Nutrition to Support Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health

Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

How Good Nutrition Can Help to Reduce Anxiety Naturally

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 We all experience anxiety from time to time, however if anxiety becomes a frequent part of everyday life it can drain our energy levels, leaving us tired, unhappy, impatient and irritable. It can also put pressure on relationships with our family, friends and colleagues.

It is important to understand that our body needs energy in order to function effectively.  When we feel anxious our body uses its energy supply more rapidly and in different ways: speeding up our heart rate, tensing our muscles and even thickening the blood.

Consequently, if anxiety is experienced on a long-term basis the body’s normal repair and maintenance jobs such as digesting, cleansing and rejuvenating don’t get carried out and this can lead to further stress and ill health.

So how can we encourage our minds and bodies to relax naturally and reduce those feelings of anxiety? One important route is through changing our diets.

Nutritional therapy has long been under-used and underestimated as a treatment method for people experiencing anxiety and other mental health issues. Yet the food and drink we consume can have a huge impact on our physical, emotional and mental health.

 Anxiety and caffeine

Firstly, we need to look at what we are drinking. Caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate and drinks containing cola all result in the adrenal glands (which are situated on top of the kidneys) pumping adrenalin into our blood, putting us into an excitable and anxious state. After a strong cup of tea or coffee, which may contain up to 80mg of caffeine, our nervous systems are hypersensitive and this does not help us to deal calmly with a demanding boss or an excitable two year old!

By the end of the day, if we have had several caffeinated drinks, our bodies can actually feel exhausted. This is because our adrenal glands have been working overtime, pumping out adrenalin and cortisol to deal with the stress.

The impact of drinking alcohol to relax

It’s also important to be cautious of using alcohol to relax. Alcohol seems like the perfect answer to help us unwind at the end of a stressful day and in the short term this is right – as it promotes the production of a neurotransmitter called GABA which helps us to relax. However, after several drinks, alcohol has the effect of suppressing GABA levels, leaving us feeling grumpy and irritable the next day.

 Diet and anxiety

A diet that helps to balance blood sugar levels can go a long way to help reduce our anxiety levels.

If blood sugar levels fall, adrenalin is needed to help them rise again. However, constant surges of adrenalin throughout the day to regulate blood sugar levels is not helpful for our mental health. So, by eating small, regular meals and snacks of complex carbohydrates and plenty of protein we can avoid these dips in blood sugar and feel a lot better.

Choose foods such as oats or muesli for breakfast (oats are great at regulating blood sugar levels), fruit and nuts mid-morning, an omelette or some fish with a green and brown rice salad for lunch and a bean and vegetable or meat casserole with whole-wheat pasta for your evening meal.

Supplements and herbs for anxiety

If you experience anxiety there are amino acids and herbs which can be taken in supplement form to enhance the brain’s production of calming neurotransmitters, like serotonin and GABA. These can also be helpful for you if you require extra support to get a good night’s sleep. However, it is best to seek advice about taking these supplements from a qualified Nutritional Therapist, Naturopath or Herbalist.

If you would like more information regarding nutritional therapies for depression, anxiety or panic, please contact me at aimee@beautyempoweredwellness.com

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