, helpful and able to give you actionable steps to help- you- help- yourself. You are 100% worth the effort.
Where to Find Out More
All About The Mediterranean Diet– a good resource to learn about the Mediterranean Diet.
The TRUE Paleo diet.All About the Paleo Diet–
Read All About the Keto Diet– HIGHLY interesting with loads of jumping off points.
Also check out The Whole 30 Diet for combating Inflammation.
Ways to Deal and Combat Anxiety– and how to know when to seek a professional.
You may also like these other posts I’ve written on mental health:
This post on How to Combat Anxiety and this one on Finding Your Joy in a Broken World or this one on The One Thing That Will Destroy Every Relationship You Have.
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