Doing Life Together

shopping-cart-2369143_1920Does food influence anxiety? Does diet matter when it comes to anxiety? Can anxiety be treated with food?

Remember the saying, “You are what you eat.” Maybe when it comes to anxiety, there is some truth in this statement. While we don’t have robust data to make large claims about diet and anxiety, we do have a number of interesting studies that could help augment the treatment of anxiety. Here are a few take aways from some recent research.

In 2009, a large epidemiology study conducted in Scandinavia found that dietary pattern was associated with anxiety. Specifically, our Western diet was associated with a 25-29% increase risk in anxiety disorders. A second finding from that study had to do with the nutrient choline. Low choline, a B like vitamin found in eggs, tofu, etc, put some people in the study at a higher risk of anxiety.

In addition, there has been recent attention given to the positive benefits of fermented foods as they relate to the gut-brain connection. Some studies have noted that fermented foods influence brain circuitry. The idea is that fermented foods help increase diversity of the microbiome (the gut) and also  enrich the microbiome with  “good bugs,” or bacteria that seem to influence anxiety and mental health circuitry. Taking care of your microbiome with the right gut health foods and a good probiotic may help .

Another study looked at medical students, a highly anxious group, who took an omega-3 supplement. The results of that study found  a 20% decrease in medical student anxiety in those who took the supplement. The take away is to eat more fatty fish and see if your anxiety improves. And related to diabetes which affects so many people,  a 2002 study found relationship between blood sugar control and anxiety. Hyperglycemia was paired with more anxiety.

Additionally, here are some other interesting observations regarding food and anxiety noted at the Brain Food Clinic in New York City.  Panic is more prevalent when  patients are hungry or have not been eating a diet that includes robust amounts of protein and fats. More anxiety is seen in busy professionals who skip meals during the day. The clinic doctors suggest filling your snack drawer with apples, nuts, cheese and yogurt.

Bottom line when it comes to eating: Focus  on leafy greens, rainbow vegetables, and more seafood.  Eliminate the highly processed, sugary foods, Making a few healthy eating changes may quell your anxiety if you are someone whose diet influences anxiety. Hey, it can’t hurt to try!

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