Calm Your Anxiety With Good Food
Therapy Soup readers know that we believe body, mind and soul are intricately linked and that a holistic approach to treatment for mental illness and/or addiction (or any health or personality issue) is truly necessary.
We’ve posted quite a few articles on the importance of nutrition in the treatment of mental health issues (most recently, this piece on Martha Herbert’s revolutionary whole-body treatment approach for autism). Now we’d like to tell you about a nutritional approach for the treatment of anxiety.
Trudy Scott has had her own personal journey with anxiety, starting in her mid-thirties. She says, “My anxiety was just awful and I had feelings of doom for no reason, a pounding heart in the middle of the night and at various times during the day, excessive unfounded worry and feelings of being overwhelmed, avoidance of social situations, panic attacks (I had three in total and would not wish one on my worst enemy) and one throat constriction episode.
I had hormone imbalances and suffered from terrible PMS. I also experienced adrenal burnout. Of course, I had all the sugar cravings (I was a huge chocoholic) that so often go with mood and hormonal problems.”
Trudy discovered that it was not only stress and overworking that were causing her anxiety symptoms, but also her so-called healthy vegetarian diet. Eventually, what she learned about diet, nutritio, and anxiety led her to write her first book,”The Antianxiety Food Solution: How The Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, And End Cravings.”
She’s a certified nutritionist and the immediate past president of the board of directors of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals and also serves as a Special Advisor to the board. She also spent two years working with nutritional psychologist Julia Ross, author of “The Mood Cure.”
She also consults with individual women who need individualized advice about how to address their own nutrition needs (you can learn more at her one-on-one consulting site, everywomanover29.) Trudy is knowledgeable about both diet and supplements but what really shines in the “Antianxiety Food Solution” is an approach that is personally tailored to your specific needs.
The book contains simple tests you can take to determine if you have any food intolerances or allergies which may be not only triggering anxiety symptoms but also wreaking havoc on your digestion (remember the brain-gut connection we’ve blogged about here in reference to schizophrenia, here and here in reference to autism and serotonin).
Although some mental health professionals believe there isn’t proof of the link between behavior, mental health and diet, today most current research shows there is definitely a very important correlation if not an outright causal relationship.
Think about it: If you’ve ever slammed down some coffee or a caffeinated (and heavily sugared) drink to “get you going” you know that your pulse, heart rate and overall energy levels get a “rush.” That rush, which over time will weaken the adrenal glands, can also be experienced as anxiety. But the book goes far deeper. It explores the relationship between the bodily levels of important chemicals such as serotonin, GABA, and endorphins and diet and offers suggestions on how to increase your production of these feel-good chemicals.
The book’s dietary suggestions largely stress a non-vegetarian diet, which many people today, especially women, seem to have an aversion to. As a former vegetarian (and former vegan), like Trudy, I’ve found that eating organic, minimally produced animal foods along with a mixture of good fats, living/raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds seems to give me the most energy and feeling of well-being.
Though I eat far smaller amounts of animal foods than she recommends, I have been moving towards a similar approach (in part based on some recommendations of the Weston Price Foundation) to try to help with stress and burn-out.
In order to review the book, I took all the tests inside and I’m glad I did. I learned that taking B6 and GABA might be a good choice to help me feel less stressed and burned out and that taking tryptophan or 5-HTP might be a good choice to help me get to sleep at a reasonable hour (I’m both a night-owl and an early-bird and rarely get enough sleep, even when exhausted I find it challenging to get to bed before 1:00 AM).
I’ve started taking the B6 and the GABA and though it’s only been two weeks, I do feel less burned out even though my workload has recently increased! (I haven’t tried the tryptophan yet, I wanted to be able to isolate my experience with just these two supplements so I could be more accurate when assessing their effect on me.)
I especially like that the author has referenced all her information so you can see for yourself why she makes the recommendations she does. I also like that the information, while comprehensive, is accessible and easy to understand.