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Simple Changes in Diet That Improve Anxiety

Carbohydrates, protein, and caffeine play important roles.

Generalized anxiety is often associated with a common condition known as reactive hypoglycemia, in which blood sugar drops to an abnormally low level following a meal or drink that contains a large amount of sugar. Findings of a large case series show that individuals who experience heightened anxiety related to this condition benefit from a few simple dietary changes including reducing sugar and carbohydrate intake in general, increasing protein intake, and reducing or eliminating caffeine. Individuals who are chronically hypoglycemic despite following a healthy diet should consult with their family physician to rule out possible underlying medical causes of this condition including diabetes, kidney disease, and medication side effects. Chronic alcohol abuse can also manifest as hypoglycemia and malnutrition. How to approach the physiological consequences of drinking should be discussed with your family physician.

Caffeine use is also associated with an increased risk of anxiety. Caffeine consumption increases the levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol in the blood, resulting in feelings of “nervousness” in adults who have no mental health history, and feelings of increased generalized anxiety and in some cases panic attacks in individuals who are predisposed to anxiety or panic. Many individuals with chronic generalized anxiety report a significant reduction in the severity of anxiety symptoms when they abstain from caffeine.

A dietary deficiency in the amino acid tryptophan may lead to a reduction in brain serotonin levels. In such cases, including foods high in tryptophan may be beneficial.

For other non-medication treatments of anxiety read my e-book, Anxiety: The Integrative Mental Health Solution.


Anxiety: The Integrative Mental Health Solution, by James Lake MD

About the Author
James Lake, MD

James Lake, M.D., a clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, works to transform mental health care through the evidence-based uses of alternative therapies.

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