Food and Diet for Anxiety & Panic Attack Sufferers
Why is diet so important?
Food, diet, anxiety and panic attacks are all interlinked.
Anxious people either tend to eat too much because they comfort eat, or too little as their so nervous they don’t feel like eating. If you’re on a crash diet this is also not helpful. I can assure you if you stick to the diet I will recommend you will feel less anxious and panicky, and as an added benefit you will lose weight.
Having problems swallowing food?
Anxious people often complain of not being able to swallow food. This is because they are anxious and the body is experiencing the fight and flight response. This tends to try and stop us from eating because if you need to run away or fight your way out of trouble, then eating is not high on your body’s agenda. Don’t worry just practice eating when you’re relaxed and calm. If it’s easier to eat on your own then do this. In time when you’re stronger you can then start to eat with family and then public places.
The Real problem with our Diet
Most people will fall into this category of the constantly snacking usually on sugary things. I recently watched a programme on somebody who suffered from epilepsy. He stated he often wanted to sleep after a fit because he used up so much energy whilst fitting. Anxiety and panic attacks are a bit like this. You burn up so much energy whilst being anxious and panicky that a quick fix is eating foods such as chocolate, sweets, cake, etc. Although this initially makes you feel better after a while you feel even worse which I will explain later.
Having a good, solid breakfast to start the day is essential. You would not expect car to start in the morning if the lights had been left on all night. Our ‘battery’ is the same it needs charging too, to face the day ahead. Our blood sugar levels are the single most important diet requirement we need to help us overcome anxiety. If you don’t build a strong foundation then even if you implement other recovery techniques they won’t work.
Anti Anxiety Diet
I am going to be straight with you – you simply have to eat a good solid breakfast or at the very least eat a mini meal soon after a small breakfast.
I am not a morning person. Quite often I don’t feel like having a big breakfast. But I make sure I eat foods that will burn slowly and give me a solid platform to start the day. For example porridge, muesli, Shredded wheat or Weetabix would be good choice. Some of the most famous cereal foods, Co Co pops, Frosties, Rice Krispies contain a lot of sugar. Along with your cereal have a couple of pieces of whole meal toast. The whole grain is what you need as this will release energy slowly into your system. I often have a tangerine, apple or banana as part of my breakfast. Fruit is great for breakfast.
Protein is a must for breakfast which you can get from meats and poultry. Why not have a bacon sandwich, or combine it into the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT). Boiled or scrambled eggs for breakfast are also a personal favourite of mine. Again great for protein. Protein is good for you as it does not affect your sugar levels
One of the most frequent issues that panic sufferers face is that roller coaster feeling of being OK one minute and then panicky the next. One of the main ways of making your body a lot stable is to stop eating junk food. Crisps, chocolate, cakes, sweets, etc; although seem filling and give you an initial lift, ultimately will leave you feeling worse. The sugar rush will make you feel much better but there is a sting in the tail. Once the pancreas releases insulin to combat the sugar you will be left feeling irritable and anxious. It’s much better to snack on whole grain snacks that release carbohydrates slowly.
So what can I snack on?
Foods like muesli bars, whole grain rice’s, pasta or other complex carbohydrates snacks are healthy for you. Just check the label as by law they should show the sugar content. Proteins are good as well as they do not affect your blood sugar level. Examples are nuts, fish, yogurt, beans, eggs, etc. Fruits are other obvious examples of snacks that are good for you. Just be careful as some fruits are quite high in natural sugar i.e. bananas.
Rather than just picking at snacks it’s much better to have five or six mini meals every day. You should not be going more than 3 to 4 hours without anything to eat. Plan out each day when and what you’re going to eat and try not to comfort eat in-between especially on junk food. It’s also important not to go to bed on an empty stomach. This will help reduce feelings of anxiousness and having night time panic attacks. Try to have something light like a yogurt or a small cheese and lettuce whole meal sandwich before you go to bed. Perhaps wash it down with some milk. This will help keep your blood sugar stable during the night. People who go to bed on a big meal tend to get indigestion problems and the rebound when their blood sugar drops after the body has managed to digest such a large meal. The same goes for alcohol. Although it may help you sleep in the short term as it suppresses the nervous system, the rebound effect will be felt later at night when the blood sugar drops and you feel anxious.
Panic Attack Causes which Food
Often people will have a cup of tea or especially coffee before they go to bed. This is again a bad idea. Caffeine is in coffee as well as tea and is a stimulant. It often will make an anxious person more agitated. I can guarantee if I have a strong cup of coffee it will give me heart palpitations. I use to get this even before I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. So I know my body is particularly sensitive to caffeine.
Finally it’s never a good idea to lie in bed too long. Even if you had a bad night’s sleep its best to get up after 8 hours sleep rather than just lie in bed. This will help you the following night to get a better night’s sleep as you will be tired, and you need to maintain a steady blood sugar level. If you went to bed at eleven then get up around seven and have a herbal tea such as chamomile which as good calming properties. Then have a good balanced breakfast with whole grain, protein and some fruit.
Your diet is one of the simplest things you can change that can have dramatic effects to promote your well-being. To feel the full effects of a new diet may take several months but it is worth it. You may well see the added benefit of weight loss. Remember a stable foundation will lead to a much better chance of a full recovery and it’s what your body needs.
Remember your body needs all the nutritious food it can get as its energy sapping and exhausting work for your body to keep initiating the flight or fight response. Not looking after ones health by eating poorly is one the main causes of panic attacks and yet it’s one of the most overlooked keys to recovery.
Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too low. Panic attacks can be caused by this. Whether you have the condition or not it's so important to keep your blood sugars stable to feel well. Too much sugar and you may feel great for a while, then the crash. Diet is one of the must under-rated aspects of getting better and reducing the horrible symptoms of anxiety. There are two books that I have read on this subject - New Low Blood Sugar and You: The Startling Facts of How Millions of People Suffer from Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) without Knowing it - The Simple Diet That Can Completely Eliminate This Disease & The Low Blood Sugar Handbook . Both go into great detail and have recipes, facts/figures, lists of foods you can eat and programmes to get well. The nature of the topic can mean that reading is heavy going but it's worth at least reading one book on Hypoglycemia.
Food & Drink
As part of my programme of recovery I strongly recommend that you remove caffeine from your diet completely. That means no tea or coffee. I personally think a great substitute is Chamomile (calming properties) or Peppermint tea. If you buy from supermarkets it tends to be quite expensive. If you would like to buy in bulk then I would suggest Twinings Pure Camomile and Pure Peppermint tea .
If you suffer from palpitations some people recommend Pukka Clean Greens Powder - Organic Bio Nutrients - 120g Powder (I have not actually tried it myself). It comes in capsules as well but the powder is better value for money - 1 months supply for £25. Apparently it does not taste very good so be warned! Amazon seems to be the best price. You probably wonder what it is - it's a herbal drink. You mix one tablespoon with a glass of water. Clean Greens contains antioxidants, chlorophyll, vitamins, trace minerals and enzymes, all of which can help you cope better with our polluted environment and diet. When using Clean Greens daily, you should notice improvements in your digestion, skin appearance and general wellbeing.
Multivitamins & Minerals
Sometimes it's recommended to take Multivitamins & Minerals when you're run down. Any help you can give your body to improve and cope with the burden of anxiety can only help you recover. I personally took vitamins for a while as I thought this would give my body extra help and a boost to cope with all the stresses placed upon it. If you feel you need that extra help then below are some popular Multivitamins & Minerals tablets -
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