4 Foods That Can Cause an Increase in Anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you are not alone. National Institute of Mental Health data indicates there are about 40 million adults in the U.S. who suffer from various types of anxiety disorders.

There are many ways to alleviate your anxiety symptoms. Top options include taking medication and undergoing therapy. An option that is less obvious is changing your diet.

The foods you eat can have a large impact on your mental state. There have been multiple studies conducted on the impact foods have on your mood. Those studies have revealed many foods or substances found in food that have mood-improving properties. For example, asparagus has been shown to help fight anxiety, as have foods with high concentrations of zinc, including oysters. However, knowing foods to avoid is as important as knowing foods to increase. Below is a list of four foods that can cause an increase in anxiety.

Sugar

If you are like many Americans, then you consume an average of 20 teaspoons of sugar per day that do not naturally occur in the foods you eat and drink. The recommended limit is nine teaspoons per day if you are male and six if you are female. You may be mixing it into your daily cups of coffee or consuming it unknowingly when you purchase processed foods. Sugar has a direct negative impact on your mood.

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When you consume sugar, dopamine is released in your body. Dopamine is a chemical which causes you to temporarily feel good. You must keep eating sugary foods to maintain that feeling. Stopping causes a sugar crash. Withdrawing from sugar can make you feel nervous, cause you to have physical tremors and cause other symptoms that add to anxiety or depression you already have.

Natural sugar, such as the sugar found in fruit, is not as unhealthy as processed sugar. However, it is not completely safe either. If you consume it too quickly, then it can cause the same types of emotional highs and lows. Ways to avoid such situations include:

  • Eating whole fruit instead of consuming fruit juice because the fiber in whole fruit helps you process sugar at an even speed.
  • Limiting your intake of simple carbohydrates, such as white bread, because they turn into sugar within your body quickly when eaten.
  • Learning about the sugar content of your favorite foods, such as ketchup, to avoid surprises.

Coffee and Other Caffeine Sources

Coffee is one of the most common sources of caffeine in the United States. If you are among the 80 percent of Americans drinking it daily, then you may take advantage of the many coffee shops in your neighborhood to grab a cup whenever you need an energy boost. You may even brew your own coffee at home. Drinking coffee or consuming caffeine in any other way may contribute to your anxiety.

Years ago, it was proven caffeine has some positive benefits. For example, a British study conducted in 1999 showed it can help you focus and give you an energy boost. However, the detrimental side of caffeine consumption is undeniable. It is a drug recognized for its mood-altering capabilities. Once you are consuming coffee or any other caffeine source, it is difficult to stop without experiencing side effects that can trigger or exacerbate your anxiety. Symptoms you may experience when consuming too much caffeine or withdrawing from it that add to anxiety include:

  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability or depression.
  • Headaches and difficulty concentrating.
  • Fatigue.

If you are already consuming a lot of caffeine and think it is contributing to your anxiety, then it is best to reduce your intake gradually. Doing so limits the number of withdrawal symptoms you are likely to experience. Caffeine withdrawal is a shorter process than withdrawal from alcohol or illicit drugs. Therefore, any symptoms you do experience from withdrawal are likely to be short-lived.

Excessive Amounts of Alcohol

If you have anxiety, then consuming alcohol has the potential to be helpful or harmful. It depends on how much you consume. According to multiple experts, including officials at the Mayo Clinic, there is evidence moderate alcohol consumption can be good for you. Studies show it may reduce your risk factors for developing strokes, heart attacks and other illnesses. However, moderation is key.

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In terms of curbing your anxiety, alcohol is good and bad. In small doses, it can make you feel more relaxed. It can also help you sleep. Multiple studies have shown alcohol, which is a depressant, can cause major changes in how your brain functions. It can cause the onset of a depression or anxiety disorder. If you already have such a disorder, then alcohol can make your symptoms worse.

If you are taking medications to control your anxiety, then mixing alcohol with these medications can lead to dangerous side effects, including suicidal thoughts. Alcohol can also have unforeseen secondary impacts on your mood. For example, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can disrupt your sleep pattern. It can also cause you to make lifestyle choices leading to additional anxiety or depression, such as:

  • Causing you to lose your job.
  • Disrupting your relationships with loved ones.
  • Causing you to spend more money than you can afford on alcohol or related activities, such as gambling or eating at restaurants.

Foods in the Nightshade Family

There is a family of plants called nightshades that can cause anxiety and other symptoms if you happen to be one of the people with a sensitivity to them. Nightshades produce glycoalkaloids, which are natural pesticides designed to protect them while they are growing. Glycoalkaloids can prevent an important enzyme in your body, called acetylcholinesterase, from working properly. Resulting side effects can include anxiety. Foods in the nightshade family include:

  • Tomatoes.
  • Many types of peppers like cayenne and bell peppers.
  • Potatoes.

 Consuming one or two of those foods per week is unlikely to contribute much to your anxiety, if at all. However, if you eat such foods on a regular basis, then glycoalkaloids can build up in your system. They take approximately a week to flush out of your body. If you are in doubt, then stop eating them for at least a week to see if your anxiety symptoms improve.

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