WEEK 4 – Effect of diet on anxiety

Tam Johnston


We’re continuing the foundational building blocks behind supporting an overworked nervous system from anxiety or stress as well as using these as an ongoing preventative framework.

Food has a significant effect on our brain balance and health. What we eat directly corresponds to stress hormones in the brain and body and by eating the wrong types of food we increase our anxiety levels, stress and encourage poor brain function. So along with all of the other foundational building blocks in this series, it is vital to pay attention to what we eating, become well-informed, and take steps to work with our nervous system to give it what it needs to be at its best.

It’s tempting. I get it. You are busy and stress and worry is zapping your energy. Therefore food of convenience seems easier and less demanding on your precious energy and organisational skills (because let’s face it, there’s enough to think about).

If you are acutely stressed or worried then your appetite might be reduced, but in more generalised chronic anxiety and stress it is extremely common for appetite to increase and the body can feel like it’s screaming…’Just eat. I need energy’. It is so easy to get into a vicious cycle of eating the wrong types of foods for all the reasons above, and yet we have to find a way to break that cycle and support our body and brain health in order to stand the best chance of feeling energised, clearheaded, calm and more resilient. The wrong foods can screw with your brain and create anxiety and stress all by themselves. The let’s look at the well-known culprits supported by evidence as well as the champions that will help us on the road to a calmer state.

The culprits

Reduce highly processed and sugary foods. Poor blood sugar balance is a huge factor in worsening anxiety and stress symptoms. High sugar foods cause a crash of low blood sugar that causes cortisol (stress hormone) increase, as well as leaving you feeling sluggish, needed more of the same or seeking a caffeine boost (which has a double whammy on overloading your nervous system).

So try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:

  • Refined carbohydrates/starches and sugary food, such as white bread and pastries
  • Wheat, rye and barley –if there is a possibility of an intolerance as this also causes an inflammatory response.
  • French fries and other fried foods
  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage) high in saturated fat
  • Margarine, coffee creamers and lard (and all highly saturated fats)

Inflammation – highly processed and certain types of food like above create an inflammatory response in the body. This triggers your immune system and puts your body into ‘fight’ mode. There is a huge amount of evidence that shows a link between inflammation in the body and depression. And anxiety and depression are good bed fellows.

So try to consume known anti-inflammatory foods such as:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Turmeric or curry powder (contains turmeric) and garlic
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, broccoli and collards and avocados
  • Whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and other unrefined grains tend to be high in fibre, and fibre also may help with inflammation.
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Beans: They’re high in fibre, plus they’re loaded with antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances.
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

The Champions

Instead, try and eat as healthily as you can to ensure a nutrient-rich diet and consume natural, un-processed foods and low GI.

Missing vital nutrients in our diet such as B12, B2, B6, iron, vitamin C and magnesium to name a few will mimic anxiety sensations and contribute to an overworked nervous system. Take care of yourself with a balanced diet. Take supplements if you’re unable to ensure an adequate diet. They are far from ideal as their effectiveness is minimal at best (so stay away ftom the trap of taking these instead of eating healthily) but for days where you just can’t get the nutition you need, anything is better than nothing!

Eat three meals a day and never skip breakfast to keep your blood sugar balanced. Blood sugar dips either from not eating or as a rebound after eating something too sweet or starchy. This triggers adrenaline release in your body, creating symptoms of stress.

Choose slow-releasing carbohydrates rather than refined foods such as brown rice, wholegrain bread, quinoa and oatcakes (avoid processed and white equivalents) and ensure you eat a good amount of protein, which will fill you up and sustain your energy levels, along with nutritious vegetables.

There is a huge amount of further information available by nutritional experts out there, this is just a starting point and food for thought (pardon the pun!). It doesn’t need to take up more time or effort, is more about getting informed and making good food choices, even if you’re on the go.

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WEEK 12 – Breathing for anxiety

WEEK 12 – Breathing for anxiety

When stress, tension, anxiety or panic kicks in, the first thing to respond is our breathing. Most of us have heard ‘and breathe’ yet, how many of us know ‘how’ or truly give it the adjustments it needs?

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