The Role of Diet and Nutrition in Anxiety and Depressive Disorders
Part 1 of this series of articles talked about some of the symptoms of long-term anxiety and its partner in crime, depression. It is very easy to buy into the argument that you should be tougher and be able to control that anxiety, but in practice there is a real and invasive reason you cannot do so. It’s your diet.
Without dealing with the biochemical undercurrent to anxiety it is almost impossible to find a therapy that will work to alleviate the disturbing thoughts, feelings and behaviours that go with chronic anxiety. The low energy levels always seem to be there. Foggy thinking, anger, low sex drive (that creates its own nightmares in a relationship!), poor balance, large mood swings and a whole range of other symptoms become part of your day.
Most of these symptoms are caused by changes to your body’s biochemistry. Specifically, changes to the way neurotransmitters work in the nervous system change your perceptions, emotions and ability to function. Neurotransmitters are important because they regulate the transmission of nerve impulses around the body. They regulate emotions and have a huge role in physical stability and function of all organs. When they don’t work properly you really know it!
There are a number of other physical factors that influence the way we think and feel. Poor gastrointestinal function can be caused by stress, gluten intolerance, toxins in the body, allergies and poor food choices. When the lining of the small intestine is compromised as a result it cannot absorb essential nutrients that are used to fuel and oil the body. Neurotransmitters are no longer made in correct quantities because you cannot absorb sufficient minerals, vitamins, proteins and carbohydrates. When you are short of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA and norepinephrine, your moods, emotions and perceptions are affected.
At the critical end of this scenario are the severe anxiety disorders such as OCD and the whole range of so-called “schizophrenias” where changes in thinking and behaviour become life interfering. Hallucinations, visually, auditory and kinaesthetically become disturbing at this end of the anxiety spectrum. But they can all be modified by providing the body with what it needs to function correctly and avoiding highly toxic foods including sugars, processed grains (like flour products), alcohol and soft drinks (sodas). Not only are these toxic to the body in their own right, but they acidify the body and make us susceptible to all sorts of diseases including cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
In the next article in this series we will explore the research that supports my comments above and provide further information on how to begin to de-stress. In the mean time start looking at ways of getting all the sugars and processed foods out of your diet.