Everything we consume, whether it’s food or drinks, has the potential to impact both our mental and physical well-being, either positively or negatively.

Mindful eating goes beyond merely following a diet; it’s a practice that maintains our mental health, preventing potential anxiety or panic episodes in our day-to-day lives.

A study titled “Diet and Anxiety: A Scoping Review” by multiple educational institutions, such as the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School, found that dietary factors are consistently associated with anxiety disorders in at least 60% of patients. 

In today’s blog post, we will focus on certain foods that can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks. Plus, read to the end for our top 3 tips to reduce panic and anxiety issues related to food.

Can Food Cause Feelings of Anxiety?

Yes, certain foods have the potential to influence feelings of anxiety. The connection between diet and mental health, often referred to as the gut-brain axis, is a complex and growing area of research.

BMC Medicine mentions a study that revealed an increased risk of depressive or anxiety symptoms associated with high intakes of single nutrients and certain foods identified as contributors to anxiety.

In recent years, it has become increasingly crucial to comprehend how the consumption of certain types of food can impact our mental health, potentially triggering anxiety or panic attacks more frequently.

During the pandemic, a study conducted by PubMed Central and published in the National Library of Medicine disclosed that exceeding the weekly average intake of ultra-processed foods was linked to a higher prevalence of anxiety. This underscores the connection between specific food choices and anxiety.

Identifying these problematic foods is vital for maintaining a diet that aids in preventing anxiety or panic attacks, allowing us to effectively manage the adverse effects that certain foods may have on our mental well-being.

How Does Food Cause Anxiety?

Certain foods can contribute to anxiety through various mechanisms. The International Center of Excellence for Obesity (LIMARP) mentions how various foods can alter behavior and impact mental health uniquely in each individual.

Nutrient deficiencies, especially in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and magnesium, have been associated with mental health problems, including anxiety.

Additionally, food sensitivities and allergies, such as those to gluten or additives, may also play a role.

Here is a list of the most prevalent symptoms of anxiety induced by food that can be observed in different individuals:

  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Inflammation
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Dehydration

5 Foods That Can Cause Anxiety and Panic Attacks

If you are experiencing feelings of anxiousness or panic after eating certain foods, then it’s important to watch out for the five worst foods that can cause anxiety.

1. Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase heart rate and stimulate the nervous system. Excessive consumption can lead to restlessness and excessive anxiety symptoms, potentially triggering panic attacks in some people.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that patients who ingest high amounts of caffeine, including caffeine in desserts or energy drinks, are 53.9% more susceptible to having panic attacks and suffer from different anxiety disorders.

2. Alcohol

While alcohol is generally considered a depressant, it can initially produce a calming effect. However, as it wears off, the body may experience a rebound effect, leading to increased anxiety.

The American Journal of Psychiatry mentions that alcohol-induced anxiety in adults is a common disorder that can lead to stressful feelings and a depressed mood, triggering anxiety or panic attacks.

3. Highly Processed Foods

Foods that are highly processed often contain unhealthy trans fats, fried food, artificial additives, and preservatives.

These ingredients can contribute to inflammation in the body, which has been linked to anxiety and other mental health issues.

4. Sugar Alternatives

Some sugar alternatives, such as artificial sweeteners, have been associated with negative effects on mental health. 

According to a study posted on Harvard Health Publishing by the Harvard Medical School, there’s a correlation between a diet of high amounts of sugar foods and impaired brain functionality, which can lead to anxiety and panic attacks.

5. Processed Meats

Processed meats often contain additives like nitrates and nitrites. Some studies suggest a potential link between the consumption of processed meats and an increased risk of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

3 Tips to Reduce Panic and Anxiety Issues Related to Food

Now that we’ve identified some foods that can act as triggers for panic and anxiety, let’s delve into a few tips on how to effectively deal with them.

1. Identify Food Anxiety Triggers

The first step is to recognize and become aware of specific foods or eating patterns that seem to trigger panic or anxiety.

You can use an anxiety app, such as Rootd (available both on iPhone and Android), to monitor your behavior and mood after consuming certain foods.

This approach allows you to gain a clear understanding of which foods may be causing anxiety feelings, enabling you to proactively prevent their consumption in the future.

2. Create a Positive Eating Environment

Creating a positive atmosphere can help enhance the overall dining experience and minimize anxiety related to the eating environment. Make sure to consider the following three factors:

  1. Choose a calm and pleasant environment for meals.
  2. Avoid distractions such as screens or stressful conversations during eating. 
  3. Plan your meals ahead of time to reduce uncertainty and anxiety around food choices.

3. Seek Professional Guidance

Consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist for personalized advice tailored to your needs and concerns.

They can help you create a balanced and individualized eating plan, address nutritional deficiencies, and offer strategies for managing anxiety related to food.

Conclusion: Common Foods That Can Cause Anxiety and Panic Symptoms

It’s evident that certain types of food can trigger feelings of anxiety or panic.

Since every organism reacts differently to specific foods, it’s crucial to identify which types of food may be affecting your mental well-being. This identification is essential for creating an actionable plan to prevent food-induced anxiety or panic, successfully establishing a balanced diet that benefits both your mind and body.