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6 Foods That Make Your Anxiety Worse

Everyone experiences anxiety. Be it mild, extreme, or severe panic attacks.
But when it gets chronic, it becomes a cause for concern.

Managing chronic anxiety with tools like therapy, exercise, breathing, and mindfulness can be effective and helpful for everyone. 

But here’s some food for thought!

What you eat and drink can actually make your anxiety better or worse?

Yes. Certain everyday foods, even some of the healthy ones, can overstimulate your nervous system and exaggerate stress and anxiety symptoms.

So instead of managing anxiety in the short term, doesn’t it make sense to keep any such food off your plate which might aggravate your anxiety, so that you gain control over your anxiety symptoms and side-effects, and ultimately protect yourself from the perils of biological stress?

If it does make sense to you, then read on to learn which foods can make your anxiety worse.


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Foods That Can Make Anxiety Worse

Alcohol

Yes, your booze might have helped you quell your anxiety at times but it actually makes it worse in the long run. When the good mood wears off, alcohol can result in mini-withdrawal effects, significantly affecting sleep quality and pretty bad panic attacks. 

More alarmingly, heavy alcohol usage can rewire the brain to make it more difficult for anyone to recover from a traumatic experience.

On average, a 12-oz (or 350ml) beer stays in your system for almost two hours, and more the quantity of alcohol, the longer it stays inside. So what’s the solution?

Consult your doctor. Drink in moderation, about two servings per day is considered safe. And definitely do not drink to relax and fall asleep.

Ultimately, alcohol is a depressant and a diuretic, leaving you numb and dehydrated every time you drink, which is not good for your health and well-being in the long run. So, trying to cut off alcohol completely would definitely be the best option.

Alternatives:

Maybe, you could pick up non-alcoholic beers, mock tails, and sparkling water as alternatives at your next party.

Caffeine

First booze, then your cup of joe? Unfortunately yes!

Let’s make one thing very clear first. If you need caffeine to wake up in the morning, before work, during work, after work, at meetings, or whenever convenient, you might be abusing it.

High levels of caffeine interfere with the production of the feel-good chemical serotonin, eventually leading to a depressed mood. 

A study found that consuming 300 milligrams of caffeine a day can leave you with twice as much stress. To put it in perspective, a Starbucks ‘grande’ coffee packs about 330 milligrams of caffeine.

Caffeine, being a diuretic will make you dehydrated and it also interferes with your sleep quality. Lack of quality sleep and depressed mood aggravates anxiety and nervousness.

So you might wanna start cutting down on how much coffee you consume daily. Don’t miss counting these six hidden foods and drinks that pack a good amount of caffeine as well.

Alternatives:

Pick up tea. Refreshing, calming, and pleasant in nature because of L-theanine. With a plethora of options at your disposal, pick up anyone you like. What’s more interesting is that many different teas can actually help you relax your anxiety and stress.

Refined or Added Sugar

Any sugar, if not in the form of natural whole food like fruit or sweet potato, is considered a refined sugar.

The problem with refined sugar is that it gets absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly and easily, spiking up our blood sugar levels. To compensate for this unnatural rise in blood sugar levels, insulin is released. Then, however, stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline rush in to prevent your blood sugar from crashing down.

Now imagine starting your day with breakfast cereals and juice, which are predominantly refined sugars. Then going for refined carb-rich foods like bread, noodles, fries, etc. at lunch or dinner. You ride the sugar wave throughout the day with your body consistently releasing cortisol and adrenaline, affecting your mood, energy levels, appetite, and cognitive performance.

This study found that a single serving of glucose-sweetened beverages doubled the level of adrenaline in adults and quadrupled in children, reaching peak levels after 4 hours of consumption.

Adrenaline is a fight or flight hormone, causing panic symptoms in our body with sweating, palpitations, and even, lightheadedness. Consistent release of adrenaline will naturally make you susceptible to severe anxiety and panic attacks. Moreover, consuming large amounts of refined sugar can lead to obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and affect your emotional well-being leaving you with feelings of worry, sadness, and irritability.

It’s safe to say that you definitely should keep refined sugars and starches out of your plate.

Alternatives:

For starters, include more whole foods items on the plate with vegetables like sweet potatoes and fruits, and use natural sweeteners in place of regular sugar.

Gourmet Meals (Aged, fermented, and cultured foods)

To make any fresh whole food into gourmet, you simply need to add bacteria to it and let it ferment. However better gourmet foods may taste, they are not so good for your body.

During the fermentation process, the bacteria break down food proteins into biogenic amines. The longer you ferment the food, the more the number of biogenic amines. 

One of the biogenic amines produced is called histamine. Histamine is actually stored in every tissue of our body. Whenever any tissue in your body is injured by physical damage, infection, or allergic reaction, histamine is released to provide a signal to your brain and body that something is wrong and needs to be taken care of immediately, and the reaction to it is manifested either in the form of inflammation, runny nose, watery eyes, swelling, etc.

But excessive amounts of histamine in our body can lead to an exaggeration of its effect on our digestion, hormonal, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. [1]

Histamine increases levels of adrenaline in our body, causing anxiety and can even lead to insomnia at night. The more histamine you ingest through food, the more you’ll become susceptible to severe anxiety and panic attacks.

Alternatives:

Always prefer to eat fresh, whole foods. While picking up meat and fish, check for the ‘packed on’ date. The more recent that date, the better.

Trans Fat

Trans fat is a type of dietary fat that is produced both naturally and artificially. 

It is produced naturally in the gut of some animals and can be found in small amounts in meat and dairy products. Artificially it is found mainly in hydrogenated oils, where it is industrially processed into liquid vegetable oils to make them more shelf-sustainable.

Most of the fried foods and snacks that you love binging on are cooked using hydrogenated oils. Moreover, hydrogenated oil is also sneaked into margarine, packaged snacks, baked foods, coffee creamers, and almost every fast food item. 

Alright, so what’s the problem with consuming hydrogenated oil? Pretty serious, actually.

Trans fat found in hydrogenated oil raises your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lowers your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Consuming trans fat increases your risk of developing heart diseases and stroke, and it’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. [2]

That’s not all!  Recent studies have found that prolonged consumption of trans fats can actually make you susceptible to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Considering how unhealthy it is, the Food and Drug Administration has recently prohibited food manufacturers from adding the major source of artificial trans fat to foods and beverages. 
Several countries (e.g., Denmark, Switzerland, and Canada) also have reduced or restricted the use of trans fats in food-service establishments. But, as the regulation takes effect, some products with added trans fat may still be available. [3]

Alternatives:

Replace anything that contains hydrogenated oils with a more healthy substitute, like olive oil. Many studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet, which traditionally utilizes olive oil, can lower the risk of health conditions, including depression. And needless to say, try to minimize eating foods that might have been cooked using hydrogenated oil, like fast foods.

Processed Foods

Any food item that you pick up from the supermarket shelf, with high levels of added sugar or salt or fats in it, and are ready to be cooked or eaten as is can be categorized as processed food items. This list includes processed ingredients like flour, cooking oil, etc. and ultra-processed items with added colors, flavors, and preservatives like sugary drinks, cookies, some crackers, chips, breakfast cereals, and frozen ready-to-eat meals. [4]

Some processed foods are high in refined sugar which affects your mood, energy levels, appetite, cognitive performance and boosts the level of adrenaline to make you susceptible to severe anxiety and panic attacks. Moreover, consuming large amounts of refined sugar can lead to obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and affect your emotional well-being leaving you with feelings of worry, sadness, and irritability.

Other processed foods that are high in salt can disrupt your neurological system, which can directly contribute to depression and affects your immune system response and causes fatigue. Moreover, an excess of salt causes bloating, higher fluid retention, and weight gain over time.

Alternatives:

Keep processed food off the plate and replace as many items as possible with natural whole food. Stay away from canned food items and beverages at all costs.

Become mindful of what you eat and avoid these six foods to reduce chances of anxiety attacks.


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6 Foods That Make Your Anxiety Worse

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