The National Institute of Health estimates that 18% of Americans suffer from anxiety. Anxiety is caused by many factors and can be treated in some people by medication.
Did you know that foods can cause anxiety and anxiety like symptoms? Some of the most popular foods we enjoy might just be causing your anxiety.
With your doctor’s help and an elimination diet, you may be able to stop taking medications by eliminating one or all of these 11 anxiety-causing foods.
You won’t believe what foods make the list. In fact, you might be eating or drinking one of them right now.
Caffeine might make you feel wide awake and full of energy, but it can also lead to anxiety. First, caffeine depresses serotonin in your brain, and this makes you feel depressed and irritable. Second, caffeine makes you urinate more frequently.
This can cause dehydration, leading to depression. Third, caffeine can interfere with sleep cycles and that causes stress.
Avoid coffee, soda, and hot chocolate as much as possible. You may sleep better and won’t feel as jittery.
Sugar causes anxiety as it spikes your blood sugar. Your body increases insulin production and that makes you feel tired.
Fruit juice is just as bad as soda when it comes to adding sugar immediately into your system. Once you lose fruit from fruit juice, you are drinking sugar water.
Sweets, cakes, and other treats might make you feel good while you are eating them, but afterwards, you’ll be dropped and feel anxious afterward. Do yourself a favor and try to avoid sugar.
3. Hidden Sugar
While you are avoiding sweets and sodas, don’t forget that sugar hides under a dozen different names. Almost every processed food on the shelf contains sugar.
Spaghetti sauce, catsup, lowfat yogurt, granola, and vitamin water are just a few examples.
Sugar increases your cortisol and adrenaline levels. Cortisol is associated with your body’s stress response and adrenaline makes you feel jittery. Both add up to feelings of anxiety. Read labels to help your anxiety levels.
4. White Flour
Speaking of sugar, white flour is included as a hidden sugar. It is basically a starch and your body processes that into sugar.
Eating sandwiches, cakes, donuts, and other foods made of white flour will spike your blood sugar, increase cortisone and adrenaline and bring on feelings of anxiety.
Many of these products add insult to injury with lots of sugary fillings and toppings, trans fats and chemicals that make it shelf stable. Eat whole grains to keep down your anxiety levels.
Since alcohol is a depressant, you can expect alcohol to cause anxiety. It might make you feel temporarily better, but…. Alcohol causes insomnia. You fall asleep easily but as the alcohol wears off, sleep quality declines. You might have bad dreams or panic attacks.
Alcohol causes dehydration and that, as we know, leads to depression.
You might feel more social if you drink, but alcohol depresses serotonin levels, increasing anxiety.
Drinking won’t help your anxiety and it will make it worse.
6. Processed Food
Processed foods are linked to depression. Trans fats like hydrogenated oils are linked to depression and anxiety. You’ll find trans fats in baked goods and snacks, fried food, refrigerator dough, non-dairy creamer and margarine.
Read labels since companies don’t have to include trans fats if their levels are below 0.5g per serving. Look for the terms “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” in the ingredient list. Also try to use reduced fat dairy instead of full fat dairy as it is lower in naturally occurring trans fats.
7. Energy Drinks
How about a boost of energy with a side of depression and anxiety? Energy drinks fit that bill exactly. Loaded with caffeine, sugar, and chemicals, these drinks can cause abnormal heart rhythms and sleep issues. Both those increase feelings of anxiety and depression.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that artificial sugars are any better for you. Research suggests there is a link between sugar and artificial sugars and depression. Plus, artificial sweeteners make you crave calories, and the cycle continues.
8. MSG and Gluten
Gluten and MSG have been linked to anxiety in sensitive people. MSG is a gluten derivative. Gluten is found naturally in wheat products (see white flour). MSG is a flavor enhancer and is found in processed foods, Asian food, and frozen meals. Soy sauce often contains both gluten and MSG.
Researchers have found that people with untreatable anxiety respond very well to a gluten-free diet, suggesting that there is a direct correlation between the two.
9. Preserved Foods
The time-honored practice of aging, fermenting, curing and smoking foods has provided humanity with food through lean times and some really tasty meals.
The process of preserving foods creates biogenic animes. These byproducts of bacterial action include histamine. In some people, histamine increases adrenaline levels and causes anxiety and insomnia.
If you notice problems with digestion, your heart, or nervous system after eating or drinking preserved food, you may be sensitive to histamines. Avoid these foods to keep down your anxiety levels.
Dairy contains a protein called casein. Casein provides baby mammals with amino acids, carbohydrates, and two essential elements, calcium and phosphorus. You’ll find it in high protein dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream.
Casein has been linked to several conditions including depression. Not everyone is sensitive to casein, so you’ll need to try a 30-day elimination diet to see if high-protein milk products increase your anxiety. You may be able to reintroduce it later with no side effects!
If you’ve eliminated everything above from your diet and still feel anxious, you may be sensitive to plants in the nightshade family. Edible nightshade plants include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and goji berries.
These plants contain a natural pesticide called glycoalkaloids. A side effect of eating these plants is an overstimulation of the nervous system.
It takes five days to clear glycoalkaloids from your system. Edible nightshades are found in a lot of products, from potato starch to spices like paprika.
Some of the triggers of anxiety are directly related to food. Dehydration, depressed serotonin, and increased cortisol and adrenaline levels can contribute to or mimic the signs of anxiety.
Caffeine has caused panic attacks in people with panic disorder. Adrenaline can make you sweaty, lightheaded and your heart pound. Even changing blood sugar levels can make you feel bad.
By eliminating some of these foods, you might be able to decrease or even eliminate your anxiety symptoms. A simple elimination diet may make you feel better, and even if it doesn’t, getting rid of many of these foods will improve your overall health.