The Food You Eat May Be Making Your More AnxiousJanuary 25, 2021
What You Eat May Be Making You More Anxious
It's common knowledge that cutting down on alcohol and caffeine will help anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that lasts at least 12 hours and also disrupts sleep. Its stimulant level revs up your adrenaline system, which reinforces all the emotions that also jive with anxiety. You don't want to make that worse. Alcohol disrupts sleep. With less restorative sleep you have fewer emotional resources to maturely deal with your own anxiety.
But the bigger picture is recognizing how the body works at a very fundamental level. Our brain is intricately connected to our gut and our immune system. Half your brain is made up of neurons (computer chips) and half your brain is made up of immune cells (insulation and shrink wrapping.). The glia have immune markers and signaling proteins on their surface just like other immune white cells. Your gut has billions of neurons in it. The majority of many mood-affecting hormones are made in your gut. That Triad, Brain-Gut-Immune function is tight and useful as it explains how the system works.
Start with the premise that foods based on sugar ramp you up a bit too far and lead to too much anxiety. The alternative to sugar is fat. More accurately, small fatty acids called ketones made in your gut. Where do the majority of those ketones come from? Eating green vegetables, whose cell walls are broken down to beta-hydroxybutyrate, and healthy fats. As a civilized world, we have shifted our diet from predominantly raw plant-based to processed grains that we can store and refined sugars. What used to be 8-12 servings a day of raw vegetables and 45 grams of fiber has become 10 grams of fiber and 13% of our calories from sugar. Can I get ketones every day? Well, yes. Compress your calories into 10 hours and you will have ketones in your blood for about 2-4 hours every day. You may even lose some weight with that.
But there are other fats that are helpful. Omega-three fats are the precursors to anti-inflammatory messengers in your brain. The plasmalogens made with O-3 fats comprise some 70% of your brain synapses. Animals that eat grass or wild-caught have omega-three fats in their meat. Think deer hunting in Wisconsin or wild-caught salmon. But in America, all our animals got shifted off the pasture and green grass onto feedlots with corn and beans. Omega fats disappeared. The omega-three fat content of our brains changed some 20% with a shift to omega-6 inflammation supporting fats. Can you guess which county in the world has the least depression and anxiety? Try. The hint is: the country with the highest omega 3 fatty acids in their diet. Iceland, the country with the highest consumption of wild-caught fish.
You want a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of somewhere around 1:1 to 1:3. In America, we have a 1:20 ratio in suburban homes and 1:50 in urban inner-city homes. Ouch.
Can I summarize? A "Healthy" anti-anxiety diet might look like calories compressed into 10 hours. Exercise to make more ketones. Lose the sugar and the refined bread. Eat many more vegetables and fewer feedlot raised animals. Try to cut out seed-based oils: canola, corn, soy and switch to olive, macadamia, avocado. Cut the alcohol and the sugared drinks of any kind. Get regular sleep. And in a pinch, move to Iceland.
www.What will Work for me. I have spent the last week examining the sources of omega sixes in my diet. I got my plasmalogen analysis report back and in my "perfect", high fiber, low sugar, lots of vegetables diet, I was just horrified to find that my omega-6 family is 8-10 times higher than my omega-3. So, a bit of pantry searching and label reading. Hellman's mayo: ingredient number 1 is soybean oil. Rich source of omega-six. Salad mixes with factory-made salad dressing. Ingredient number 3: canola oil, a rich source of omega 6. Spicy Chili Crisp, my fav for getting my daily chili dose so I live forever: ingredient #1, soybean oil. It goes on. Omega 6s are everywhere. Resolution: I'm going to give it a shot at homemade mayo from pure olive oil. If you have a hint on how to do that well, let me know. And I'm back on two grams a day of fish oil to get the ratio repaired. Recheck in 4 months.
References: Apple News, Sugar Association, Biochemica and Biophy., Global Health Journal, The Atlantic, Molecular Neurobiol.,
1. Anxiety-depression is rampant in America. Name a few reasons. Answer: less sleep, less exercise, too much alcohol, too much caffeine, way too much sugar and refined white flour, too many O-6 fats and too few omega-3. Finally, a deprived gut with too little fiber and green vegetables with which to make beta-hydroxybutyrate to calm our amped-up brain.
2. What percentage of the American diet comes from sugar? Answer: 13%
3. Our brains are linked in concert with what two major systems? Answer: Gut and immune systems. Healthy gut = happy brain.
4. And repeat, just what is the beef with omega 6 fatty acids? Answer: They are the building blocks of inflammatory "eicosanoids" of which there are dozens. Our brains in America have switched their net content of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 by some 20%. That's a problem.
5. What family of brain fats use omega-3 fats as building blocks? Answer: Plasmalogens. They are the 40-70% building blocks of the wires and connections (axons and synapses) of your brain.