Monday, 4 July 2016

7 Foods That Can Make You Feel Totally Anxious

If you've ever found yourself pouring the crumbs from a bag of potato chips down your throat after a particularly stressful day, you know that emotions can affect what you eat. But did you know that what you eat could also mess with your emotions, exacerbating anxiety and leaving you feeling on edge, worried, and unable to concentrate?

It's true, says Ali Miller, RD, LD, CDE, registered dietitian and author of Naturally Nourished. While food may not be the main cause of these feelings, it can certainly affect their severity and how often they occur.

"Anxiety can be caused by inadequate brain levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA, which help reduce the influence of stress hormones, as well as excessive excitatory hormones such as glutamate and epinephrine, which can cause an anxiety and stress response," says Miller.

And, you guessed it, certain foods help aid in the production of those feel-good chemicals, while others elevate the anxiety-inducing ones. "Processed foods especially tend to perpetuate a vicious cycle of guilt, anxiety, cravings, and overeating, making it hard to stop eating them once you start." (Here's how to prevent a binge before it starts.)

The good news: Quelling your anxiety may be as simple as knowing your food triggers, then cutting them out or reducing your intake. Here, we've identified seven surprising foods that might be throwing your anxiety and sour mood into overdrive. (Try replacing them with these 13 stress-fighting foods.)

 1. Coffee
Now hear us out—we're not telling you to stop drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages altogether. (In fact, java can deliver some pretty amazing health perks.) But if you're feeling on edge, downing cup after cup could be partly to blame. Caffeine has a stimulant effect on the nervous system, says Miller—it causes a release of the stress hormone cortisol, triggering our "fight or flight" response, and has been shown to exacerbate anxiety and sleep problems, particularly in those with panic disorders and social anxiety.

And while caffeine does initially increase serotonin levels to make you feel pretty awesome, chronic release of serotonin due to excessive coffee consumption over time can actually cause you to become depleted in this neurotransmitter. To lessen caffeine's influence, consider scaling back to one or two 8-ounce cups of coffee per day. (We like Prevention's Don't Burn Out Roast Organic Coffee Beans.)

2. Diet Soda
Diet soda and energy drinks may be delivering a double dose of anxiety: Not only do they contain caffeine, but many also contain artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, which may significantly reduce levels of "feel good" serotonin in the brain. In fact, in one study, researchers at the University of Northwestern Ohio looked at the effect of aspartame on people with a history of depression and found that it significantly worsened symptoms, including feelings of anxiety. If it's a fizzy fix you crave, consider swapping your soda for a naturally flavored seltzer; if you use artificial sweeteners in your coffee or tea, try using a bit of stevia instead.

3. Beef Jerky
Jerky is increasingly being touted as a healthy snack—and it definitely can be, as long as it's not full of crappy additives. The problem with most options at the grocery store is they're loaded with monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can elevate brain levels of glutamate—one of the excitatory hormones we mentioned in the intro—and thereby increase anxiety and stress. One option that's actually good: The New Primal Original Beef Jerky, which is sourced from grass-fed cows, free of MSG, and far lower in sodium and sugar than most conventional picks.

But jerky isn't the only source of MSG, of course. Countless packaged and fast foods contain the stuff (think: flavored potato chips, cold cuts, dressings, frozen dinners), so opt for whole foods whenever possible.

4. Non-Dairy Creamer
Many conventional non-dairy creamers are sneaky sources of partially hydrogenated oils—aka trans fats, which also lurk in other ultraprocessed foods like French fries, cookies, doughnuts, and mozzarella sticks. That's a problem because these fats have been linked to impaired blood flow, including blood flow to the brain, which may be one reason why studies have linked them to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. One study found that people who mainly ate fried foods, processed meats, high-fat dairy, and sweetened desserts had a 58% greater risk of depression than people following a diet rich in whole foods, while another study found that chronic trans fat consumption increased anxiety in rats.

5. Pasta
Refined carbs like white pasta, white bread, doughnuts, candy, and sugary drinks can wreck your mood by causing rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar. Recently, researchers at Columbia University found that the higher a woman's blood sugar rose after eating sugar and refined grains, the higher her risk of depression. And in 2010, researchers from Princeton University found that rats fed a sugary diet became nervous and anxious when the sugar was removed, similar to what people experience when withdrawing from drugs. The good news, however, was that the Columbia study also found the reverse to be true: A diet high in whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, and produce actually lowers a woman's risk of depression. (Discover how to heal 95+ health conditions naturally with Eat for Extraordinary Health & Healing.)

6. Ketchup
Condiments like salad dressing and ketchup can be a sneaky source of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which, like pasta and doughnuts, can cause anxiety-inducing spikes and dips in your blood sugar. Even worse: HFCS is sweeter than table sugar, which leads to increased consumption and perpetual cravings along with weight gain, says Miller. Opt for low-sugar condiments that are free of HFCS, like True Made Foods ketchup, barbecue sauce, and hot sauce.


7. Alcohol
While many people who feel anxious may turn to alcohol for relief (an estimated 20% of people with social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol dependence), the mood boost of booze is only temporary and can worsen anxiety over time. And even those who have never suffered from anxiety-related issues can develop problems as a result of alcohol abuse. That happens for a few reasons. One, alcohol is a depressant and messes with the proper functioning of your central nervous system, which controls how you process emotions. Two, alcohol can cause anxiety-inducing spikes and dips in blood sugar. And three, alcohol is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration, causing impaired cognitive function and an inability to focus—both of which can contribute to feelings of anxiety. If you do need a little something to take the edge off after a long hard day, consider tipping back a mug of hot or iced chamomile tea instead of making that glass of wine a nightly habit.

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