How Foods Are Related To Anxiety


hi, i will explain here how food affects anxiety.

food and anxiety connections

Despite overwhelming evidence of medications and psychotherapy reducing anxiety, sometimes both these approaches fail to eliminate the symptoms. Another approach is the metabolic intervention approach which addresses the underlying metabolic pathologies associated with mental illness. There are a variety of factors causing mental illness at the cellular level such as oxidative stress, nutritional deficiencies, insulin resistance, inflammation, and microbiome dysbiosis. These disturbances at the cellular level lead to disorders such as anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. Our dietary intake plays a major role in this. Each and every food that we consume has an effect at the cellular level.

In this article, we will look at some foods and drinks that we consume that provide us temporary relief by soothing our anxiety, however they tend to worsen our anxiety in the long run.

Coffee and anxiety
The characteristic features of anxiety are worry and fear that make it harder to fall asleep and have a deep sleep at night. Coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant which makes us feel relaxed and energetic but caffeine can cause sleeplessness and sleep deprivation which can worsen the individual’s anxiety. A Cambridge study on coffee consumption of college students found that with high caffeine intake, there were symptoms of headaches, anxiety and psychological distress.

Alcohol and anxiety
When one consumes alcohol, the blood absorbs it and once it reaches the brain, there is a surge of dopamine in the pleasure center of the brain. While this may make one feel confident, less-inhibited and relaxed, these effects are short lived. And when dopamine levels dips down again, nervousness returns.It is severe for those who are already experiencing anxiousness. This can exacerbate anxiety and also lead to alcohol dependence to achieve the desired effects. Further, alcohol interferes with sleep and can lead to blood sugar spikes. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause dehydration and physical hangover symptoms. All of these, in turn, increase anxiety.

Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates relation with anxiety
Sweet and sugary foods such as candy, desserts, pastries may seem to be calming foods for anxiety but they ultimately make anxiety worse. So do many refined carbohydrate foods such as white flour, white bread, white rice, etc. When you consume something high in added sugar or refined carbohydrates, it causes your blood sugar to rise and then dip faster than it would if you consumed foods with balanced protein, carbs, fiber, and fat.These blood sugar spikes and drops make anxious feelings worse. A 2018 animal study noticed increased symptoms of anxiety where the subjects were fed a diet highly dosed with refined carbohydrates.

Unhealthy Fats and anxiety
Too much saturated or partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) can also spike up anxiety levels. Researchers have found that high consumption of saturated fat leads to increased overall inflammation in the body. As the inflammation affects the body at the cellular level and at the brain level, this increases the vulnerability to anxiety. An Iranian study conducted in 2020 found that hydrogenated fats were associated with higher levels of stress and anxiety as compared to consumption of healthier fats.Primary sources of saturated fat are meat and dairy. Primary sources of trans fats (listed as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on ingredients labels) are often in fried foods, cakes, cookies, etc.

Processed Meats
Just like unhealthy fats, processed meats (that are preserved chemically) also lead to inflammation in the body and thus increase anxiety. Moreover, processed meats contain high amounts of salt which lead to increased blood pressure causing the body to release adrenaline which leads to heightened anxiety.

How Artificial sweeteners affect anxiety
Artificial sweeteners can heighten the levels of amino acids and lead to increased cortisol levels and free radicals. This increases the vulnerability to oxidative stress and thus leads to anxiety.

One study focusing on nutrition as a metabolic treatment of anxiety suggested that increased anxiousness from artificial sweeteners may be a result of the adverse impacts they have on the microbiome and inflammation.