Anxiety is a very common emotion experienced by many of us in response to being confronted with an unpleasant and potentially harmful trigger, typically characterised by feelings of fear, anger, sadness, and panic.Anxiety is, in fact, a protective mechanism designed to prevent ourselves from engaging in potentially harmful behaviours and to cope with a stressful scenario. But when anxiety becomes an excessive and irrational dread of everyday situations, it becomes a disabling disorder and needs medical attention. Anxiety attacks usually come without any prior warning, and although the fear is generally exaggerated, the perceived danger is real.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include sweaty palms, dizziness, diarrhoea or intestinal discomfort, a feeling of general fatigue, insomnia, and restlessness. One may also experience a speeding heartbeat, tightness in the chest, rapid breathing, or tingling in hands and feet.
Anxiety is caused due to certain physical malfunctions in brain, where it sends and receives false emergency signals. Adrenalin and noradrenaline are then released, causing the same physiological changes in the body, as would be experienced in a real dangerous situation. Some of the anxiety you experience may actually be due to particular stimulants you are consuming (excess of caffeine, nicotine or colas) or imbalances in particular vitamins and minerals. Consumption of refined sugars and starches (leading to fluctuations in levels of glucose in blood), diets deficient in protein or fat, and hyper active thyroid or adrenal glands may also contribute to anxiety.
DIETARY CHANGEAlthough food cannot correct anxiety, certain dietary modifications do help reduce the occurrence and alleviate the symptoms.
Complex carbohydrates increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. Have whole grains and whole pulses, starchy vegetables such as potato, yam and brown rice.
Eat frequent, small meals during the day, as keeping long gaps between meals or skipping meals can result in low blood sugar causing anxiety.
Calcium, magnesium, zinc, inositol, choline, and the amino acids tryptophan and taurine are among the “sedative” nutrients, hence maintaining adequate intake of these nutrients through milk, green leafy vegetables, eggs, sesame seeds, nuts, whole grains and soybean may prevent anxiety.
Limit or avoid alcohol as when it is metabolised by your body, it can cause symptoms similar to anxiety.
Excess of coffee, tea, cigarettes and coke provoke anxiety and also deplete the body of necessary vitamins and minerals. Instead try chamomile tea to sooth your senses.
Include fatty acids in your diet by eating nuts, fish and fish oil supplements as they greatly affect mood.
Surround yourself with positive people, thoughts and activities. It will keep you in a balanced state of mind.
Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist