If you suffer from anxiety, then you should take special care of your nutrition. Some foods can actually be doing more harm than good to your disorder.

There are specific foods that can worsen your anxiety without you even knowing. This is about anxiety prevention and anxiety cure. Whether you already suffer from anxiety or not, this about treating anxiety from within.

Here are 5 foods you should avoid if you suffer from anxiety:

 

  1. Caffeine

Why Caffeine?

If you are drinking coffee every morning to aid in your energy levels you may be doing more harm than good to your body. Caffeine is usually safe for humans when consumed in moderation, but this of course depends on how sensitive you are and what you consider moderate.

As research shows, having up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to 4 cups of brewed coffee, should be safe for the average person. But if you are extra sensitive to it, this becomes a whole other story.

Caffeine has many powers, one of them is to increase alertness in the brain. It works by blocking adenosine, a hormone that makes you feel tired, and releases adrenaline to keep you on edge for a certain period of time. This can lead to a feeling of nervousness and jitteriness, which in turn can provoke or worsen your anxiety symptoms.

Additionally, ingesting too much caffeine can have long-term effects on your sleep. Just one cup of coffee in the afternoon can make you have a harder time falling asleep at night. It may not seem like a big deal but lack of sleep is cumulative. If every day you are sleeping one less hour a night it will catch up with you later, which can lead to sleep deprivation.

When you become sleep deprived, you have more difficulty performing tasks and projects, which can result in being more stressed and anxious.

 

What to replace it with?

First, you don’t have to replace coffee all together. You can simply reduce the amount you consume. You can try to switch coffee for tea, which has a lot less caffeine, or just decaf.

If your anxiety is at an all time high, then switch coffee for a fruit juice, a smoothie or some lemon water. It may be difficult at first, since coffee withdrawal symptoms are real and can happen to you if your body is too dependant on caffeine.

If you want to check out some detox drinks to substitute caffeine, see our post about 5 Detox Drinks To Help You Lose Weight.

 

  1. Sugar

Why Sugar?

When you consume a lot of sugar it raises the serotonin levels in your brain. What is serotonin? Serotonin is a chemical produced by your nerve cells, which is responsible for how you eat, sleep, and digest food. This chemical is considered a mood stabilizer. When your serotonin levels are normal, you feel calmer and happier.

But what are normal levels of serotonin? It was said that low levels of this chemical could lead to anxiety or depression, hence the high amounts of it in mental health medications, but in a recent study it was found that it was high levels of serotonin that can make you feel worse. By consuming sugar you can make your anxiety worse.

Another big problem with sugar is how it relates to gut health. In your intestines you have good bacteria and bad bacteria. The kind of foods you eat can have a big impact on how you feel. How? When you consume sugar you feed the bad bacteria in your gut, which can lead to inflammation related to your digestion. Although you may not have digestive symptoms but the inflammation can show other kind of symptoms throughout the body, like in your brain or nervous system.

Last but not least, sugar can cause an energy spike that when it’s over leaves you feeling stressed and fatigued.

 

What to replace it with?

You can replace sugar with a natural sweetener called Stevia. Stevia can be 10 times more sweet than sugar so be careful in your doses. Yet, it has no calories.

If you don’t like the taste of Stevia then you can try using coconut sugar, maple syrup or molasses. All of these alternatives are better for your health than using sugar in your diet.

Beware of the added sugars in processed foods as they can easily sabotage your efforts of cutting down sugar. 

Another interesting post is “30 Sugar Substitutes For Any and Every Possible Situation by Greatist you should take a look at.

 

  1. Alcohol

Why Alcohol?

Turning to a drink when you’re anxious may seem like a good idea. You feel more relaxed and more capable of dealing with the world. This may be the scenario with some people, who can practise moderation. But in some cases, one drink isn’t enough, often leading to the point of being drunk. Then, you’ll start doing things you regret. When the alcohol fades, you remember what happened, which can lead to more anxiety.

While alcohol can reduce anxiety temporarily, it can also increase anxiety within just a few hours of consumption and the effects on anxiety can last into the following day.

Alcohol isn’t good for your anxiety, not only because of what happens after you get drunk but also for the long term effects. It messes with your serotonin levels and can actually rewire your brain in a way that makes you more susceptible for anxiety and depression.

Once you decide you want to quit drinking, then the real effects on anxiety levels show up due to withdrawal symptoms. These can range from agitation, anxiety, headaches, vomiting, nausea, disorientation, insomnia, etc.

 

What to replace it with?

Alcohol is easy to replace if you are not dependant on it. Try making some mocktails, cocktails without alcohol, with fruit juices and sodas. You want to mimic alcoholic drinks in taste and appearance in a way to trick your brain, just like with the placebo effect.

After you are feeling more used to it, just switch it out for organic juice, tea or sparkling water.

If you dependant on alcohol, then you should seek help from professionals. It is a difficult thing to do alone.

 

  1. Gluten

Why Gluten?

For 1% of the population gluten represents a clear poison. That is, of course, due to celiac disease. People who suffer from this condition can’t eat gluten as it triggers response symptoms that damage the gut and prevent proper nutrient absorption.

However, gluten doesn’t just affect people who suffer from celiac disease. It will also affect those with gluten sensitivity. When this is the case, even though the symptoms aren’t as bad as with celiac disease, it can lead to digestive problems, energy drops and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Gluten triggers gut inflammation, and that impacts your brain. There is such a thing as a gut-brain connection, called gut-brain axis. If your gut isn’t healthy then it’s going to affect your mood. Your intestines are responsible for nutrient absorption and serotonin production, when you have gluten in your diet it creates an imbalance.

These imbalances in gut bacteria when you eat gluten have been linked with mental disorders such as anxiety.

If you aren’t sure if you suffer from this try cutting gluten out of your diet for a while and check your results. Do you feel better? Are you more mentally stable? Less stressed?

 

What to replace it with?

Going gluten-free can be a hassle for most of us. Anything from pastas, breads, crackers, wheat, oats, seitan, to soy sauce, seasonings and spice mixes have gluten. We’re lucky we live in a world where there exists such things as gluten-free alternatives for all of these foods.

They may be more expensive though. If you want to keep your grocery bill to a minimum then stick to foods like fruits and veggies, beans, seeds, rice, legumes, nuts, potatoes, eggs, dairy, corn, lean protein, etc.

It doesn’t have to be an incredibly drastic change. Everything I’ve mentioned before seems totally doable if you just put a little effort into it.

 

  1. Processed Foods

Why Processed Foods?

Well, as you know processed foods aren’t good for you in any way. But why?

First of all, processed foods are incredibly high in sugar, which we’ve already seen how it can cause anxiety in our bodies. Even savoury foods have sugar in them. If you read the labels you’ll see that even a simple tomato sauce has that dreaded sugar.

Processed foods are also filled with oils and trans fats, are low in nutrients but high in calories and are also filled with salt. This means that they’re easily consumed and considered tasty. They get your taste buds jumping out of stimuli. However, you don’t get any particular benefit from these kinds of foods.

Besides the fact that all of these points make out a simple reason to cut these foods out of our diets, there’s more. These foods are very low in fiber. Worse than that, some of them are stripped of it. This is a worrying fact since fiber is so important to our gut health. When our gut health is out of balance so is our mental health and our mood.

Try avoiding processed foods if you feel anxious, jittery, nervous or stressed on a daily basis.

 

What to replace them with?

Avoid processed foods at all costs and opt for fresh foods home cooked. Does it mean you’re going to have to cook every day from now on? No! You can meal prep your meals at the beginning of the week and have them ready for you on a daily basis.

Related Post: 10 Meal Prep Ideas to Make Your Life Easier

Another way to eat healthy is to change the kind of restaurants you go to. Find good healthy menu restaurants and cafes where you can have fast meals but still beneficial to your body.