Diet and Anxiety: Is Your Food Making You More Anxious?

Anxiety Diet

If you have days that seem worse for no apparent reason take a look at what you ate the day before.

When I am stressed I find wheat upsets me, I get really livery and nauseous. And dairy definitely used to make me feel anxious and trigger a panic attack if I was feeling fragile. I can feel palpitations very soon after eating anything with dairy in it, let alone plain cheese, yoghurt or milk on its own, so check ingredients lists too.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you are allergic to the food. When the whole system is on hyperalert the digestion is not working fully, adrenaline keeps a large part of the blood supply in the muscles, ready to run, so light frequent meals is the answer when you are under stress. An overfull stomach is also not pleasant to an anxious person, but then you already know that.

Often if you cut out a food altogether for as little as three months your sensitivity to it is gone though I figure that if anything is that hard on the system it’s probably not good at the best of times so I avoid wheat now and cow’s milk products too.

An easy way to see if food is affecting you is to check your pulse before and after eating.

The Pulse Test

This is a quick and easy way to isolate potential problem foods for you.

Take your pulse before you eat, as a base reading. Sit down for a few minutes to let it settle then using your index and middle fingers, not your thumb, resting lightly on your pulse point on your wrist, count your heart rate for a full minute, note it down.

Then take your pulse reading three times after your meal. At half an hour, an hour and an hour and a half. Make sure you sit down again for a few minutes to let your heart rate settle and count your heart beats again, noting the number down.

If there is a variation of more than 16 beats then you have probably eaten something that you are sensitive to.

Important: This test will not work if you are on beta-blockers and it is essential to count for a full minute and not just 15 seconds and multiply the result.


If cow’s milk shows up as a problem for you try switching to goat’s cheese and yogurt which is often perfectly ok with people. It’s a good alternative to try before switching to soya which some find a problem too. If I have too much soya I find it affects my sleeping patterns though for me that is more about the menopause than anxiety.

Chocolate also affects me in the same way. I wake on the hour every hour after the smallest amount which is extremely annoying. Luckily I don’t mind carob and after a while of not eating chocolate it tastes quite good, particularly the flavoured bars.

Spelt flour is a good alternative to wheat and I now make my own bread, routinely. There are many spelt products available if you don’t fancy baking and plenty of Free From ranges at the supermarkets so you don’t need to go without biscuits or cakes. Ryvita makes a nice change too sometimes and there are plenty of flavours to choose from for variety.

Porridge, muesli and oatcakes are now staples around here. I love soaking home made muesli, oats and a few spoons of chopped dried fruit, in goat’s yogurt overnight, really delicious with a few blueberries on for breakfast and very nutritious so I start my day feeling positively virtuous.

First test for what may be affecting you then check out ways you can reduce your intake for a while by making small changes to your diet.

Remember, this does not mean you will have to cut out these foods forever. A short break will give your system a chance to settle down, grow stronger, give you some space to breath.

Be well, and please let me know how you get on.