Of course food and mood are related! What we put in our bodies has a profound effect on how we feel, from causing our blood sugar levels to spike, resulting in anxiety (think stimulants like sugar) or to help us relax (like a soothing chamomile tea).
If you’re trying to improve your mood or if you’re struggling with anxiety, don’t forget to include diet in your plan. Pay close attention to what you eat and how those foods make you feel – you may actually be surprised by what you discover. You can even go one step further and create a “food and mood” journal, to track your results. This can help inform you as to whether or not there are certain foods that you love but don’t make you feel great.
Your first step in your health and wellness journey should always be improving your digestion! Digestion is vitally important when it comes to dealing with anxiety and… pretty much everything else! The purpose of the digestive system is to break down food to it’s tiniest form, so our bodies can absorb the nutrients that our cells need to perform all of their functions. Pretty important, right?
Digestion actually starts as soon as we put food in our mouths and start to chew and continues down our esophagus, into our stomachs, small and large intestines and then of course, out. Throughout this journey our bodies work hard to both break down our food and then absorb it but if we aren’t digesting our food properly (e.g. if we have low stomach acid or not enough good gut bacteria), our bodies can’t get all the nutrients we need!
Now what does this have to do with anxiety? One thing to consider is if you are taking supplements or eating specific food to help with anxiety, your body may not even be able to use the support you are trying to give it! B vitamins are particularly important when it comes to depression and anxiety management. A study in 2017 actually demonstrated that people with lower B12 levels were more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression. What we eat and drink play a huge role in how we physically and emotionally feel.
While sugar is delicious, it causes your blood sugar levels to rise, and then fall drastically. This is a real rollercoaster for your system! Consuming sugar has been known to cause feelings of anxiety, worry and sadness.
When someone says sugar, you likely begin to picture candy, ice cream or pastries but sugar is hidden in a lot of other foods as well. Check the labels on things like white bread or pasta, condiments – especially ketchup, salad dressings and fruit juices – you may be in for a shock. You are likely consuming way more sugar than you realize. A good rule of thumb is to avoid processed food altogether.
We have all experienced the jitters that come along with having that one extra cup of coffee but did you know that caffeine can also decrease chemicals like serotonin (a.k.a. what makes us feel happy)? While consuming caffeine in moderation can be ok for most people, if you are experiencing anxiety, limiting intake will be beneficial. Caffeine also negatively impacts your body’s ability to absorb some nutrients, including Iron and B vitamins. Ultimately, if you’re constantly feeling tired and need caffeine throughout the day, this could be an indication that you are deficient in certain nutrients or are not able to digest and absorb your food adequately.
Have you ever woken up after a night out drinking full of anxious energy? I like to call this hangxiety and yes, it is a thing. Alcohol throws our neurotransmitters and chemicals in our brain out of whack. While we drink we feel happy and relaxed, this is because alcohol increases GABA and neurotransmitters that tend to make us feel more calm. As this wears off, your brain tries to fix these imbalances, plus you’re likely dehydrated and tired – and this is what causes the post drinking feelings of hangxiety. Having a predisposition to depression or anxiety can also increase the likelihood that you will experience hangxiety. If you’re stressed out, it may seem like a good idea to have a drink or two to calm your nerves, but it could actually make you feel worse!