Natural Foods and Drinks to Calm Anxiety

  Saturday, August 28, 2021
  Anxiety  
Contributed by Dr. Kapil Singh

With the constant clamor and bustle of one's daily life, it's only bound to happen that we may forget to take care of our health. In the interest of staying one step ahead, we want to move faster to keep up if the world moves fast. Especially when we're young and have a lot of energy currency with us, we expend it on our struggles and ambitions. It is no wonder that today's working generation is as stressed as ever. I'm sure if we were to have the option of a magic pill that could relieve us of our worries and give us strength, we'd jump at the chance. Unfortunately, the world is eons away from that sort of dystopian technology, and so we must make do with keeping track of our own body and how it responds to any exertion. 

As a doctor, I have seen many patients leave my examining room feeling satisfied by only having made the trip to see me. They believe I have the answer to any ailment they present me with and that there is a quick solution to their exhaustion or ache. The truth is, many of them don't consider one important thing during their self-examination – nutrition. A healthy diet goes a long way in relieving stress or anxiety. What you eat and drink has an understated effect on the body and mind, so it must be considered seriously. 

Luckily, there are ways to fight stress and anxiety by orienting your diet towards particular macro and micronutrients – each of them having its beneficial effect on our system. This is especially helpful if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder. Along with rightly prescribed treatment, controlling your diet will help you keep these bursts of anxiety at bay when you have them. Remember that these are supplements and should not replace medication. We'll go through a list of foods and drinks along with their benefits.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea originating from folk medicine has made its way to the future and is now a common household item. It is made from dried chamomile flowers has known to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Research conducted into the plant shows beneficial results on the brain by providing a sedating and calming effect. Chemicals in chamomile attach themselves to the neuroreceptors that block signals between nerve cells in the brain, precisely like benzodiazepines. It is important to note, however, that drinking chamomile tea will not stop anxiety attacks. Still, they may help cushion the emotional stress on the brain and help a person relax afterward. Chamomile should always be used in less potent amounts first and then steadily increased once you know that no lingering side effects may come with such a herbal medicine. 

Green Vegetables 

After we've had a long, stressful day, our first instinct is to overindulge in our choice of comfort foods that are high in carbs. It's normal, and you should feel no shame in being pulled towards butter, cheese, and bread once in a while. However, at the same time, we shouldn't forget the importance of green leafy vegetables, the champions of the soil. For example, spinach contains folate, a chemical that helps promote good dopamine levels that make you feel calmer, happier, and more energized. Where junk food will make you feel full in less than two minutes and swipe your body of energy, vegetables will provide you strength and stamina for the entire day. I would recommend adding these greens into a smoothie with other fruits that you enjoy. 

Seaweed

Now that we've talked about greens from the land, it only fits to mention those from the sea. Seaweed is even more nutritious than vegetables grown inland. It contains chemicals like L-tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid. Our body converts this protein into neurochemical serotonin. Serotonin, as you may have heard, helps regulate our mood and feelings. It has an impact on the entire body and can also help with sleeping. Don't worry; if you do not enjoy sushi as the general population does, you can add seaweed to soups, rice, dipping sauces, and even salads.

Dark Chocolate

As unreal as it sounds, going against everything you might have heard until now, dark chocolate is good for you. That is, if it isn't consumed in copious amounts. Dark chocolate has surprising and generous health benefits, including reduced stress levels, better blood flow, and memory. As you may know, chocolate is made from cacao seeds turned into cocoa butter or powder. So there should be no doubt that it does have health benefits and plenty of them. If you're under constant stress and feeling anxious all the time, your body regulates high levels of cortisol - the fight or flight hormone. It leads to always expecting something to happen that may ruin your day, mood and put you in an uncomfortable position. Eating dark chocolate in moderate amounts can help blunt that effect. Studies show that a healthy dose is 1.5 ounces per day. 

Dry Fruits

Nuts or dry fruits, as they are called in some countries, are the perfect substitutes for snacking on candy or sweets. For one, pistachios have significant health benefits as they reduce stress by properly regulating heart rate and blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the main reasons for sudden outbursts of aggression and panic. Nuts have a particular hand in good cardiovascular health, and we can't talk about healthy foods without mentioning the gatekeepers of omega-3: walnuts. Another good thing about them is that they can be easily carried and munched on throughout the day. For people with nervous ticks, taking nuts out of their shells can give them something to focus on and keep their hands busy and minds occupied from straying thoughts that lead to anxiety. 

Turmeric

The golden nectar of youth, health, and beauty: turmeric has been around for centuries as a standout for natural healing. If there is one thing that I highly recommend to add to your diet and daily routine use, it's turmeric. Curcumin, the chemical compound found in this spice, is known to treat anxiety and even depression. It helps to boost serotonin and dopamine levels which can help relieve stress from the body. Turmeric is multi-purpose, and you can ingest it in many different ways as a tonic or add it to your soup or sauce or even in warm milk before you go to bed. It also helps with muscle sores and pain. 

Green Tea

Compared to the energy boost you get from caffeinated and sugary drinks, green tea may look bland to you. The reality is, green tea is your go-to sustenance if you want to bring your anxiety and stress levels down. Theanine is the most common compound found in lots of teas, including green tea. Theanine is an amino acid that keeps your anxiety levels controlled and stress at bay as it helps improve mental function and gets rid of exhaustion. Green tea also helps regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. So, you can never go wrong with a hot cup of green tea. Consider drinking green tea at least three times a day, every day, for it to distribute benefits to your body properly. 

Intuitive Eating

If you take any doctor's advice regarding stress and anxiety-related elements, one of the main questions we will ask you is about your diet. Then, of course, the first course of action we will provide you with is to introduce healthier supplements into your life. So why wait to see a doctor to start something that you should already be doing? This leads me to my final point, and that is to practice intuitive eating. 

Intuitive eating is the practice of keeping a diet where the foods are beneficial to your mental and physical health. Diets are not supposed to cause further stress and anxiety, that is for sure. The important thing is to listen to how your body is feeling each day and what food is required to help you feel better. It's not easy, and slips may occur, but it is an excellent first step to consider if you want to maintain a healthier and happier lifestyle. All the foods listed above are necessary to help you reduce stress in your life, but it would mean nothing if you don't include them in your daily meals. There are many ways you learn this habit, and it's better to start as soon as you can.

Try to be consistent in your approach and introduce small changes in your meals each day. Surprise yourself with foods you haven't tried before that have good nutrients. When you award your body the sustenance it needs, it will reward you with high spirits, more energy, and better mental health. You might even see trips to the doctor slowly start to decrease. Finally, always remember to be patient with yourself. 

About Dr. Kapil Singh

Dr. Kapil Singh is an editorial contributor of JournalOwl. Dr. Singh received his basic medical education and training from Khyber Medical College in Peshawar Pakistan. He is currently working as an on-call doctor in a government hospital and pursuing the US medical license pathway -- The USMLE -- with a  plan to complete his training in Psychiatry and Neurology. He's committed to using his abilities as a writer for advocating better mental health practices, negating pseudoscience, and helping people get accurate medical information -- all with a bit of humor.

Dr. Singh spends his free time volunteering in remote areas, debunking online mental health myths, catching up on movies, and writing -- both medical and creative. 

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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