and Anxiety: Practical Techniques to Decrease Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Teleconference by Dr. Kristen Allott, N.D., L.Ac. As a Licensed Naturopathic
Physician and Acupuncturist, Dr. Allott specializes in non-pharmaceutical
interventions for anxiety, depression, addictions, and sugar cravings through
her private practice in Seattle, Washington.
primary focus of discussion of nutrition and anxiety focuses on
neuroglycopenia- the state when the brain is low in glucose. She indicates that
this physical state is often missed by general lab work-ups because it does not
correspond to measurements of hypoglycemia- low blood sugar. However, she
emphasizes the importance of low brain glucose because there are multiple
parallels between anxiety/rage and neuroglycopenia/hypoglycemia, including
irritability, fatigue, elevations in heart rate, and decreased concentration.
It is her belief that food intake can control the physical components of these
symptoms and therefore reduce the threshold at which these symptoms might be
triggered. She offers the following theory on how food intake can contribute to
reduce anxiety symptom thresholds:
Breakfast of high refined carbohydrates (cereal, bagels, scones, etc.) results
in blood glucose increase and makes insulin available for use at cellular
level. Then, 2 hours following breakfast, blood glucose starts to drop and the
brain waits for the body to make more glucose available. However, glucose stores are not
activated because either the body (unlike the brain) does not perceive the drop
in blood glucose or the insulin available is still high. In the meantime, the
glucose in the brain continues to drop, making the brain panic over a perceived
glucose deficit. This sets off a chain of commands stimulating an adrenaline
rush to help convert protein to glucose. As a result, glucose from protein will
go to the brain AND to fat cells. And at the brain level this adrenaline rush
hits the amygdala (emotional control center) and produces anxiety, irritation,
and a Fight OR Flight reactive state. So at this point, the brain is
functioning on its most basic primal level and the advanced executive function
components are not accessible due to the biological reaction.
eating carbohydrates your brain also creates more serotonin, which temporarily
creates the euphoric feeling that everything is going to be okay. This can be
thought of as a sugar high and develops into an ineffective coping strategy.
The only resolution is to go eat yet more carbohydrate, only 2 hours after the
first high carbohydrate meal.
protein along with carbohydrates at breakfast allows a 3 to 4 hour window
before the brain registers reduced blood glucose. This protein and carbohydrate
combination also allows a steady supply of glucose. In addition, the liver will
use the protein for fuel instead of competing with the brain for available
glucose. So the result is NO panic, no chain reaction or Fight/Flight response,
and no sugar cravings.
Based on Dr.
Allott’s theory, breakfast choice can in large part determine mood and reaction
levels for the remainder of the day.And it may not surprise you that Dr. Allott emphasizes the importance of
choosing high protein meals and snacks all day long. She references the common
misconception that Americans eat too much protein but points out that most
Americans eat all of their protein at dinner. She stipulates that an individual
actually needs 8 grams of protein per 20 pounds of body weight (e.g., 160lb
individual requires 65g of protein daily.) Her recommendations do not include
eliminating carbohydrates, like many of the current fad diets, because
carbohydrates are required to enable glucose to be used by the brain. However,
she highlights proteins such as nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, beans, and
meat as most beneficial.
increased protein intake, as outlined by Dr. Allott, include less fatigue,
better sleep quality, more energy, more stable moods, and higher metabolic
rates. She offers the following general guidelines for gaining these benefits:
Protein at every meal
Protein every 3.5 hours
Limit alcohol to
less than 5 servings per week
Dr. Allott delineates specific recommendations for protein intake as related to
anxiety symptoms. She notes that in the majority of panic attack cases she
treats, the patient had not eaten in over 4 hours prior to the attack and his
last meal was a high carbohydrate meal prior to the attack. She advocates
managing anxious physical states by influencing glucose levels; specifically,
eating a small quantity of carbohydrate and then immediately following with
protein for anxious physical states or middle of the night awakenings.
convinced that you are ready to give up your bagel? Dr. Allott offers an
experiment for testing the benefits of increased protein intake. She challenges
patients to consume protein rich meals every 3 hours for 3 days to assess the
differences in mood, energy, and reactive states with this level of fuel
available. By her logic, you can experience it yourself before you have to
More information about Dr. Allott and her nutritional
management services can be obtained through her website at www.dynamicpaths.com .