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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So how are diet and anxiety related?

I received an excellent question the other day in the comments; how, exactly, are diet and anxiety related? It's true that this blog is geared more toward those who have heard about or discovered the link to anxiety on their own, and are looking for ways to apply this new knowledge to their everyday experience and practices. However, for those of you who are looking for ways to cope with anxiety, mild or crippling, and have come across this deserve answers as well.

Allow me to preface this by stating in no uncertain terms that I am neither a doctor nor a mental health professional. I'm just a writer and food enthusiast who struggles with anxiety, and desires to help others. If you are suffering from anxiety, you should seek help from a medical doctor or a mental health professional. I stumbled across the anti-anxiety diet because I couldn't afford a doctor, and if that's an issue for you as well...then I would encourage you to try a lifestyle change. However, a lifestyle may not be enough, through no fault of your own. If that is the case, please contact your local Mental Health Association; there are many programs that provide low-cost or free help for those who can demonstrate a need.

With that said, this is the link between food and anxiety, to the best of my knowledge.

With the obesity epidemic in America, there's quite a lot of research left to be done. However, it's widely accepted that our diet is affecting more than our waistlines. This is because the typical American devotes the smallest possible amount of time to cooking and eating that they can get away with. Our diet is rife with convenience foods and fast foods, sodas and sugars. Many health problems are on the rise, some clearly related to diet, others less so.

Currently, one in seven Americans has an anxiety disorder of some caliber. Whether this can be clearly traced to diet or not, the abundance of anxiety in our society certainly reflects an increasingly stressed and frenetic culture at large. Things To Worry About are fed to us constantly by our surroundings, by our superiors, by our peers. Some minds are predisposed to anxiety disorders, in others it is developed, but regardless of the reasoning, we've found ourselves in this predicament and we must figure a way to cope with it...

Which is precisely where diet comes in. The best way that I can describe it is this...your body is preoccupied with it's physical survival...that's our evolutionary imperative. So when it's loaded down with foreign chemicals and pollutants, when it is sedentary and developing disease, when it can't eliminate toxins, and when it's not receiving the proper nutrition, it can't devote any spare energy to dealing with anxiety or mental struggling.

Eating the anti-anxiety diet (whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables, legumes) and focusing on whole foods while eliminating soda, fried food, processed food, fast food, and excessive sugar allows your body to eliminate the toxins that are becoming standard fare in the American lifestyle and store up the protein, carbs, and natural sugars necessary for cell reproduction. Part two of this is exercise, of course. The human body was made to move, and for those who suffer from anxiety, the daily release of endorphins as well as the elimination of toxins and excess, nervous energy can be one of the most healing things of all.

Our national diet is making us sick, our national lifestyle is making us crazy. Based on the research I've done, these statements are not at all unqualified. One way (and in my opinion, the most logical way) to combat these issues is by changing our lifestyle to one that supports health, wellness, and sanity. In this day and age, diet is inextricably linked to mental and physical health. This is good, because it means that there's an alternative for those of us that would prefer not to go on medication, and for those who prefer medication, it allows an even more balanced and effective experience.

Finally, actively doing something to improve yourself, your mind, and your life is a powerful antidote to feelings of helplessness and ineffectualness. When you are working to overcome your problems and face your demons, you are making progress for a better, calmer life...even if it gets worse before it gets better. Just the fact that you are doing something makes a huge difference in how you feel, how you view yourself and how you see the world around you. Not to mention that the benefits of this diet extend beyond the mental and include weight loss and overall physical improvement. It's a great way of eating for anyone, regardless of gender, mental or emotional health, or lifestyle.

Please feel free to ask questions...I make no guarantees but I will answer them to the best of my ability. I wish all luck with your individual journeys!

The Calm Cook

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