Is Your Diet Triggering Your Anxiety?

Anxiety is a very real but often invisible mental health problem that affects a large number of people throughout their lives. Official estimates suggest that at least 18% of the population will experience some form of ongoing anxiety problem in their lives. In previous blog posts I have discussed physical ways in which we can combat anxiety but today I want to address dietary issues that can make it worse. When a person is already suffering with an anxiety disorder, it is incredibly important not to add to this problem. There are several dietary triggers that are easy to avoid and in doing so you can potentially promote a greater sense of calm and control.

Sugar is a big one when it comes to our mood. Consuming even small amounts of refined sugar can wreak havoc with our energy levels and state of mind. This is because it causes a rapid boost in blood sugar which is then inevitably followed by a crash. When this crash occurs we can experience fatigue, irritation and anxiety. Avoiding sugar altogether and eating foods which regulate our blood sugar, as opposed to spiking it, will help us avoid this problem.

Caffeine is known to be a trigger for people with anxiety. Drinking too much coffee can have powerful stimulant effects and for many people it does become a sort of addiction. When you drink coffee you become more alert and this can lead us to overthink certain situations. Even if you do not recognise this as a trigger for your anxiety, try avoiding it for a couple of days and monitor your mood during this time. You may find that you are calmer and more relaxed throughout the day.

As well as avoiding sugar and coffee you should certainly check if you are getting enough sleep. People who have an anxiety issue can often find it more difficult to get to sleep but then this lack of sleep can cause the anxiety to intensify. This vicious cycle of sleep deprivation can be incredibly damaging to your mental health and it is important to try and get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Yoga and meditation late in the evening are both positive ways to promote relaxation and encourage sleep. Try 30 minutes of either practice before bed and see if this makes a difference to your sleep pattern. You might also find that without sugar and caffeine sleep comes more easily to you!

If you eradicate sugar and caffeine from your diet but still find that your energy is low and your mood is unstable, then it would be advisable to analyse the rest of your diet. Make sure you are eating a variety of wholesome, plant-based foods that will keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day. Also, make sure that you do not skip a meal and try to include some healthy snacks during the day. You will keep your metabolism stimulated as well as satisfying your stomach and mind!

35 thoughts on “Is Your Diet Triggering Your Anxiety?”

  1. Loved this article! I liked that you pointed out the up and down roller coaster that comes with sugar intake. Also, what an important comparison — Stress/Anxiety and Diet are definitely intertwined!!

  2. I have mood swings (cyclothymia) and I’ve noticed that dairy makes me feel depressed (lactose intolerant, so my best guess is that the gut imbalance is affecting my hormone profile) and caffeine can get me going when I’m in a slump (norepinephrine replacement) but makes me awful when I’m paranoid or anxious (boosts adrenaline). Self medication through diet is a balancing act, but it makes all the difference when you get it right. 🙂

  3. I wish I had read this BEFORE starting grad school, would have saved me so many panick stricken test days! I did cut back o caffeine recently after noticing my blood pressure creaping up. That and yoga has it back down to normal again

  4. Great insight! I have noticed that when I drink sugary drinks, my thinking is eradic and I feel extremely anxious and hypervigilant. Drinking water, however, has had the opposite affect, allowing a wave of calmness to come over me. I’m able to focus so much clearer. Great piece!

  5. Thanks for your post, I was just talking about sleep hygiene in my blog and anxiety that occurs when we can’t get to sleep right away . It all fits !

  6. I think your comment about keeping your blood sugar steady through the day is key! I suffered from postpartum depression after my fifth baby (I’ve never had it before) and while I used essential oils as my main form of treatment I found that focusing on eating regularly through the day, and more healthfully in general, has made a big difference as well. Doing yoga is another way that I keep myself centered. You should see my two year old do down dog lol!

  7. Quite insightful! I’m a big believer in the mind-body connection, and a person’s diet is strongly linked to their overall well being. I haven’t read much on diet in regards to anxiety though, so I enjoyed this post, as it offered a few strategies. Yoga (and exercise in general) is a great way to help decrease anxiety as well, I find.

  8. I had severe postnatal anxiety and depression at the start of the year. The doctor offered me high dosage medication but I decided to cut out caffeine and sugar first to see if it helped. After a few days my depression had started to lift and I no longer had the heart palpitations that used to send my anxiety through the roof. 7 months on I am happy, healthy and (mostly) calm! I wish there was more awareness about self-care before health-care and the ways in which we can begin to heal ourselves naturally and with relatively little effort. Great post thank you

  9. I was recently diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and this article is super helpful!! Especially since I am in hopes of someday not having to take medicine

  10. This is one thing I have been working on in my life. My husband and I both suffer from anxiety (his is a component of Tourette Syndrome). We have both found if we limit the amount of cheese/dairy, refined foods, and meat we consume we are significantly less likely to have anxiety attacks or episodes. Couple this with regular exercise and we are able to live medication free. It’s a great feeling!

  11. Super helpful to hear your thoughts on sugar as I’ve noticed a change in my anxiety and mood since cutting back on it. Even though I found this out before, it’s really nice to hear from someone else who has a background in this field that sugar really is an issue. Great post and thanks for this! 🙂

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