Can Food Reduce Anxiety?

I have found myself plagued with anxiety this month. Anxiety about where I am, what I’m doing, and what the future holds.  I worry about whether I’m living my life right, whether or not I’m doing the right things, whether or not I’m making the right decisions.  Basically I feel like I’m on a runaway anxiety train barreling down the tracks.  I have actually struggled with some pretty serious anxiety issues since I was in the 5th grade. Anxiety has been my life-long companion.

Because of this, I have been digging in pretty deep to the research on how food and nutrition can help ease anxiety and finding some information that I already knew in addition to some new findings.  

The bottom line is clear: 

Food and nutrition can profoundly affect your moods and anxiety.

I’m excited to dive into some new projects on food and anxiety this spring, and as I continue to do the work, I will continue to share with you interesting and helpful information that I find.

Food & Anxiety Tidbit:

Most of the neurotransmitters that regulate our mood—including up to 50% of the dopamine and up to 95% of the serotonin —are produced by microbes in the intestine, where they influence digestion, appetite and feelings of fullness. Scientists say that the GI tract and brain are intimately connected, which is why the gut has been called your “second brain.”

A growing body of research suggests that a well-balanced microbiome can improve mood even if you don’t have a clinical case of anxiety—helping to ease everyday stresses and keep the blues at bay. One study of healthy adults published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that a positive shift in gut bacteria populations resulted in significantly fewer reports of sad mood and negative thoughts. 

The two main players for the gut are probiotics and prebiotics: Probiotic foods help populate your microbiome with beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics feed the good bugs you already have in your gut. 

Probiotics

You want these foods to be alive and literally say on the jar or package “live active cultures.”  They will be found in the refrigerator section of the market.  If you find jarred sauerkraut or pickled veggies in the middle aisles these have been pasteurized and no longer contain beneficial probiotics.

  • sauerkraut
  • kefir (watch the added sugar content)
  • kimchi
  • beet kvass
  • yogurt (plain only- watch the added sugar content)
  • fermented veggies (only the kinds in the refrigerator section that say “contain live active cultures”)

Prebiotics

These are some of the best foods to feed those good gut bacteria but all veggies are going to be great for the gut including broccoli, cauliflower, greens, etc.

  • jicama
  • asparagus
  • chicory root
  • dandelion greens
  • onions
  • garlic
  • leeks

The big take-away here is to remember is that it’s not “all in your head.”  Anxiety is multi-faceted and affected by many things but eating right can certainly help, so take care of your digestion and your mood will thank you.

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