Anxiety, Diet, and Exercise: Truth vs. Fiction

Anxiety affects diet and exercise. The reverse is also true: Diet and exercise affect anxiety. Some foods we eat may make us more prone to anxiety, some may make us less prone to anxiety. Which substance does what is sometimes exaggerated or otherwise distorted. Similarly, exercise can be a great benefit to anxiety sufferers, but there’s a line there, too.

Anxiety Diet Truth

  • Caffeine and sugar can make someone without anxiety nervous, so it’s best to avoid these substances, especially if you already suffer from anxiety.
  • Carbohydrates can increase serotonin levels, which can have a calming effect
  • Eating protein, especially in the morning, can help stabilize energy level
  • Tryptophan, an amino acid, helps make serotonin. It can be found in turkey meat, but also cheese, eggs and peanut butter. Because it is digested more slowly than carbohydrates, the effects may be more gentle and last longer, which is why it is associated more with sleep than carbs. It can promote sleep and calmness.
  • Vitamin B can also have a positive effect on anxiety, probably because if there is a lack of vitamin B it can affect the hormones. It cannot be made in the body and must be consumed. Rich foods that contain the vitamin, such as beef and leafy vegetables, could also help.
  • Chemicals that are used in processed foods can have a stimulating effect. Individuals may be selectively sensitive to dyes, preservatives, and flavor enhancers. A good rule of thumb for a diet that alleviates anxiety is a natural one, where ingredients are pronounceable and familiar.

Anxiety Diet Fiction

The following are a few common misconceptions about food and anxiety:

  • It’s more important to eat what you like rather than to eat healthily: This is false. You need to eat a well-balanced diet, not merely indulge in food that tastes good. Over the long term, this could be a death sentence.
  • A little alcohol can ease anxiety: Yes, except a little alcohol is likely to lead to a little more, possibly leading to a dependence and/or addiction
  • Avoid all sugar: If a little sugar helps calm anxiety because that’s the association you have, go ahead. Just don’t keep going; moderation is key.
  • Avoid proteins because they are “energy foods”: Proteins give energy by making nutrients available that are needed, but they don’t by themselves cause any jitteriness or distraction.

The most important thing is what causes the individual to feel better. Because food is highly associative, meaning we relate exact memories and feelings to exact foods, then even a cup of coffee might be calming if that is the association.

Exercising and Anxiety

Exercise is great for anxiety and depression. Exercise can really help calm and focus the mind, giving the anxiety victim a rest from racing thoughts. The improved cardiovascular system that results from exercise will yield better overall health, alleviating health fears and some health conditions. Endorphins resulting from exercise can give a rosy glow to life.

But the fiction is that more is better when it comes to exercise, especially for someone with an anxiety problem. Exercise can be greatly abused by an obsessive personality. If someone has anxiety about getting fat, they may spend all their time running and end up under-weight. They might over build one muscle group, leaving them out of balance and muscle bound. If exercise becomes the focus of the anxiety, it might be time to cut back. At this point it would be good to consult with a professional to determine an appropriate exercise routine.

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