Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Anxiety and Diet

By Gordon Dalwood

If you down cup after cup of coffee all day, it shouldn't surprise you when your nerves are jangled and your anxiety problems are starting to seriously disrupt your life. You might find that the same things that cause the average person light to moderate stress cause you to spiral into a full blown anxiety or panic attack. You can actually alleviate your anxiety and stress by eating a healthier diet and reducing your caffeine and alcohol consumption.

Anxiety can be caused by any number of things, including your diet and lifestyle habits. Keeping your coffee intake and drinking light to moderate can go a long way towards keeping your anxiety under control. Caffeine, after all is a stimulant - and if you're a heavy coffee drinker, you may be fueling your anxiety.

Too much coffee or alcohol causes a biochemical imbalance in the body. Too many cups of coffee and alcohol jolt the nervous system into a tizzy. You become over alert and when the effect of the drug-like effect of methylxanthines (a stimulant) wears down, you are plunged into a nervous state, which sometimes can bring on panic attacks. Try going through the day without coffee, you will be less tired and emotionally calm.

Alcohol is a depressant rather than a stimulant, but has the same sort of effects as caffeine - elation, then anxiety and fatigue. Cut back on alcohol and you can make your anxiety attacks less frequent and milder. There's no harm in having a drink or two sometimes, but if it seems to trigger your anxiety attacks, then give it up. You should also make sure to drink plenty of water, since dehydration can make your moods unstable and increase your anxiety level.

Your blood sugar level affects your mood and your anxiety level. By eating smaller meals, you can keep this and your anxiety level stable. Don't skip breakfast - it sets the tone for your metabolic rate all day. Eat a healthy diet with whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables; these increase the levels of serotonin in your brain naturally. Serotonin makes you feel calmer and more at ease.

Foods that contain tryptophan should be included in your daily diet. Tryptophan is an amino acid essential to serotonin and melatonin production, the vital components that induce sleep and a good mood. Milk is a rich source of tryptophan; other tyrptophan rich foods are bananas, nuts, sesame seeds, oat, poultry, cheese, and soy.

Fiber is also an important part of a healthy diet which helps to fight anxiety. Getting plenty of fiber in your diet keeps your blood sugar levels properly regulated. Women going through menopause should make sure to get plenty of calcium to alleviate fatigue, depression and irritability. You may want to avoid foods which seem to trigger mood swings in many people, including eggs, dairy products, shellfish, wheat, nuts and corn.

Salt is also something you should take in moderation. Since your body naturally produces sodium, too high of a dietary intake of sodium leads to high blood pressure and water retention as well as mood swings. Avoid junk food, fast food and other foods which contain excessive amounts of sodium. Curtail or eliminate artificial sweeteners and refined sugars as these can also increase your anxiety level and even worsen panic attacks.

Diet is an important part of controlling anxiety and reducing anxiety attacks, but if your panic attacks are severe, you should ask your physician for their advice.

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