We live in a fast-paced world where stress and anxiety have become an integral part of our lives; there’s hardly anyone who isn’t stressed about something or the other. Could this increase in anxiety be linked to our dietary habits?
Maybe, because many psychiatrists and mental health experts believe that there is a link between caffeine intake and anxiety. Though caffeine is not dangerous on its own, it could increase the symptoms of problems like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), insomnia and more.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as the increased tendency to be nervous, afraid and worried even about little things. Regardless of whether you suffer from mild or severe anxiety, it can affect the way you behave and react to certain situations. Severe anxiety can even disrupt normal functioning.
Anxiety is an emotion that is ingrained in our psyche and might be characterized by an increased heart rate and sweating among other symptoms. And, while it might be natural to feel anxious before an important event, like attending an interview, it is a more severe condition if a person refuses to cross the street simply because they are scared of being hit by a car.
There are two types of anxiety:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): A chronic disorder causing an individual to worry about “nonspecific life events and situations.”
- Panic disorder: A condition characterized by episodes of brief and sudden fear that are accompanied by nausea, breathing trouble and confusion.
Link Between Caffeine and Anxiety
While the formal diagnosis of anxiety involves different types of medications and lifestyle changes like incorporating exercise, yoga and meditation, it may also help to understand that our diets might have an impact on anxiety and mood-related disorders.
Regardless of whether you choose to be vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian, it might be beneficial to explore how the foods you consume are impacting your mood and triggering anxiety attacks.
Experts have especially noticed a link between the foods their patients eat and the varying levels of emotional disorders they encounter, and one such ingredient that has stood out is caffeine.
Studies have shown that caffeine can increase the release of cortisol, the stress hormone that can start a stress response in the body, and while caffeine may be harmless on its own, it can trigger bouts of anxiety in people who are prone to it.
This happens because the caffeine in your morning coffee, afternoon soda or evening cup of tea reduces the body’s ability to handle stress. It triggers the nervous system, getting it into a constant combat mode. Add an anxiety-causing situation like public speaking to this mode and you might experience an episode of profuse sweating, trembling hands and a pounding heart.
Going Caffeine Free
Imagine the result of not providing your body with this stress-inducing ingredient? The body’s stress-response skills would remain fully functional and there would be lower chances of an anxiety attack. To experiment, try this expert-recommended caffeine-free diet for a week and see for yourself if caffeine impacts your emotional health.
Experts call this the caffeine sobriety test and recommend decreasing the consumption gradually, especially if you rely on your coffees and teas for getting through a typical day. Start by cutting your coffee consumption to one cup a day, then half a cup, switch to black tea, then green tea and reach a point where you can survive with just a few sips of green tea. You’ll soon realize that you’re able to function efficiently without the caffeine and at that point, you can quit completely.
Follow this no-caffeine routine for a week, while noting any changes in mood and energy, frequency and duration of anxiety attacks if any and overall emotional health. If you notice a reduction in your anxiety symptoms, you might be able to confirm the connection between caffeine and anxiety and decide to be caffeine-sober for an anxiety-free life.
Foods that can replace caffeinated drinks:
- Hot water flavored with lemon and honey
- Herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint and ginger
- Rooibos tea
- Spiced milk with cinnamon or nutmeg
- Apple cider if you’re craving something sweet
- Dried dandelion roots and dried chicory roots
Though quitting caffeine may not be a permanent cure for anxiety, it may be the first step toward days with less anxiety and stress.
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Vora, E. (2018, September 09). Have Anxiety? You Need To Do This One-Week Zero Caffeine Test. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/have-anxiety-you-need-to-do-this-one-week-zero-caffeine-test
8 Great Herbal Alternatives to Your Morning Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.workingmother.com/8-great-herbal-alternatives-to-your-morning-coffee
Team, T. M. (2017, December 12). Anxiety: Causes, symptoms, and treatments. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/anxiety
Grasso, C. (2018, April 25). 6 Caffeine-Free Alternatives To Coffee. Retrieved from https://www.bustle.com/articles/142696-6-caffeine-free-alternatives-to-coffee