We often think of our physical health and mental health as being two completely separate worlds that, while both important, don’t necessarily overlap. But as more and more time goes by and more research is done, experts are beginning to understand that in many ways, our physical bodies directly affect our mental state. Specifically, new data is coming out pointing to a possible link between elevated anxiety — a serious problem in 2018 America — and the food/drink we consume.
Anxiety is a tricky subject. It’s certainly not fully understood by the medical community, but we are beginning to learn more and more about how this condition hijacks our brain. And while there’s no direct correlation between eating something and immediately feeling anxiety, we do know that certain foods and drinks are more likely to trigger those feelings in folks who were already predisposed to feelings of anxiety.
For example, it’s rare that you’ll see certain people without their morning coffee. The world practically runs on coffee (at least before noon)! Yet, this extremely common drink may be contributing to our societal feelings of anxiety. That’s because caffeine, the active ingredient in coffee, suppresses serotonin (an important ‘feel-good’ chemical), and can cause severe nervousness and anxiety in moderate to high doses.
Or, take alcohol for example. A drink that many people would openly admit they occasionally consume to try and self-medicate their anxiety; yet, we now know that dehydration and sleep deprivation, (two huge effects of alcohol) can directly contribute to anxiety. What’s more, once the alcohol wears off, the drinker’s baseline state of anxiety becomes even more exposed, leading to increased negative feelings by comparison.
It’s not just drinks that can make you feel extra anxious. Foods laden with high amounts of sugar can be a big trigger as well. If you’re a fan of sugary foods, you’re probably familiar with the wild up and down swings (and subsequent ‘crashes’) that come with binging on sugar. Well, it turns out that riding that rollercoaster is actually quite bad for anxiety sufferers, and may exacerbate their mental health problems.
Additionally, fermented foods are a surprising culprit of anxiety triggers as well. Simply put, these foods cause the triggering of histamine production during digestion. Histamine directly affects our nervous system, and can lead to sleeplessness and anxiety in certain people whose biology predisposes them to histamine sensitivity.
If you’re working on managing your anxiety and aren’t sure what steps to take next, consider cutting these foods and drinks out of your diet for a while and see how you feel afterward. It might just be the key to calming your mind and helping get your anxiety problems under control!