“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nutrition and Anxiety

I am a believer that good nutrition has an affect on us in all areas of our lives including our mental health.  You may have wondered why on earth does a blog called "Hope and a Future Ministries" share recipes?  Well, it's because what we eat affects us and how we are feeling influences what we eat! Have you ever had a bad day or felt stressed out and go for the junk food? I've had to learn to stop myself and ask "Why am I eating right now?" If I'm not hungry, I realize I'm using the food to cope with my anxiety. Unfortunately, those foods we go to when we are anxious or stressed are often the foods that make the anxiety worse!  A healthy diet can relieve stress symptoms (along with getting enough sleep and exercise). A poor diet can actually affect your brains chemistry. Hall-Flavin (2009) recommends these steps:

  • Eat frequent small meals. This will help stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day.
  • Increase your intake of carbohydrates (starches).Carbohydrate-rich meals and snacks are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains), and eat fewer simple carbohydrates (sugars). (I think he means no donuts, pancakes, or Starbuck's pastries, etc.)
  • Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. The immediate effect of alcohol may be calming for most people. But as alcohol is metabolized by your body, it can cause anxiety-like symptoms.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make you feel jittery and nervous and interfere with sleep. (If you decide to cut back like I have, try going half decaf half regular until you wean yourself off. It's a lot better than a migraine).
  • Pay attention to food sensitivities. In some people, certain foods or food additives can cause adverse reactions, including moodiness — which can lead to irritability or anxiety. Foods that commonly cause reactions include wheat, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, nuts and shellfish. (I recently found out that gluten allergies can affect Irritable bowel Syndrome, which is often connected with anxiety disorders).
  • Eat some foods that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan helps your brain produce chemicals that improve mood and have a relaxing effect. Milk, bananas, oats, soy, poultry, cheese, nuts, peanut butter and sesame seeds are good sources of tryptophan.
Hall-Flavin, D. K. (2009) Generalized anxiety disorder: Expert answers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Retrieved July 10, 2010 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coping-with-anxiety/AN01589

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