A nutritionist’s guide on eating to avoid anxiety…

Ward off stress and anxiety by boosting your daily nutrient levels, as guided by specialist nutritionists.

Article by Victoria Wood

Stress is a big threat to our health and unfortunately many of us are subject to it on a daily basis. The way it manifests can be different in each individual but stress can cause a whole manner of negative health issues. There are ways that we can avoid stress as well as prevent it, and one of these is through diet. When we are subjected to stress and anxiety we automatically respond with our instinctive ‘fight or flight’ mode, which, naturally suppresses how the thyroid, hormones, adrenals and metabolism function. Unfortunately for us we haven’t managed to adapt to the stresses we experience in modern times as the reactions we have aren’t exactly necessary for having pressures at work or trying to raise children whilst holding down a job. Our responses are more suited to being threatened by wild animals!

Nutritionists recommend specific dietary adaptations in order to calm our anxious ways, naturally. What we eat can strongly influence our stress levels, if we avoid foods which cause inflammation and focus on specific nutrients we can improve the bodily functions that anxiety affects. We can actually use food to alleviate stress by influencing our mood, energy levels and metabolic rate. By paying attention to our micro biome, gut health, and nutrient levels we can successfully help to manage our anxiety.

The worst thing we can do when we are feeling stressed or anxious is to try to soothe it with comfort food such as ice cream, chocolate, or other processed high-sugar or salt content items.

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The reason being that the ingestion of such foods causes an extreme rise and fall in our blood sugar which affects our overall mood, energy levels, and hormones. And of course over indulgence can eventually affect our weight. What we ought to be doing is feeding our bodies, and in turn our brains, with good dietary choices. A focus on vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory ingredients, is the way to go to combat anxiety. Nutrients can work in a therapeutic manner and help us to find balance; try to include all of the following in your daily diet as recommended by specialist nutritionists:

Choline

Found in shellfish, salmon, liver, kidneys, and egg yolks this vital B vitamin is necessary in the production of acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate stress. Many people have cut back on the foods which contain choline for fears of raising their cholesterol levels and so this has caused a deficiency. Studies have shown that such deficiencies correlate to people suffering with chronic anxiety. Choline is a fat-soluble B vitamin, other water-soluble ones include B-12, biotin, B-5, B-6 and folate and all play a role in neurotransmitter production.

Probiotics

Fermented products such as Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir are all good sources of probiotics. They are an excellent way to boost our mood as they help to produce the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. When our gut health is unbalanced we produce the hormones which cause us to feel anxious, probiotics work to balance our micro biome and keep the stress hormones at bay.

Magnesium

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Up your leafy green intake, add half an avocado to your meal, and snack on raw nuts and seeds to get your necessary dose. Magnesium works to suppress our cortisol and adrenal output which are two of the hormones that relate to stress. It does this by slowing down the release of a specific hormone which stimulates these. If we do not get sufficient levels of magnesium we can actually increase anxiety so it has a very important role in stress management.

L-theanine

This can be found in herbal teas, matcha, and mushrooms and works to regulate our neurotransmitters. L-theanine can help to encourage the type of brain waves that we need for creativity, relaxation, meditation and healthy sleep as well as aiding concentration. It can also help to reduce issues caused by leaky gut which also leads to anxiety.

All of the above are also available in supplement form if it is difficult for you to locate the specific foods they appear in. Be sure to include at least two of these on a daily basis in order to feel the positive difference. Please speak to your GP before making any extreme changes to your diet.

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