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Anxiety is familiar to all of us. We all have experienced it at some point in time.  For me I still remember the level of anxiety that struck me when it was the first day of my teaching career 25 years ago! The first few minutes were nerve racking but then gradually it got better!

However, for many, anxiety is a more serious issue! Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. But, frequent, excessive, and persistent anxiety can seriously interfere with your life and affect your overall health.

Understanding the factors that trigger anxiety and following a proper dietary, lifestyle, and supplement protocol can reduce anxiety and finally help you live the happy life you deserve.

The good news is that it is absolutely possible to reduce anxiety. The first step is to discover what could trigger anxiety within you.  

In this blog, you’ll learn what anxiety is, its symptoms, and the factors that trigger anxiety. I will share how to reduce anxiety naturally through a holistic diet and lifestyle.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a fear or worry about something happening in the future. You could say that it is perceived fear. It is normal to be anxious occasionally! We all experience fear, worry, anxiety from time to time before important events, e.g. final exams in school or a job interview! However, experiencing intense or persistent anxiety can interfere with the quality of your life and may hinder your daily activities. It could even affect your relationships, and social life.

Symptoms of Anxiety: may differ from person to person depending on the situation.

Common signs of anxiety may include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Feeling nervous
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Feeling weak/ tired
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) distress
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Dis-orientation/ Brain fog
  • Too many thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks
  • You start avoiding things or situations that may trigger anxiety

What Can Trigger Anxiety?

Neurotransmitter Imbalance

Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemical messengers that send information throughout your brain affecting your brain health and mood. Neurotransmitters, such as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), Glutamate, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are responsible for regulating your emotions and various functions of your body. It is important that they remain balanced to keep your mood and mental health stable.

When you think about factors that may trigger anxiety, the most obvious ones that come to our mind are social & relationship factors! Isn’t it? We always blame it on others!

However, you may be surprised to know that when your nutrition and overall health is compromised, these commonly considered social and relationship factors can trigger anxiety even more so. Let’s look at these nutritional factors that may trigger anxiety.

Blood Sugar imbalances

Eating a diet high in refined sugar and processed foods lead to an imbalance in your blood sugar! When you eat sugar, your body releases insulin to take care of excess sugar in your bloodstream. However, too much sugar makes it difficult for your body to balance your blood sugar levels quickly. This taxes your pancreas which could initially release a lot of insulin in response to excess sugar in your blood which could bring your blood sugar too low very fat. This could put you on a roller coaster of sugar cravings and further lead to peaks and valleys in blood sugar that may trigger anxiety, and irritability. Once you go on a low-sugar and caffeine-free diet, your blood sugar levels will even out and your anxiety symptoms could be resolved. Also adding more protein, fat, and fiber to a diet may improve anxiety, and your overall energy levels.

Certain Foods Can Trigger Anxiety

If you have anxiety, it is incredibly important to look at your diet. Inflammatory foods may increase inflammation which could trigger anxiety.

Sugar and Processed Foods: As we just mentioned above, about the role of refined sugar in creating blood sugar imbalances….. to add to this further…Refined sugar is incredibly inflammatory. When you eat too much sugar, your body simply cannot process it quick enough. As a result, it releases pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines that may lead to physical and mental health issues.

And Processed foods are not only high in sugar, but are usually high in other anxiety-triggering substances such as processed vegetable oils, artificial favorings, and additives.

Gluten: is a protein found in a variety of grains. Gluten is particularly problematic for those with Celiac disease or gluten allergies. Some people are sensitive to gluten and may experience inflammation & abdominal pain after consuming gluten containing foods. Be mindful and observe! Keep a food journal and record your digestive symptoms as well as keep an eye on your mood whenever you eat glutinous grains. If you find a link… then you already know what to do….!

Artificial ingredients: are designed to enhance flavor, texture, or color, or to extend shelf life. Aspartame and MSG (monosodium glutamate) are two particularly dangerous artificial flavorings that may trigger anxiety. However, you need to be careful with all other Artificial additives or preservatives, including artificial coloring, high fructose corn syrup, guar gum, sodium benzoate, trans fats, and any artificial flavoring. They all may lead to inflammation and trigger anxiety.

Processed vegetable oils: such as corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil are high in omega-6 fatty acids. This means that their omega 3: omega 6 ratio is imbalanced and therefore they are pro-inflammatory and may trigger anxiety.

Conventional Meat Products: Animals raised for conventional meat products are not treated by the highest of standards. They are treated with hormones and antibiotics and fed with grain instead of grass. As a result, conventional meat products are inflammatory and may trigger anxiety.

Too much Caffeine may trigger anxiety. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks, such as sodas and energy drinks may cause jittery effects and stimulate a flight or fight response similar to anxiety. Sodas and energy drinks are also full of sugar and artificial ingredients that can further trigger anxiety.

Now Let’s look at holistic ways of managing anxiety: –

Conventional treatments of anxiety often include pharmaceutical medications. However, these medications usually serve as a band aid without addressing the cause or fully solving the problem. You will be happy to learn that it is possible to reduce anxiety naturally through a nutritious diet, a healthy lifestyle, and appropriate supplementation.

Your Diet matters: An Anti-Inflammatory diet is essential for your overall health, including your mental health. Remove any foods from your diet that may trigger inflammation and in turn anxiety. This means stay away from refined sugars, processed vegetable oils, processed foods, junk foods, artificial ingredients and favorings, gluten, grains, conventional meat products, caffeine, and toxins. 

My recommendation is to focus on nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, healing foods such as leafy greens, kale, spinach, non-starchy vegetables, cucumber, celery and many more…. Include more of the anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, low-glycemic index fruits, such as berries, apples, lime and lemon, healthy fats, such as avocados, organic ghee and butter, and coconut oil, olive oil, clean protein, such as organic grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught fish, and free-range eggs, nuts and seeds for healthy fats, good quality proteins as well as fiber, and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut. 

Stay away from food sensitivities! If you know that you are sensitive to a particular food then why eat it? You can live without them! Food sensitivities may trigger anxiety. Common food sensitivities include sugar, gluten, corn, soy, dairy, and alcohol. However, you may have some personal, less common sensitivities as well, so get yourself texted! You may try an elimination diet for some time and see the results for yourself! If you don’t know what an elimination diet is, please do get in touch with us! You may also get yourself tested for true allergies and food sensitivities! Once you have identified your food sensitivities, it is important to remove them from your diet as they may trigger anxiety.

DETOX: Absolutely crucial for all of us! We all know that our gut affects our brain & mood. A weak digestion leads to imbalanced gut flora which leads to toxins which further lead to inflammation in the gut. Now this could affect the synthesis of neurotransmitters which may trigger anxiety. Improving your gut health and bowel motility is clearly crucial to prevent anxiety. Diet has a huge role in gut health but there are various ways of improving your digestion. Check out our self-paced online course on Digestion.

It is really important to calm down and eat your food in a relaxed state.  This will help your body produce enough digestive juices to adequately break down food into nutrients that can be absorbed easily to be able to nourish each and every cell of your body! When you are stressed out, you will not be able to digest food effectively. Sometimes the gut health is so out of whack that we need to use digestive supplements to improve digestion until the body is able to secrete its own enzymes. Also sometimes we need to use a high-quality probiotic to build a healthy gut flora. Please do get in touch, if you need help with your digestion and overall gut health!

Physical exercise: has enormous benefits for your mental health. A lack of movement may trigger anxiety and increase mood imbalances. Find different forms of exercise that work for you. I am personally a fan of early morning yoga (sun salutations to be precise) and regular morning and evening walks out in nature, but you may find something else that works for you. Swimming, hiking, running or biking are great for cardiovascular health and anxiety relief.

Good Sleep: To reduce anxiety, it is crucial that you reduce STRESS and prioritize good sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress and stress prevents us from getting a good quality sleep. It is a vicious cycle! Try to break this cycle! Go to bed by 10:00 pm and walk up before sunrise! Develop a nighttime routine that works for you. Turn off electronics close to bedtime. Try daily gratitude, journaling, spiritual practices, nature walks, and quality time with loved ones to reduce your stress levels. Practice positive self-talk and learn to reframe your thoughts. Engage in relaxation activities and drink calming herbal tea before bed or my favourite golden milk before bed. To get the recipe, do connect with us!

Magnesium: is known as the tranquilizing mineral in holistic nutrition language! Unfortunately, it is the most common nutritional deficiency linked to a wide range of health issues. Magnesium deficiency may trigger anxiety. Include nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables to get your magnesium from food but if this is not possible then there is no harm in taking magnesium supplements! Magnesium helps relax your muscles, balance your blood sugar, improve your sleep, and protect your brain.

Sometimes it’s hard to combat anxiety alone. If you have tried everything and nothing seems to be working, consider finding a licensed healthcare professional!

Remember to take the holistic approach to managing mood disorders! Finding the root cause that triggers anxiety is key to figuring out the best natural nutritional and lifestyle solutions to eliminate anxiety from your life. 

Want to learn more and get a complete picture……

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Preeti Syal
M.Sc.R.H.N., Certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant

The content provided in my blogs are for knowledge sharing purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.