“How does nutrition for anxiety work”, you ask?
It’s a great question! And I’ve got oh so many answers!
In fact, there are tons of ways in which our nutrition can play a huge role in either helping to ease anxiety – or hinder it.
Below are a few of the most prevalent ways nutrition can impact your anxiety levels.
Just like our bodies need certain micro and macro nutrients in order to function optimally – so do our brains.
In fact, as Dr. Drew. Ramsay explains, “Despite only weighing about 3lbs, the human brain consumes 20% of the calories you eat each day. It’s optimal function depends upon a dozen key nutrients… That’s why assessing nutrition and food choices should be an integral part of the paradigm for treating and preventing mental health disorders.” (1)
By taking the time to pay attention to the nutrients your brain needs to function optimally through the foods you eat, you will undoubtedly be supporting your anxiety levels.
Dr. Amen, a thought leader in the world of psychiatry, often reminds us that we need to shift our conversations from talking about ‘mental illness’, to instead talking about brain health.
At the end of the day, so much of how we feel mentally, really does come down to how nourished our brains are.
Some of the many nutrients to consider (but not limited to) include:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3 Fatty acids
The gut-brain connection is a VERY real thing! And so is the role that nutrition plays within it!
The gut and the brain are constantly communicating with each other.
This means when our gut is inflamed (from processed foods/ foods it is sensitive to/ years of unhealthy eating) – it will send these ‘danger’ signals to the brain. These signals of ‘I’m inflamed‘ can then go on to trigger numerous mental health conditions, including anxiety.
On top of this, our gut bacteria are responsible for helping to produce many of our mood regulating neurotransmitters – like much of our serotonin, dopamine, and GABA!
In supporting the diversity of our gut bacteria through the food we eat, we are enabling our gut bacteria to go on to do their job of helping to produce these important neurotransmitters.
The ways to support one’s gut will be different for everyone depending on where you’re currently at. However there are a few general principles of gut health that nearly everyone can benefit from!
General Principals of Gut Health:
- Get to the root and address any dysbiosis, leaky gut, or other digestive issues
- Eat lots of whole foods (let these make up the majority of your meals!)
- Include enough fibre in your diet
- Including ferments regularly
- Eat organic (pesticide free food) as much as possible
- Do your best to minimize refined grains, sugars, and poor quality meats
This might be one of my most favourite parts about nutrition for anxiety. Believe me when I say – blood sugar balance is a bit like magic (at least in the world of nutrition) when it comes to helping stabilize our mood and ease anxiety levels throughout the day.
When our blood sugars drop too low from not eating consistent meals, or sky rocket too high from something super sugary – we put stress on our bodies. This can often result in excess cortisol (our main stress hormone) being released and leave us with those incredibly panicky feelings and anxious thoughts.
If we find ourselves skipping meals or waiting too long to eat between them – we run the risk of getting h-anxious. And by this I mean that our anxiety can set in, simple because we are hungry, and our blood sugar levels have dropped too low.
Keeping your blood sugars steady with balanced, nutrient dense, whole food meals is SO important for helping to keep anxiety at bay.
In fact, there is a specific ‘formula’ when making a meal that I like to encourage my clients to follow. It includes having the right balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats – along with half a plate of leafy green vegetables.
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM:
Our nervous system truly runs the show when it comes to how we feel mentally!
As much as we think of anxiety as an issue with our thoughts (ex. thinking fearful thoughts/ intrusive thoughts/ catastrophic thoughts) – in reality, it has much to do more with our nervous systems.
If our nervous system is dys-regulated, we are going to perceive things that are not actually of any imminent danger, as unsafe.
This causes the release of adrenaline and cortisol – and activates the ‘fight or flight’ mode within our bodies (3). It also can create a bit of a ripple effect in that once our nervous systems are ‘on edge’ – pretty much anything can make us anxious.
By helping to re-regulate our nervous system by nourishing it (there are many ways to do this and food is one of them) – we can go on to feel much more calm, grounded, and at ease in our bodies and minds.
With a properly regulated nervous system – those anxious thoughts don’t stand much of a chance in getting the best of you. In fact, it becomes much easier to ignore them/ not even hear them at all, and generally feel much less anxious in your day to day.
When it comes to nourishing our nervous system with our nutrition – here are a few key things to pay attention to:
- Keep caffeine in moderation – and if you do consume, know the hacks to do so in a way that doesn’t wreck havoc on your nervous system (ex. never drink coffee on an empty stomach)
- Keep refined sugars to a minimum (ex. white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, icing sugar)
- Avoid food dyes and additives (ex. red dye #40, yellow dye #5)
- Minimize nutrient void, highly processed foods (ex. french fries, fast foods, conventional candies/ chocolate)
- Do your best to avoid glyphosate (glyphosate has been found to negatively impact the nervous system) (2)
Hormone imbalances, thyroid issues, blood sugar imbalances, vitmain and mineral deficiencies, and much more – can can all be triggers for anxiety.
In fact, in a lot of ways, anxiety is a SYMPTOM of a deeper imbalance.
By eating in a way that addresses these health imbalances, you can be helping to simultaneously ease your anxiety.
And best of all, this will have a ripple effect in so many other areas of your health and well being. Please note that it’s often important to do this work with a practitioner to be sure you are effectively addressing the imbalances you are facing.
ON A SOUL LEVEL
I was going to say that this one is going to need a whole separate blog post (and maybe that will come some day soon) – however, the truth of the matter is that nutrition on a soul level isn’t really something that one can explain so well.
As much as I can try to put it into words, it really does need to be experienced first hand!
What I can say is this – when you start feeding your body with foods that truly light you up, support your best health, and nourish every cell of your being – you feel it on a deep soul level.
Give it a try and I’m quite confident you’ll see exactly what I mean <3
As you can see – there are SO many ways in which our nutrition can play a huge role in impacting our anxiety levels.
And if I’m being honest, this is just scraping the surface of it!
If you would like to know…
- Exactly what kind of meals to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to help ease anxiety levels
- How to actually nourish your nervous system with the foods you eat
- The specific formula for blood sugar balance – all day and night long
- How to improve your gut health to tap into improving the gut-brain connection
- Which foods to focus on that can truly support your brain health
- The ways to address underlying imbalances like hormone issues or vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- How to eat in a way that can feed your body on a deep soul level
- AND SO MUCH MORE…
Then the Eat to Ease Anxiety Online Course is perfect for you!
Join us today to tap into the food/ mood connection!
Use the coupon code ‘FALLTHRIVE‘ at checkout for $100 off the course (for a limited time only)!
- Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety, Dr. Drew Ramsey