**This is a synopsis of an article published in MindBodyGreen by Dr. Vincent M. Pedre
Dr. Pedre is a medical doctor who specializes in gut health. On a daily basis, Dr. Pedre observes how the gut microbiome affects anxiety and other mental conditions. When the gut is functioning at an optimal level, Dr. Pedre reports a reduction in inflammation, an improvement in depressive and anxious behaviors, and an increase in hormones like serotonin (95 percent of “the feel good neurotransmitter” is produced in the gut).
Dr. Pedre shares staggering statistics reported by Alex Williams, author of the recent New York Times article, Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax:
- According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, some 38 percent of girls ages 13 through 17, and 26 percent of boys, have an anxiety disorder.
- A 2016 national study of more than 150,000 students by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University found anxiety has taken over depression as the No. 1 mental-health concern.
- According to Google Trends, the number of anxiety web searches has nearly doubled over the last five years.
Dr. Pedre offers a comprehensive approach to treating anxiety: balancing sleep (eight hours of quality sleep each night), lowering stress levels (using meditation and deep breathing), increasing exercise (yoga, high-intensity interval training (HIIT)), and improving nutrition and gut health.
Lowering anxiety requires a commitment to long-term lifestyle changes. He suggests beginning with a balanced, nutrient-dense daily meal plan:
BREAKFAST: A Calming Smoothie.
Dr. Pedre helps his patients tame their anxiety by overhauling their diets immediately. He says omitting “anxiety-inducing culprits” sugar and caffeine (the morning coffee, cream and sugar) are foremost. In place of coffee, he recommends a Zen Smoothie. It has soothing properties: it’s low on the glycemic scale, high in minerals, protein, Vitamin B3 and beta-carotene, and offers a full does of probiotic lactobacillus (which produce calming neurotransmitters).
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- ½ cup filtered water
- ½ cup plain organic kefir
- 1 scoop hemp protein powder
- 1 cup frozen organic blueberries
- ½ banana
- 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
- 1 teaspoon passion flower extract
- 1 teaspoon lucuma powder
- ½ teaspoon valerian root extract
- 2 to 3 ice cubes (optional)
- Add all ingredients in the order listed.
- Blend in a high-speed blender, making sure all ingredients are smoothly emulsified.
- Serve and enjoy while you get ready for work.
MIDMORNING: Green Tea.
Overuse of caffeine can have adverse affects on the entire system. In one study, researchers found significant connections between total weekly caffeine intake and mental disturbances like anxiety and depression. Dr. Pedre is not opposed to small doses of caffeine. He recommends green tea as a substitute for coffee because it has a lower dose of caffeine, as well as the anxiety lowering property, L-theanine.
Dr. Pedre writes, “[L-theanin] has a close resemblance to the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, but by binding to glutamate receptors it blocks the effects of glutamate, instead having an inhibitory, relaxing effect on the central nervous system. And it promotes the production of GABA—an inhibitory, relaxing neurotransmitter. The great thing is it does all this without causing drowsiness while actually improving alertness and focus.”
LUNCH: An Anti-Anxiety Salad.
Skipping meals causes blood sugar to crash resulting in feelings of anxiety and lethargy. Eating a midday meal rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants will keep your mood stabilized and give you energy throughout the rest of the afternoon.
Here’s a mood stabilizing salad recipe:
- Baby Spinach
- Protein (chicken, salmon or shrimp)
- Healthy Fat (avocado, walnuts, almonds or hemp hearts)
- Add your choice of raw carrots, scallions, red beets, radishes and broccoli
Dressing (Mix separately):
- 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon (about 2 lemons)
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
- Cracked black pepper (to taste)
Maintaining a ritual at the end of the day is an effective method of inducing sleep. Dr. Pedre recommends putting your electronics to bed before you begin your bedtime routine. Then, take a bath with Epsom salt, sip some chamomile or peppermint tea, and make time for 5 to 10 minutes of mindful breathing. Pay attention to your inhalation and exhalation. This will help unwind the mind and prepare the body for a good night’s rest.
MORNING RITUAL: Stretch & Meditate.
Begin the day how you ended it the night before: breathe. Dr. Pedre offers a guided breathing meditation:
Find a comfortable place to sit quietly where you won’t be disturbed. Begin to listen to your breath. Don’t try to change it; simply listen. How does it sound to you? Is it deep or shallow? Is it comfortable to breathe? Does breathing make your mind calm or anxious? Try not to judge this information. Give yourself the space to be curious about what you feel.
Now let the breath lead you around the body like a guide. Notice what you feel. What part of you moves easily with the breath so that it feels free and open? What part feels sore, agitated, tight, or disconnected? Slowly create movement in the places that feel tight. For example, if a part of your chest wall is not moving, then breathe into it and create more movement there. If a part of your abdomen feels tight, then take your breath there.
Listen to your body. Use this exercise to create more space in those areas.
He also recommends doing a 10-minute yoga routine to establish a relaxed foundation (parasympathetic state) before heading off to work. Dr. Pedre believes that this eating and lifestyle prescription is a start to resetting your anxiety meter for life.
Interested in more? Read the full article here.
**Please consult with your doctor before trying a new diet plan.
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