As our lives get faster, some people struggle to get through an average day as it leaves them feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Our everyday life can be filled with anxiety provoking events. Whether it’s an exam, a work deadline, perhaps you’re running late for work, public speaking, a sick loved one and many other events that we might perceive to be stressful.
In Australia, it’s estimated that 45% of people will experience a mental health condition at least once in their life. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, as on average 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some point in their life.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is more than just feeling extra worried or stressed. Anxiety is when those anxious feelings don’t go away. It’s a serious condition and there are many different types of anxiety, some of the symptoms range from panic attacks, racing heart, restlessness, excessive fear, obsessive thinking and even avoidance of certain situations.
Many of my clients discuss with me that they no longer want to take medications to manage their anxiety. Instead they want to address the underlying cause and eventually (and safely) get off the medications. Functional medicine acknowledges that the body is interconnected, and we have to address the underlying dysfunctions that give rise to conditions such as anxiety.
Often the root cause of mental illness can be attributed to a combination of physiological factors in the body such as inflammation and nutrient deficiencies. Many researchers have also found conclusive proof that an imbalance of bacteria in your gut has more to do with your mood than any other contributing factor. Luckily, we can often turn to our own kitchen when it comes to these issues and use food as medicine to help rebalance our systems within us to make us feel calmer, reduce inflammation and nourish our body and mind.
If you experience anxiety then making some modifications to your daily diet may help to alleviate some of your anxiety symptoms. Here are some beautifully nourishing real foods you can implement in your diet to help ease anxiety.
Turmeric has been found to elevate neurotransmitters such as serotonin, while lowering stress hormones such as cortisol. This 2017 study shows that there is considerably good evidence to show that curcumin (the anti-inflammatory component in turmeric) is a safe and effective antidepressant. It takes around 4 weeks to deliver results and improvement in symptoms. 1
Turmeric also contains potent antibacterial, pain relieving, antidiabetic, antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. If you would like more information on the benefits and uses of turmeric, you can read ’16 Ways to Get More Turmeric Into Your Daily Diet’
- Omega-3 Fats
Our brains and nervous system are mostly made up of fat, 20% of which is Omega-3s. Omega-3s work at reducing overall inflammation and has been associated with reducing symptoms of depression. Foods rich in Omega 3s include; Inca Inchi Oil, fatty fresh fish and seafood, chia seeds, walnuts, egg yolks, grass-fed beef, natto and caviar.
Rosemary is much more than just a pleasant smell. It’s a popular remedy for combating fatigue, anxiety, headaches, muscle pain and depression. Simply inhaling rosemary’s aroma has been found to lower cortisol levels and activate a relaxation response and calm the nerves. You could try adding rosemary essential oil to your diffuser or add it into various dishes.
- Cacao (real chocolate)
There may be a very good reason why women crave chocolate when we feel sad, frustrated, stressed or ‘blue’. Cacao helps to release serotonin and relaxes the blood vessels of the cardiovascular system. Cacao gives us a euphoric effect, which makes you feel at peace with the world. At Changing Habits we believe chocolate can be healthy when you use real food ingredients, here are some of our favourite chocolate recipes you can make to help with those feel-good hormones: Sweet Potato Brownies, Choc Cinnamon Coconut Bars, Irresistible Chocolate Slice and Choc Peppermint Panna Cotta.
- Probiotic Rich Fermented Foods
In functional medicine, our guts are considered our second brains because it’s home to 90% of serotonin (our feel good hormone). With more than 100 million neurons your gut’s health is essential to managing anxiety. For people whose anxiety may be triggered or exacerbated from unhealthy bacteria or pathogens living inside their guts, there is a whole possible strategy of using specific beneficial probiotic strains such as; bacteroides fragilis, bifidobacterium longum, lactobacillus bulgaricus, lactobacillus rhamnosis, lactococcus lactis and streptococcus lactis (just to name a few) as treatment for anxiety, you can read more about this here.
I recommend homemade fermented foods to all of my clients. Here are a few of my favourite probiotic rich fermented food recipes; Fermented Cucumbers, Cultured Veggies, coconut yoghurt, cashew cheese, flavoured yoghurts and cultured juices.
I’m constantly recommending people to consume organ meats such as liver as the meats contain some of the best and most potent sources of nutrients needed to help combat anxiety. Liver contains rich amounts of zinc, Vitamin D, B Vitamins, choline all of which are important for your energy levels, synthesising neurotransmitters, methylation and regulating your mood.
Some studies have found that turkey, which is rich in tryptophan (an amino acid) can have positive effects on stress because it helps your brain to produce serotonin, which is our calming and feel good hormone. Other foods that contain tryptophan include chicken, bananas, sesame seeds, nuts and cheese.
Just as there are foods that can help ease anxiety, it’s also important to eliminate inflammatory causing foods you’re eating that can contribute to your anxiety symptoms. Examples of these foods include; alcohol, refined and processed food and beverages, refined wheat, vegetable oils and sugar, drugs. You can read more about how eating inflammatory foods effects your body here.
All of the five foods listed above are beneficial and nourishing for your body as they provide vitamins and nutrients that are known to calm the mind and body while also increasing energy and stabilising your mood. It’s also important to consider other aspects of your life that could also be contributing to your symptoms such as poor sleep, lack of connection with mother nature, not enough exercise, chemicals in your environment and too much stress. For ideas of reducing stress in your life you can read more here.
Please note: It’s important to note that I’m not offering a cure here, instead the possibility of implementing these foods to support your body to function better and to return to homeostasis.
If you would like more information on this topic please read the following blogs to educate yourself more;
- ‘Help – depression, anxiety, night terrors and weight gain’
- ‘8 signs your body is inflamed and what you can do about it’
- ‘8 de-stressing techniques that aren’t meditation’
- ’20 Inflammation fighting foods’
- ‘Adaptogenic Herbs – Nature’s Stress & Fatigue Fighters’
If you would like additional support with your diet please know that both Sheridan and I can help you through a one on one consult to discuss your individual circumstances.
Happy changing habits