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Eating for Anxiety




Around about a year ago I walked into a date with all of the enthusiasm of a woman looking forward to a lovely lunch with an equally lovely sounding guy. We’d been chatting for a while and had decided to meet up in London as I happened to be there for a course I was attending. The conversation was engaged, quick witted and fun. We talked about mental health ( oh the irony, it would turn out) as he was a composer writing music for a new mental health app. Everything was going just fine. Little did I realise that things were about to take a different turn. About half -way in I started to experience an intense heat. Overheating and starting to sweat. My hearing started to morph from crystal clear to the sensation of being under water. I could barely hear what my date was saying. It was when my heart started pounding and feeling like it was about to burst out of my chest that it became clear to me that I was suffering from severe panic or what we know as a panic attack. I made my excuses and gingerly made my way to the restrooms to try and slow down my breathing which by this point had cottoned on to the complete mayhem going on in my body.

My date was a perfect gentleman and walked me along the Thames to help me calm down, but the sheer embarrassment of the occasion meant that date 2 never materialised.

However, over the next few weeks I carried on with my newly formed business, rushing from job to job as a massage therapist, writing talks and generally not knowing when to put the laptop away. What I had missed with my experience that day in London was that my body was warning me to slow down. In 72 hours, I had left a paid job to start on my own in the form of complete self- employment, driven to London to do a full days training in seated chair massage, got completely lost on the North circular stressed to the eyeballs trying to find Richmond and then engaged in a two-hour date with a relative stranger.

This was a warning sign that, like most of us do, I choose to ignore. If I’d been listening more closely to my body, I may well have avoided the level of anxiety I started to experience in the coming months. I’m happy to report that my experience with severe anxiety is now under control. I can finally breathe again. But It did get me wanting to learn more about how to prevent or control anxiety. I realised that by making a variety of lifestyle changes you can really help manage anxiety.

Anxiety is a widespread condition affecting millions of people all over the world, symptoms vary, and some people only experience it now and again but if your one of the unlucky ones who has prolonged anxiety of over 6 months then you may be diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder or GAD. The symptoms of GAD include phycological and physical symptoms such as fear, tension, excessive worry about everyday events and problems, irritability, difficulty concentrating, issues with relationships (personal, social and work) heart palpitations and elevated heart rate, muscle tension and chest tightness. Anxiety has been on the rise since the global pandemic has struck with the uncertainty of job security, the fear and reality of becoming ill and the grief of losing loved ones.

Treatments include talking therapies like CBT ( Cognitive behavioural therapies) and medication can help be it chemical or natural. Being a nutrition coach, I have become increasingly interested in the role of certain foods for managing anxiety and the following are must haves to be included in your diet to help prevent or manage anxiety. Eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and lean protein can help.Research suggests that proper nutrition can help improve symptoms.

Foods that help anxiety

Brazil Nuts – the humble brazil nut comes high in something called Selenium. It is thought that selenium may improve the mood by reducing inflammation which is often heightened when someone has a mood disorder like anxiety or depression.

Selenium is also an antioxidant which helps prevent cell damage. It is also anti-carcinogenic which helps to prevent cancer from developing. Other nuts, animal products and vegetables such as mushrooms and soybeans are an excellent source of selenium. Enjoy just 3 -4 brazil nuts daily being careful not to take in too much selenium as this has been seen to cause some side effects. Brazil Nuts and other nuts are also a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Antioxidants can be beneficial for treating anxiety.

Recipe: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/brazil-banana-bread

Fatty Fish – Foods such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring are high in Omega 3. Omega 3 is a fatty acid that has a strong relationship with cognitive function as well as mental health. Omega 3 rich foods that contain Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) provides two essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. Both of these regulate neurotransmitters, reduce inflammation and promote healthy brain function. Current recommendations suggest eating at least two servings a week. Salmon and sardines are also an excellent source of vitamin D. Researchers are increasingly linking vitamin D deficiency to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Recipe: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/salmon_traybake_53794

Eggs – Egg yolks are another great source of vitamin D and also an excellent source of protein. It is a complete protein meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids that the body need for growth and development. Eggs also contain Tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps create serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood, sleep, memory and behaviour. Serotonin is also thought to improve brain function and relieve anxiety.

Recipe: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/spanish_tortilla_78863

Pumpkin Seeds – Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of Potassium which helps regulate electrolyte balance and manages blood pressure. Eating potassium rich foods such as pumpkin seeds and bananas may help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Pumpkin seeds are also enriched with zinc. A recent study found that zinc deficiency may negatively affect mood. Zinc is essential for brain and nerve development. The largest stress sites of zinc in the body are in the brain regions involved with emotions.

Recipe: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pumpkin_and_sunflower_54035

Dark Chocolate – Studies have generally found that dark chocolate or cocoa may improve mood. It is a rich source of Polyphenols especially flavonoids. One study has suggested that flavonoids might reduce neuroinflammation and cell death in the brain as well as improve blood flow. Chocolate has a high tryptophan content which the body uses to turn into mood enhancing neurotransmitters such as serotonin in the brain. Dark chocolate is also a good source of magnesium. Eating a diet with enough magnesium in it or taking supplements may reduce symptoms of depression. When choosing dark chocolate aim for 70% or higher.

Recipe: https://www.oetker.co.uk/uk-en/recipe/r/double-chocolate-and-raspberry-muffins

Turmeric – Is a spice commonly used in Indian and South East Asian cooking. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin may help lower anxiety by reducing inflammation and oxidising stress that often increase in people experiencing mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Turmeric is easy to add to meals. It has minimal flavour, so goes well in smoothies, curries and casserole dishes.

Recipe: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/turmeric-pancakes

Chamomile – Commonly used herbal remedy because of its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and relaxant properties. Some people believe that the relaxant properties and anti-anxiety properties come from flavonoids present in chamomile. Chamomile tea may be useful in managing anxiety. It is readily available and safe to use in high doses.

Recipe: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/gin-free-gt

Yoghurt – yoghurt contains healthy bacteria. There is emerging evidence that the bacteria and fermented products have positive effects on brain health. According to recent clinical review, yoghurt and other dairy products may produce anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Including yoghurt and other fermented food in the diet can benefit the natural gut bacteria and may reduce anxiety and stress. Fermented foods include cheese, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Recipe: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/lemon-yogurt-chicken-flatbreads

Green Tea – Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine which is receiving increasing scrutiny due to its potential effects on mood disorders. Theanine has anti-anxiety and calming effects and may increase the production of serotonin and dopamine. It has been found that 200mg of theanine improved self- reported relaxation and calmness while reducing tension in human trials. Green tea is easy to add to the daily diet and is a good replacement for soft drinks, coffee and alcoholic beverages.

Recipe: https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-iced-green-tea-with-ginger-mint-and-honey-recipes-from-the-kitchn-207387

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and that you go ahead and include these particular foods into your diets. Your mind and body may thank you. As for the dating…there’s always 2021 to look forward too!

Love

Louisa

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