July 17, 2021
If you have anxiety or trouble sleeping, it may be related to your diet. Anxiety can be traced back to gluten and caffeine. It is also estimated that half of the country has a magnesium deficiency. Avocados and almonds are among the many foods in which you can increase your magnesium intake and get better sleep. In this episode, our nutritional specialists will provide tips and suggestions on what you can do nutritionally to avoid anxiety and sleep deprivation.
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CASSIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. This morning, my cohost and I will be talking about the role that gluten and sugar play in the rising rate of anxiety in both adults and teenagers. And here's an interesting statistic; kind of surprising and interesting. As of last year, so in 2020, the National Institute of Mental Health found that about 20% of adults have an anxiety disorder. And it doesn't stop there. Nearly 32% of teenagers, or in other words, one in three teenagers in this country have an anxiety disorder. Now as a mom of two teenagers, that statistic was pretty concerning to me. And I want all of the listeners to really take a minute and visualize what this means. So if you think about all those teenagers that you know, and if they were all lined up and you count out every third one, that's how many have an anxiety disorder. One in three kids between the ages of 13 and 18 and one in five adults suffer from anxiety, but we're not here to just talk about the problems today. We're here to offer solutions. And for me as a registered dietitian, whenever I'm thinking about a health condition or a disease, I always think what is the food connection to all of this? So specifically in light of today's topic, what is the food connection to anxiety? And we're going to talk about the food connection to depression. Now, of course we know there's a sugar connection; a blood sugar connection. My cohost, Kara, will go into quite a bit of detail explaining that connection in just a little bit. And Kara and I both are going to talk about some of the research out there connecting sugar to anxiety. We also found, as we were preparing for today's show, that there is research out there supporting the, the fact, the concept that for some people eating gluten can result in an anxiety disorder. And this research of course, particularly intrigued me because as a family, we follow a 100% gluten-free diet. And longtime listeners have heard me say on previous shows that both of my kids have an autoimmune condition called celiac, and I have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. So we steer 100% clear of having any gluten in our diet. And we're pretty darn healthy, especially my two teenagers. They're really healthy and they're active and they're athletic and they have good mental health. And I can't help but attribute at least some of that to their healthy diet and the fact that they do avoid gluten. All right. So now, you know what we have in store for you today, I'm going to back up a little bit and do introductions. My name is Cassie Weness. I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. And I'm always following the latest research on gluten as I just kind of alluded to. So I'm going to share more about with you as we get into today's show today. And I'm happy to say that Kara Carper is joining me in studio this morning as my cohost. Kara is a Certified Nutrition Specialist and she is going to share her personal story about how eating sugar and processed carbohydrates resulted in an anxiety disorder for her before she found Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Luckily, Kara has learned through experience that the sugar, the processed carbs, they're just not worth the anxiety, the irritability, the low moods that can follow.
KARA: That's right. Thanks for that introduction, Cassie.
CASSIE: Yes, and I always look forward to the Saturdays that I get to share this hour with you.
KARA: I do as well. I'm really looking forward to this. And I probably won't jump into my personal story right away, but as we get a little bit later into the show, I am going to share how prior to coming to Nutritional Weight and Wellness as a, I guess, as a client and an and an employee, you know, I didn't realize that a lot, most of my anxiety was being exacerbated just by not eating in balance, you know, having a little bit too much sugar, too many carbohydrates, not enough protein and healthy fat; things like that.
CASSIE: Like most people you'd probably never thought to connect the food you were eating with anxiety.
KARA: Correct. Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people just kind of go to their doctor and talk about medication and maybe do therapy, but maybe you don't connect the dots with, “What am I eating? What am I drinking? What am I not eating?” So I was surprised to learn that anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychiatric disorders in the United States. And what's interesting is that only 50% of Americans, speaking of medication, only 50% of Americans are getting relief with medication or therapy. So if you experience anxiety, we really encourage you to be eating foods that are going to calm you and to try to avoid those foods that put you on edge. And I think a lot of people, if you just take a step back, you can figure out what those foods and beverages are. Think about that. What are the foods that you eat, or the beverages that you drink that kind of put you on edge, make you feel irritable a couple of hours later? You know, examples might be sugar-ladened foods, coffee, energy drinks. We're going to kind of jump into coffee and caffeine first and how those relate to anxiety. So ask yourself this as well. “How much caffeine can I drink before I start getting agitated and irritable?” And Cassie, we were talking about this before the show, but there are studies showing that under a hundred milligrams of caffeine has little or no effect on a person's anxiety, but a dozen studies have found that 400 milligrams of caffeine increased anxiety for many people. So maybe we should put that into perspective for our listeners. This is very common to go to the coffee shop and order a 20 ounce cup of coffee. So that would be a venti from Starbucks. That has almost 500 milligrams of caffeine. So that, that's a lot.
CASSIE: That's a lot, that's more than what you would brew at home.
KARA: It's certainly is.
CASSIE: That just sounds like a lot.
KARA: Yeah. And that kind of goes along with the studies that found that 400 milligrams is kind of that cutoff that can create anxiety for a lot of people. Personally, I have found that too much caffeine: it's just not my friend. You know, it's either too much caffeine or it might even be a smaller amount of caffeine on an empty stomach. So that's really what has created almost instant anxiety for me in the past. And if I, if I make a mistake and do it, you know, current days as well…
CASSIE: Right. If, if the day gets away from you or I mean, life happens sometimes, but that was interesting when you shared that with me in the break room prior to the show that an empty stomach. And, but it makes sense when you think about the science, because all that caffeine and you don't have food to sort of dull that effect of the caffeine, it can cause your blood sugar to wacky.
KARA: Definitely. And other things that I've noticed if I have caffeine on an empty stomach, or if I just simply have too much caffeine, even with a meal or snack, I will get shaky, almost get kind of a panicky feeling. And in the past I was drinking coffee on an empty stomach. And I noticed that I had a really difficult time driving. I would get very kind of anxious on the road and it was a hundred percent related to that caffeine. So now if I'm going to have coffee or black tea, I always have it with a balanced meal or snack. And I do, Cassie, you might do this as well. I like to put a healthy fat right in my coffee to slow the absorption of that caffeine.
CASSIE: Not only that, but to make it taste delicious. I do do that.
KARA: Maybe heavy cream or coconut oil, even grass fed butter.
CASSIE: All those. Yep. Delicious; delicious. So, yeah; oh, so interesting. I hope that, I know that information I'm sure has helped many people as they start to connect the dots between their coffee habit and their anxiety level. And I love that you mentioned herbal, you mentioned herbal tea, right? Because that is an option too, you know, if you get asked to go out to coffee and you know that coffee makes you jittery, makes you anxious, it doesn't mean you have to decline the offer. You can order an herbal tea or what I've done, because I know for me while caffeine does not cause anxiety for me, if I have coffee or caffeine after about 10 or 11 in the morning, I don't sleep well at night. I have made that connection. So if I get asked to go out for coffee after, you know, that 10 or 11:00 AM, I'll often order an herbal tea latte, which is so delicious. And I order mine with coconut milk because I don't do well with cow’s milk or with dairy products. But so just another option out there.
KARA: Yeah, great suggestion.
CASSIE: Because we're always trying to help people with that art of substitution, right? If you have to take something out of your diet, replace it with something else that's healthier and delicious. And it is already time for our first commercial break. If you're just tuning in, you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Today, Kara and I are talking about the gluten and sugar connection to anxiety. So stay tuned if you want to learn more about how food matters when it comes to anxiety and even to depression. And we'll be back after this short break.
KARA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I have found that the mineral magnesium is very, very helpful in managing both anxiety and sleep issues. And it's estimated that half of the population in the United States are deficient in magnesium. Now a lot of that is because of processed food diets, because when we're eating processed foods, we don't get magnesium from those foods. And actually a lot of foods and beverages kind of pull or excrete more magnesium from our bodies. And the recommended allowance for magnesium is 420 milligrams per day for men and 320 milligrams per day for women. And we're just going to talk about some foods that are rich in magnesium. I love avocados and guacamole. Those are very high in magnesium; almonds, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, spinach, sardines, pork tenderloin, and even chocolate. Cassie, that's why some people that have chocolate cravings are actually low in magnesium.
CASSIE: Right; their body's trying to tell them something. It's not just like, you're thinking, oh, chocolate would be nice right now, but it's the people that have those intense chocolate cravings.
KARA: Yeah. Their body's trying to tell them “I don't have enough magnesium”. Our real food diet is really one of the best sources, the best ways to get magnesium. But to make sure that personally, to make sure I have adequate magnesium, because I tend to have, I think just, I tend to have more of a deficiency. Who knows? Maybe just from even exercising; stress can deplete magnesium. But I take an additional 400 to 600 milligrams of a supplement called Magnesium Glycinate at bedtime. And I have really found that it's that Nutrikey brand of the Magnesium Glycinate. It's one of the best absorbed magnesium supplements out there. And I can take it during the day to manage anxiety and it helps to relax during the day, but I, you know, if I need a good night's sleep, I'll take it before bed. So you can take it kind of whenever as needed. And we encourage our clients to first work on getting those foods that are high in magnesium in your diet. And also if you're having a hard time sleeping or if you're having anxiety, add another 400 milligrams of Magnesium Glycinate.
CASSIE: I never go to bed without that Magnesium Glycinate. It really does help with sleep.
KARA: Yes, I do not like to run out of that particular supplement. So before break, we were talking quite a bit about caffeine and the relationship between caffeine, whether it's coffee or other caffeinated beverages and anxiety, and kind of that shaky, almost irritable, panicky feeling that a lot of people get. And I had shared what I do just, I have to have something with my caffeine; a meal; definitely a healthy fat. But Cassie, some people are so sensitive to caffeine, they can't drink any caffeine. You know, they may not even be able to go to a coffee shop and order a decaf. And you shared with me that, I knew that decaf had a certain amount of caffeine, but I think you found that at some coffee shops, a venti would, which is a large, could have up to 25 milligrams.
CASSIE: Yes. I was doing a little research here this week. And I, I was surprised cause just like you, I knew that decaf had little bit of caffeine, but 25 milligrams.
KARA: That's 25% of a regular cup of coffee.
CASSIE: Yeah, and that would be enough to keep me from not falling asleep well, I know, so now I'm rethinking if I should steer clear of that decaf.
KARA: So just kind of be, be careful if you suspect that you're sensitive at all to caffeine, just stick with herbal tea, you know. In the summer you can get that as an iced tea as well.
CASSIE: Yes. Yes. That's a great idea. And just all this talk about coffee, it reminds me of how disturbing it is to me during the school year to see so many kids walking into the middle school, and I'm not even talking high school. My oldest started high school this last year, but because of COVID, he was distance learning all year. So I'm not sure what those kids are walking into the building with, but at the middle school, which for our district is fifth graders, sixth graders, seventh graders, eighth graders, there are so many of them walking into school in the morning with their favorite high sugar coffee drink from the local Starbucks or the local Caribou. I mean really it's no wonder so many teenagers have a lot of anxiety and these high sugar drinks could be a part of the reason why so many kids in this country are overweight too.
KARA: Yeah. Most of the drinks at the coffee shops are high sugar. I mean, unless you just get a straight up herbal tea or a coffee and put heavy cream in, which is what I would do. But a very important connection to anxiety is low blood sugar levels. Now some of you might be wondering, “What causes high blood sugar or what causes low blood sugar”. Well, certainly it's kind of obvious that eating high sugar foods, but also a lot of processed carbs can both contribute to high blood sugar levels. So our body is actually very wise. It tries to control high blood sugars. And so the pancreas will release insulin. Now the higher that the blood sugar is, the more insulin the pancreas has to release to lower the blood sugar level. But sometimes, you know, the pancreas is pumping out so much insulin that the blood sugar ends up crashing too low. And we call that those ups and downs; at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we call that the blood sugar roller coaster.
CASSIE: That's a great visual.
KARA: It is. And we even have a great handout at our office. And when I have low blood sugar, because it could be from skipping a meal, maybe just not eating on time, I will experience anxiety just from having low blood sugar. And when our blood sugar is out of whack, the adrenal glands will release something called epinephrine. You know, it's almost like an adrenaline type rush. Well that creates that anxious feeling, the anxiety that we feel; that irritability; kind of that fight or flight response. And that all just makes the anxiety even worse.
CASSIE: It sure does. And I, I want to continue on that thought. And I think you have some body signs to share with us of what this really can look like outwardly. But first we're going to take a quick commercial break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Before we break, though, I want to share with listeners a brand new product that's now available at all of our Nutritional Weight and Wellness offices. I think this might be something you're interested in if you're currently taking a multivitamin, but maybe you're interested in changing to one that might be a better fit for you, or maybe you're somebody that's been thinking about adding a good multivitamin. Or maybe you're a parent that wants to make sure your kids have a good multivitamin. In any of those scenarios, you might want to try our new Liquid Multi. It has a special natural form of vitamin B12 that's designed to support the neuron system for the management of anxiety. And I think this special form of easy to absorb vitamin B12 is an important nutrient to highlight today because of our topic, because we know that people with intestinal problems or digestive issues often have a hard time absorbing B12 from foods. I also want you to know this Liquid Multi tastes great. It's doesn't have any sugar, but it's sweetened with a little bit of stevia and it has sort of a tropical kind of pineapple coconut flavor. It's gluten-free. It's dairy-free. And I have even more good news. For the rest of July, if you order this Liquid Multi, you'll save 15% off on the price. So if you're interested, go to weightandwellness.com, click on vitamins or call the office at (651) 699-3438. And stay with us. We'll be back in a minute.
KARA: Welcome back. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Currently, one out of three adolescents are struggling with anxiety. Cassie had shared that statistic, which is actually, that's kind of shocking. And I think most parents realize that food matters when helping their child manage anxiety. But the struggle is usually how they get their teen to eat better. Perhaps there is, that's where we can jump in and help. In most cases, teens are going to follow a recommendation from a professional nutritionist or dietitian more willingly than listening to what their parents are saying. Right?
KARA: And I would say that may even be the case for my nine-year-old.
CASSIE: Girls mature fast. I encourage you to make an appointment if you're struggling and your teen is not eating well. Make an appointment. Bring your teen in and help them to get back on a healthy food plan that's going to give them the proper nutrients that their brain needs, that their nervous system needs. And you can just call our office: (651) 699-3438, and set up an appointment or two. Take advantage of these summer months when the kids are not back to school yet, you know, you still have a month or so. So, and then this fall, your teen could have an easier stress free transition when going back to school.
CASSIE: I love that suggestion. Get, get a head start.
KARA: Yeah, summer's a great time. I mean, I know summers can be busy, but not as busy as the school year. So, so I'm just going to kind of wrap up what we were talking about before break; that blood sugar roller coaster, those ups and downs in the blood sugar and especially that low, the crash that can create anxiety. Every time my blood sugar crashes, I am instantly anxious. So that's kind of a clue for me that something's off with my eating. Other signs of having low blood sugar are kind of being clammy or sweaty for no other reason, feeling shaky, dizzy, having muscle twitches, muscle twitches, just trouble focusing, kind of feeling that brain fog. And then of course I had mentioned this earlier, earlier, but that irritability and also extreme hunger. And I should say cravings, especially if you're just craving sugar, you have to eat sugar or chips or something. Likely your blood sugar has gotten too low.
CASSIE: You are bringing up some unpleasant memories for me.
KARA: Prior to eating in balance?
CASSIE: Back before I found Nutritional Weight and Wellness, I was eating plenty of processed carbs and I was skipping meals regularly. Little did I know back then that I was creating that low blood sugar situation that was causing me to be shaky. I remember days when I thought everyone around me was super annoying. So that irritability piece.
KARA: Right. If it's everyone else and not you, that's a clue; low blood sugar.
CASSIE: That’s a clue, right. And low blood sugar. And I had huge, you know, you talked about cravings. Oh my gosh. I remember thinking these cravings just consume so much of my mental energy. It's just exhausting. Then I found Nutritional Weight and Wellness. And Dar, the owner, taught me the importance of eating in a way that balances my blood sugars. And now I am very intentional every day about eating to balance my blood sugar, because I don't like the person that I am when my blood sugars are not balanced. So let's bring this all back to the listeners here and make this really practical for our listeners. And I think a good question to bring us all back together is okay, what can you, the listener, do right now nutritionally to help control your anxiety? Or maybe it's your child that's struggling. What can you do nutritionally for your child, your teenager, to help them control, or maybe even get rid of their anxiety altogether? The first lifestyle habit that all of the dietitians and nutritionists at Nutritional Weight and Wellness recommend when we're talking about controlling or eliminating anxiety is to eat real food in balance. Now I know most everyone listening knows what I mean by real food, right? It's anything you could theoretically grow in your garden, pick from a tree, raise on your farm. So that granola bar, no matter how natural it might be advertised on the box, you can't grow it in your garden. It's not real food. So you want to be eating real food the majority of the time, and you want to be eating it in balance. And to remember to eat in balance, all you have to do is remember that the magic number is three. So the magic number is three because every time you sit down to eat, if you can visualize what that plate is going to look like, you want an animal protein, a healthy carbohydrate, like a vegetable or a fruit. Yes, vegetables and fruits are carbohydrates and then a healthy fat; so those three things. And the other part of that magic number three is that you want to be eating about every three hours. I do want you to stop what you're doing and eat a snack or a meal about every three hours. You're worth it. You're going to be a better person with more energy, better moods, less anxiety. So again, that plate, whether it's a snack or a meal, should have some protein. Maybe at snack time, it's a grass fed beef stick. And maybe you have some carrots along with that, maybe carrots and celery, which is what I had at breakfast this morning for my vegetable. And then you could have some full fat dressing to dip that in or some guacamole. And that could be your healthy fat; those three things. Think about what happens. Kara talked about this earlier. Really think about what happens when you skip a meal or skip a snack and think about how you feel an hour or so after when you're skipping meals or snacks. What happens is your blood sugar goes too low and then your brain becomes low on blood sugar. Or sometimes we call it blood glucose. So that means your brain doesn't have enough fuel. And for a lot of people, this lack of fuel to the brain can result in a lack of focus. It can result in forgetfulness and even anxiety. So we all need a little bit of blood sugar or blood glucose to our brain every few hours to feed it. And that will help us feel calm, feel focused. On the flip side, if you're skipping meals or you're eating those high sugar meals and snacks that then cause your blood sugar to crash, that low blood sugar can bring on anxiety, irritability, strong cravings. And take a minute and think about if you've ever been on that low fat diet like Kara and I can, can relate to. Oh my goodness. I mean, that's what I was taught in college was the healthy way to eat.
KARA: And that message is still out there. I just read an article last night just kind of…
KARA: Yeah. It was just like, you know, proposing low fat dairy products or no fat dairy products as a healthy thing.
CASSIE: Wow. It takes so long to really change a misconception, doesn't it? Oh my gosh. So no; low-fat needs to be out of the picture because low-fat usually is low calorie as well. And then you're going to have low blood sugar. If you're low calorie, low fat, doesn't it make sense that it'll lead to low blood sugar and then your brain is going to be deprived of enough fuel to properly function? Okay. So let's get back to my original question of what can you do right now nutritionally to help control or maybe even eliminate altogether your anxiety? Let's start with breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So you want to start with a real food balanced breakfast. One great example that I know we've given before on past shows, but it's just delicious so I'm going to repeat it. It's one that I like to do: eggs, eggs for your protein. So whichever way you like them; could be fried, could be scrambled, could be poached. And then a vegetable for your carbohydrate. Skip the toast. Let's do vegetables. And I know a lot of you are doing this, but I'm going to suggest it for anybody that might not be doing it. On the evenings when you do have time to make a nice meal for yourself or for your family, make double what you know you're going to be eating so that you have those leftovers in the fridge when you're trying to put together a fast breakfast. So you can open up your fridge. And for me, if I have leftover steamed broccoli, that's going to go in the pan with those eggs. And then cook it all in healthy fat. I love coconut oil. Maybe for you it's butter, or it could be avocado oil. You know, and looking back, it's now so clear to me. I've connected the dots that the reason I had more anxiety when I was a college student is because I ate a diet high in processed carbs. And we know processed carbs turn to sugar. Once I replaced that cold breakfast cereal, and I would pour skim milk over the top. So there's even more sugar. And then if you have a piece of toast with that, you're adding even more sugar to your breakfast. Once I replaced that with eggs, vegetables all cooked in coconut oil, my anxiety and my cravings virtually disappeared. And of course we don't want you to just stop with breakfast, right? But make small changes. Those small baby steps over time will lead to that one big leap. And truly switching from processed carbs, like the Raisin Nut Bran, the bagels, the low-fat breakfast cereal, to real food in balance really can help to control if not alleviate that anxiety and get rid of cravings.
KARA: And I think that's great, like start small, especially if this is all new to you and it sounds overwhelming. But starting with breakfast is such a great place to start because that really does, this sounds cliché, but that kind of sets the tone for the whole day. And it sets us up to have either stable blood sugars or be on a blood sugar rollercoaster. And I actually I’m thinking about a friend who was telling me that as a young adult, she would just kind of grab some cookies for breakfast. And that, that brings me to the point of the trend these days is going to the grocery store and buying breakfast cookies. And they're marketed as healthy because they have word breakfast by them. But they're essentially just a dessert cookie.
CASSIE: Right. They're just processed carbs that turn to sugar.
KARA: Yes. And typically, you know, eating a breakfast like that, whether it's cookies, Pop Tarts, even a muffin, that's going to lead to just sugar cravings for the entire day and anxiety possibly for the entire day. So once you start the day eating something like that; sugar or processed carbs, you will be craving those things the rest of the day. Now not everyone gets up and eats cookies for breakfast, but we do hear quite a bit about people starting their day with a granola bar or breakfast cereal bar. They grab it on the way out the door. Maybe they just, maybe they're rushed. They don't have time to prepare a breakfast or didn't take the time to prepare breakfast. So when we come back from break, I think we'll talk about what's wrong with a breakfast cereal bar.
CASSIE: Yeah. And we'll give you an idea of what you could substitute or maybe ideas. So if you've just tuned in, you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition, but before we go to break, I have a healthy suggestion I'd like to share. During this hot, hot summer that we're having, I'd like to suggest that you consider taking one of our prerecorded online classes from the comfort of your air conditioned home. These are some great classes that we have online and they can really help to inspire you to eat real food and to leave those summer cocktails behind. And they can help inspire you to leave the blizzards and the high sugar iced coffee drinks behind. We have a lot of great ones up online, but I'll tell you my three favorites. One of my favorites is Stress, Food, and You. That's a really popular class. Another one that I love is called Eating to Reduce Pain and Inflammation. And if you want to understand the role that minerals play in your health, we hear so much about vitamins, but we don't talk enough about minerals. If you want to learn more about the role of minerals, I would encourage you to check out our class called The Magic of Minerals. Each of these classes is only $25. So it's a real steal. And again, you can watch them in the comfort of your air conditioned home. If you're interested, or if you know you want to sign up, you can call us at (651) 699-3438. Or you can go to weightandwellness.com. And we'll be back after this commercial.
KARA: Welcome back. You’re listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And we're talking today about the connection between anxiety and sugar and processed carbs and gluten. We believe the healthiest meals that you can eat are the ones that you cook in your own kitchen. You can use organic, locally grown vegetables. You can use grass fed meats and natural fats. Sometimes we need inspiration to create a great meal though. And we totally understand. That's why many of us at Nutritional Weight & Wellness have been taking Marianne's awesome cooking classes. And I know I will be taking the Cooking Heart Healthy Meals class, which is coming up next week on July 20th. In this class and the July 22nd class, you will find Marianne in her very own kitchen. She'll be coming to you virtually via Zoom. And these fun, very educational classes, they're only $25. Sign up today online. You can go to weightandwellness.com. You can also just call 651-699-3438 to reserve your spot. So that sounds, doesn't that sound like a great one?
CASSIE: Marianne, they're all of hers are so great. And she's just got such a nice calm voice and yeah. Love, love her cooking classes.
KARA: Cassie, should I just wrap up? I think we left people hanging about cereal bars.
KARA: Just, you know, a lot of people will just grab like a granola bar or a cereal bar on their way out the door. But the thing about a cereal bar is it basically just has sugar, processed carbs, very little to no protein. So it is kind of like eating a cookie, but unfortunately it's being advertised as a healthy breakfast bar.
CASSIE: And sometimes there are bad fats in there. I mean, there can be a lot of…
KARA: Artificial sweeteners and sugar.
CASSIE: Yes. Yeah.
KARA: And so, you know, those things just will lead to the blood sugar roller coaster and more anxiety. We want to be eating meals of real food, animal protein, preferably from grass fed animals, vegetables, and beneficial fats. And that's, that's really the best place to start to support good psychological health.
CASSIE: Yep. Magic number three: meat, like you just said, vegetables, healthy fat. That's what you should be eating as you run out the door and you can make it quick. It could be a couple of hard boiled eggs and some grapes and some almonds, maybe like a, yeah, like a cereal bar is fast, but, but make it healthy and skip the cereal bars. Okay. So hopefully all of the listeners get it by now, right? High sugar foods, processed carbs; they can trigger anxiety, irritability, cravings. The list goes on and on. And I do want to say, if you'd like to learn more about this blood sugar connection to our moods, I encourage you to go back to our April 12th podcast, titled Nutrition and Mental Health. That was a great show. It was the founder of Nutritional Weight and Wellness, Darlene Kvist. And she was on with special guest, Dr. Leslie Korn, who's a behavioral medicine doctor.
KARA: That was a good one.
CASSIE: That was really good. So now we're going to add another piece to this puzzle because there's more things that could trigger anxiety. Now I want us to look at your gut health and how your gut health can affect your mental health and your anxiety. Our gut is so connected to our brain. The gut microbiome, in other words, all of the tiny microorganisms that live inside our intestines, especially if you have plenty of good bacteria down there in your intestines, that is so important for good mental health. And this really ties in with that sugar piece that we've been talking about for most of the hour. It's, it's sort of another case against sugar because a high sugar diet or a diet full of processed carbohydrates can interfere with that balance of good to bad bacteria in our intestines. And if we get that balance of good to bad bacteria out of whack for long enough, that can result in chronic inflammation. And if this chronic inflammation becomes systemic, if it's starts to creep to other areas of our body, because it's been lingering for so long, the research is showing that can be one of the root causes of your anxiety or of your depression. Now on the flip side, if your gut is healthy, if you have plenty of good bacteria down there and you don't have yeast overgrowth, then your brain will most likely be healthy. Again, it's that gut/brain connection.
KARA: Yeah. And it always surprises clients and even friends and family who are hearing this, that their gut in their brain are connected. And from the very beginning as a fetus, the gut and the brain are connected. And I wish we had a little bit more time to dive into that, you know, babies first are exposed to the good bacteria from breast milk or if there’s a vaginal birth.
CASSIE: Also from a vaginal birth. Yeah. So what if you weren't breastfed? What if you were C-section? And then what if you had a lot of ear infections? So you had antibiotics.
KARA: Yeah. Kind of be thinking about these things like, are you or your child maybe did you have more anxiety after a couple rounds of antibiotics? Even for a teenager, it could be for acne. So I encourage you, if that sounds like you, you know, pull up one of our podcasts on gut health and you can learn more about that.
CASSIE: There are so many things, so many things, besides just the antibiotics that can really mess up your gut health. And then that could be that link to your anxiety or your depression. So let's just reflect for a couple seconds here about what we've talked about so far. So first we talked a lot about how high sugar foods and processed carbs can trigger anxiety or, or bring on low moods. And now we've pulled in the gut piece. If your balance of good to bad bacteria in your gut is out of whack, that might be at the root cause of your anxiety or your depression. And now we're going to bring in a third piece. Now we want to talk about the damaging effects that gluten can cause for some people. And this again, I mean, it's really all tied because this connects to the gut/brain connection. If you're eating gluten and it's creating inflammation for you, if it's damaging your gut lining, here we have that gut/brain connection. You're messing up your gut health, and that is negatively affecting your brain. And for a lot of people, eating gluten interferes with the breakdown and the absorption of nutrients. And think about what that means over the course of many months or years. If gluten is interfering with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, then your body and your brain are going to start lacking key nutrients. And this is kind of at the root of what then puts you at an increased risk of developing anxiety or depression. Now, for some people, my oldest child included; for some people, when they eat gluten, they get gastrointestinal symptoms. So it could be acid reflux. It could be a stomach ache or constipation or diarrhea. And I think a lot of people associate the symptoms of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity with one or more of these digestive types of symptoms.
But the truth is a lot of people with celiac disease, a lot of people with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, never exhibit any of these digestive types of symptoms. But guess what does happen? Their reaction, their negative reaction to the gluten might be anxiety. It might be depression or irritability. It might be a lack of focus; sort of ADD or ADHD like symptoms, or it could be other behaviors related to the nervous system. But for, for a lot out of people, I guess bottom line what I'm trying to say is that eating gluten, it might not show up as digestive symptoms, but it might affect their brain or their nervous system negatively. And so you'll start to see these brain types of symptoms. And I want to bring in some information from Dr. Alessio Fasano. I love to follow him. I've read his books. I've heard him speak in person. He's the founder of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. And he really is a widely sought after expert in celiac disease and gluten related disorders. And he found that the protein in gluten increases gut permeability in all of us. Isn't that interesting? Not just in people with celiac; not just in people with a gluten sensitivity. Every human being who eats gluten is affected negatively to some degree, according to Dr. Fasano. Bottom line: humans are not designed to digest wheat. And we are coming up against the end of the hour. I had another great research study here I wanted to go into detail on. I'm not going to have time, but it was a study published in the Journal of Immunology that shows the link between eating gluten and neurological complications like neuropathy and seizures, anxiety, even ataxia. And if you're not familiar with ataxia, that is a condition that involves problems with coordination and balance; sometimes slurred speech. I'll have to share the details or I'll have to save the details of that for another day. Our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. Yes, it's a simple message, but it's a powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you for joining us today.