Can anxiety – even panic attacks – be the result of eating the wrong foods?
Possibly. The mind-body connection just went to whole new level with our guest, clinical nutritionist and food/mood expert Trudy Scott. The author of The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution fills us in on what we need to know.
Though she was the past president of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, she didn’t always work in the nutrition field. ([2:22]) While working in corporate America, her lifestyle habits were less than ideal: little down time; poor sleep habits; high anxiety; and a vegetarian diet (which turned out to be less than optimal for her body). But her anxiety and wake-her-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night panic attacks really caught her attention and led her to a nutritionist and a naturopath for answers.
After making dietary and lifestyle adjustments, she was amazed at the results – and knew it was time to change her career path so she could share what she had learned about food and mood with as many people as possible.
Diet, Lifestyle and Anxiety
Her book, while written primarily for women, is really for anyone suffering from anxiety ([5:16]), including people who are currently on anti-anxiety medication or who just experience anxiety on a mild level. Scott states that she really wants “people to understand that there is a connection between food and mood” – even doctors, who she’d like to begin to ask about a patient’s diet and lifestyle when they come in with anxiety symptoms.
Among the dietary changes recommended are eliminating gluten ([8:12]). Many people do not realize that most of our serotonin – one of our feel-good neurotransmitters – is created in the gut. When the gut is compromised, as is common when gluten damages the digestive lining and allows nutrients to escape (zinc in particular), we see an increase in mood-related disorders – notably, anxiety and depression.
Trudy also recommends getting healthy fats into our diets every day ([10:00]). Because fats help brain chemicals develop and function well, and create neurotransmitters, they are essential to good mood health. They also level out blood sugar; when blood sugar is unstable, it frequently masquerades as anxiety and depression. This imbalance also puts a heavy stress on the adrenal glands, which ramp up cravings for false energy: sugar, caffeine, and the like.
What is the Optimal Diet?
The optimal diet for calming anxiety ([13:07]) includes real, quality, whole food; eating according to our own unique biochemistry; including enough protein, fruits, and vegetables (organic – pesticides increase inflammation); reducing/getting off sugar; and eliminating gluten, if that is an issue. Trudy is also a big fan of what she calls “bonus foods”, which include fermented foods and bone broth.
Common culprits that increase anxiety may be obvious: sugar (which depletes us of nutrients) and coffee (to listen to some great tips for getting off coffee, pay attention at [26:28]). Other less apparent factors include skipping breakfast (the blood sugar level issue rears its head here) and even food sensitivities ([28:44]). With food sensitivities, gut damage, mal-absorption, and increased inflammation are generally to blame for mood symptoms.
Amino Acids and Anxiety
Amino acids are a key component to healing mood issues nutritionally ([30:39]). Scott states that adding them to her protocols with clients has been her “biggest game-changer”. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and when they are depleted all sorts of symptoms may arise, especially mood symptoms. Some of the greatest benefits are that they begin working within five minutes – which she regularly observes after giving her clients amino acids in session. It can switch off cravings, improve mood, and help them feel well while transitioning off gluten and dairy.
The beauty of amino acids ([35:09]) is that they target the underlying cause of anxiety, namely depletion of certain amino acids and neurotransmitters. Once levels are replenished, most people don’t need to continue taking the amino acids, provided they continue to eat a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, exercise moderately, and have sufficient exposure to sunlight/vitamin D. As Trudy says, “You can just rely on willpower. These amino acids help restore the body’s natural ability to be healthy.”
Of the amino acids, GABA is the most calming ([38:46]). A telltale sign of low GABA is stiffness and pain in the body – “it’s more of a physical anxiety”. Simply supplementing GABA restores health at a cellular and hormonal level; healthy lifestyle choices can increase GABA naturally too. She does caution that with all amino acids, certain contraindications exist, making research and professional counsel a necessity before beginning.
Finally, Trudy shares her experience with Pyroluria ([43:40]), a genetic condition that depletes people who suffer from it of zinc and vitamin B-6. She outlines common symptoms of the disorder, and states that general prevalence may be much higher than most people realize; she also shares how easy it can be to treat.
Glutamine, an amino acid, can almost immediately eliminate cravings for sweets by stabilizing blood sugar. She describes how it worked for a client with a self-described “demonic urge” to eat sugar, such that she never struggled with her cravings again.
To learn more about Trudy’s work, and to get special free reports and information about everything she discussed on the show – and more – visit www.antianxietyfoodsolution.com/freebies.