Anxiety and uncomfortable nervous fretting about the future is a modern epidemic. How can we use nutrition and lifestyle to lessen the impact and reduce the occurrence of these unwanted feelings? Gemma Hurditch, College of Naturopathic Medicine lecturer and naturopath, takes a look.
1) Balance your blood sugar to stay calm
Anxiety can be exacerbated by eating a diet high in refined foods, particularly refined carbohydrates such as biscuits, cakes, white flour goods and soft drinks. These can all burden your blood sugar control mechanisms.
The imbalance can also impact your mood and you may notice this as a feeling of being ‘hangry’ (hungry/angry) and irritated. This is because a drop in blood sugar, which occurs when your body struggles to protect itself from the effects of excessive sugar by releasing a lot of insulin, can also cause a release of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This drains your adrenal glands and making you feel on edge and more anxious than usual.
Stop the cycle by eating wholegrain, unrefined foods with healthy fats and proteins, such as legumes, fish and eggs, for a steadier supply of energy.
2) Eat more brain food to beat anxiety
To help beat anxiety, try to include more fish rich in omega-3 oils. People taking 2g of omega-3 daily have been found to have fewer anxiety symptoms. This could be due to the range of effects fish oils have in the body.
These effects include anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions, as well as brain nourishment and restoration of good blood flow to the brain.
3) Try cutting out the caffeine
Caffeine increases cortisol and adrenaline to similar levels experienced during acute stress, thus it creates stressful conditions in the body. People have varying sensitivity to caffeine. For some anxiety sufferers, ditching daily cup(s) of coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks sees a complete reversal of symptoms.
4) Reduce anxiety by getting better sleep
Anxiety is also triggered by being over-tired. Prioritise a good, calming sleep routine, preferably the same every night with no screens in the hour before bedtime. Also switch off equipment that’s on on standby and all WiFi sources.
5) Exercise and be ‘in’ your body
Living in the present moment is a great remedy for anxiety. Exercise brings you into the present moment and helps you to metabolise your stress hormones.
Find an activity that you enjoy and can lose yourself in such as swimming, a team sport or yoga class and refresh your mind and body.