Mental Health Awareness

Foods that can cause anxiety and panic attacks

Ever wonder, anxiety and panic attacks can be triggered by food?

We all have heard that along with medication therapy and lifestyle modification, techniques such as daily exercise, meditation, yoga, and talk-therapy will help you to reduce your chronic stress and anxiety episodes. But, do you know certain types of food you are taking in your daily routine can also trigger your anxiety and panic attacks? Here, you will read about the foods that can cause anxiety and panic attacks.

Therefore, it might be worth to have a glance down at your plate!

Read about six foods that you may need to avoid if you are struggling with anxiety and panic attacks.

1. Coffee or caffeine-rich beverages:

coffee and cold drinks

Your favorite morning ritual is to have a bed-coffee? Or accustomed to having coffee at bed-time? Read this,

High levels of caffeine not only increase anxiety and nervousness. But can also decrease the production of serotonin in the body. Thus one may have a depressed mood. Being a stimulant, it can mess up your sleep pattern and can be a source of nighttime panic attacks, if you’re taking it at bed-time.

Similarly, several supplements and medications for example; St. John’s Worte, ginseng, certain headache medications and beverages that contain caffeine (tea, carbonated drinks (Cola), energy drinks and hot chocolate) can contribute to anxious feelings. Typically, caffeine is safe in low doses. But high doses can cause unpleasant effects, anxiety, and nervousness.

Decaffeinated coffee and green tea are better options. In addition to antioxidant benefits, green tea is also known to provide theanine, which provides anti-stress and relaxing effects.

Try cutting back on your caffeine intake and see if you notice a difference. 

2. Processed Food:

Are you eating lots of processed meat, fried food, refined cereals, candy, pastries, and high-fat dairy products? Too Bad. You would be probably more anxious and depressed.

Research studies have found that eating a diet consisting of processed and fatty foods increases the risk of depression. It was found that people who mainly ate fried food, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and sweetened desserts are 58% at higher risk of depression than those who ate whole foods, such as fish and vegetables.

Instead, eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole fiber-rich grains, fish, and lean protein can be beneficial.

juicy burger

Yes, that big juicy burger is tempting, but not best for you!

3. Refined and Artificial Sugars:

There’s no way for one to avoid sugar 100%  all the time, as it naturally occurs in many of the foods we love to eat, like fruits. But added sugar is a contributor to anxiety. Food such as high-fructose corn syrup, ketchup, certain salad dressings, pasta, and white bread can all contain high levels of added sugar. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and NutraSweet also block the production of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin. Thus, can cause headaches, insomnia, changes in mood, and depression.

The reason why we need to avoid sugar and refined carbs are, they cause a short burst in blood sugar level followed by a sudden drop. When the blood sugar level is dropped, mood alters, hence can worsen the anxiety in people prone to it. Therefore, Consuming large amounts of processed sugar can trigger feelings of worry, irritability, and sadness.

Instead fill up your plate with fruits and naturally sweet vegetables, like sweet potatoes, beets, green peas, sweet corn, canned pumpkins etc

4. High-Sodium food:

salt can trigger your anxiety

A diet that is rich in salt can increase blood pressure, which forces your heart to work harder. When this happens, your body releases a  stress hormone called “adrenaline”, which can lead to agitation, irritability, and stress. Excess salt also disrupts your neurological system.

Avoid excessive salt consumption, instead, you can use herbs and spices to add flavor to home-cooked meals. Avoid buying pre-flavored meats, as these can also contain high levels of salt.

5. Trans fats foods:

trans fats snacks

Trans fats mean unsaturated fats that don’t usually occur in whole foods. Food such as margarine, some snacks, packaged baked goods, and oils used to fry fast food all contain trans fats which can trigger anxiety or panic attacks. In some countries, people are using artificial trans fats in foods that can cause mental as well as physical illness. WHO urged all countries to ban trans fats in food.

Traditionally, the use of olive oil or coconut oil rather than trans fats can lower the risk of numerous health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

6. Alcohol:

alcohol can trigger anxiety

You mean I need to cut down on my booze!

Yes, you, believe it or not, the beverage you are drinking to soothe your anxiety and nervousness is actually making it worse.

In the main, alcohol is a depressant. It has many negative impacts on your body, it can cause dehydration, alter your sleep pattern, changes the levels of serotonin (a mood controller neurotransmitter) in your brain, which makes anxiety worse. And when the alcohol wears off, you may feel even more anxious.

Still, you are in need of it! ok, the key is the dosage.

Be moderate in drinking. A drink a day for women and two a day for men is the limit or nonalcoholic beer can be the substitute.

Now, you got it!

What is doe’s and don’t’s for anxiety patients?

Eating a healthy and balanced diet consisting of all the nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, low-fat food, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as vitamins and minerals would help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress and thus will produce healthy brain functions eventually it will help you to deal with panic attacks or anxiety

Cut down on foods such as alcohol, coffee, food high in added sugars, excessive salt, and fats especially trans fats may help reduce episodes of anxiety and panic attacks associated with it.

 Tayaba Sarfraz.

Dr. Tayaba Sarfraz

Medical Doctor | Medical Educationist & Writer Mommy of 2 | Master chef | Health Enthusiast

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