The One Diet That Eased My Anxiety (When Nothing Else Worked)
At 26, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder—a disorder that crippled me, both psychologically and socially. I couldn’t drive long distances and was often afraid of being left alone.
Some nights, I'd sleep in my car in the parking lot of the emergency room at a nearby hospital, just in case I needed to seek immediate medical attention.
My disorder left me feeling completely drained and emasculated. I was the father of two sons but could barely get out of bed some days, and found it difficult to take care of myself. Upon my diagnosis I was immediately prescribed medication. My doctor told me that my disorder was so severe, medication was the only treatment option effective enough to manage it.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I’d spend the next two years of my life fighting an addiction to my anxiety pills—an addiction that nearly killed me. I survived an accidental overdose and two failed suicide attempts. I went back to my doctor for help but soon realized his only intention was keeping me medicated.
Stuck at a crossroads, I decided to embark on a wellness journey that not only saved my life but changed it forever.
The first thing I did was research the impact my diet had on my mood disorders. Prior to my diagnosis, I owned and operated a private personal training business, so I was already aware of how important diet is to our overall well-being.
I watched multiple documentaries about the dangers of the Western diet. I researched anxiety disorders and their potential external contributors. I read online literature and research papers about the food-mood connection.
But what inspired me the most were two documentaries—Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead by Joe Cross and Crazy Sexy Cancer by Kris Carr. The fact that both of them, having been diagnosed with two entirely different illnesses, were able to heal through diet and nutrition was incredibly inspiring. I took a hard look at what I had been consuming, and what I discovered shocked me.
My diet was a major contributor to my anxiety symptoms.
I was consuming well over 300 mg of caffeine daily, as well as ample amounts of artificial and refined sugars. My diet was high in carbs, processed foods, meat, and dairy. The information was overwhelming, but I immediately adjusted my diet, and I haven’t looked back since.
I’ve never been into specific diets. I’ve never been a vegan or vegetarian. I’ve never tried the elimination diet or the high-carb diet. I’m not paleo or involved in ketogenics. Although I’m sure they all have great benefits, my plan was to adjust my diet based on what I researched would help with my anxiety symptoms.
Therefore I eliminated all caffeine, including caffeinated teas and chocolate. I increased my intake of fruits and vegetables by adopting a daily green juice and smoothie regimen. I start my days with 8 to 12 ounces of room-temperature water, followed by 24 to 32 ounces of green juice or a green smoothie. Both have served as a great caramel-latte-a-day replacement. I also began taking a vitamin B12 and D3 supplement daily.
I refrain from eating red meat, pork, artificial and refined sugars, fried foods, processed foods, grains, and gluten. I periodically eat organic chicken and organic, cage-free eggs, but 85 percent of my diet consists of raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and occasionally fish. I’ve incorporated yoga and meditation into my lifestyle as well, all of which have formed my personal "Trinity of Wellness."
I don't believe that diet is the only contributing factor to chronic anxiety, but I firmly recommend starting there.
I haven’t taken a pill in five years, my skin has cleared up, and I have more natural energy than ever before. If you or someone you know is struggling with chronic anxiety, take a look at what you are consuming. Our diets can either prevent illnesses or create an environment for them to thrive.
Want more calming cuisine? These nine foods are scientifically proven to ease anxiety, and this surprising supplement can also do a lot to help.
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Quentin Vennie, E-RYT 200 is a writer, speaker, wellness expert, and author of the memoir Strong in the Broken Places. He serves as the Vice President of the Yoga Alliance Foundation, and has been has been featured on some of the world's largest online platforms, including Huffington Post, Thrive Global,Entrepreneur, Fox News, and the Observer. In his role at Yoga Alliance, he is responsible for the development, implementation and tracking of Foundation programs designed to make yoga accessible to marginalized and underserved communities.