What I Am Learning About Diet and Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic

I am social distancing and spending time #boredathome.

I am with my family which keeps me very busy but because of the shutdown, I am no longer commuting which has freed up some time to focus on family self improvement.

My teenage kids are now taking classes from home. For the first time in a long while, we are together 24/7. One unique benefit of this pandemic is that our family is forced to spend intensive time together.

The downside to being stuck inside with family is that inevitably one of us is in a mood, or feeling anxious or depressed and there is no easy escape when you can’t leave the house. After a couple of fights and people storming off from the dinner table, I started to look for simple, easy solutions to calm our household down.

One of the things I began to notice is how sensitive my kids’ moods and anxiety are to diet and exercise. The reality is that during this period we are not moving around as much – we’re walking less and not going to the gym, etc. We’re all spending more time on our screens. When my kids are not studying, they are on their phones, watching TikTok videos or virtually hanging out with their friends on HouseParty.

Before COVID-19, I was heavier than I wanted to be. My diet and my family’s diet was not that bad in my opinion. We don’t eat a ton of sweets or junk food. No one drinks alcohol or soda. But, I knew the temptation during this stressful period would be to binge eat. My family are expert stress eaters!

I did some research, and found a study from Harvard Medical School and learned that “diet is such an important component of mental health that it has inspired an entire field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry.”

“There is overwhelming evidence supporting the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle for, oh, just about everything: preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and mental health disorders, including depression.”

I also spoke to my pharmacist, Taylor Froiland of Medmetrics Pharmacy in Scottsdale, Arizona. Taylor told me that with diet, a small change can make a huge difference.

I love bread. But I found myself craving it all the time. I have enough self awareness to know that if I am craving something it is probably not good for me.

Also, I love having something sweet in the evening. Chocolate, a small bowl of ice cream, a piece of cake, something, anything!

So, I decided to make 3 changes to our diet:

  • Reduce/eliminate white bread
  • Reduce/eliminate sugar
  • Introduce vitamins, minerals, probiotics, enzymes and herbal extracts

For these changes to work, I knew they had to be invisible to my family. No one in my family is keeping a food journal or counting their calories. We have impulse control issues when it comes to food and when we are anxious and depressed can turn to the ‘see food’ diet pretty quickly.

Here is how I did it:

I stopped buying bread, and processed and sugary foods at the grocery store

For me, I found that it is easier to be disciplined when I am shopping for groceries rather than eating. I put a shopping list together when I wasn’t hungry and stuck to the list. I applied “out of sight, out of mind” since we tend to eat what is visible. There is a ton of research that shows that the simple act of choosing better food to have in the house can lower your body mass index.

I started buying more fresh cut fruits and vegetables

At my grocery store they are sold out of pasta and processed foods. Crazy – no junk food available!

What they have left oddly enough is healthy, fresh foods – fruits, vegetables, etc.

I started buying the fresh food that they have prepared in the trays and leaving them out for my family. These trays got cleaned out everyday. We could eat as much of this food as we wanted.

I started encouraging 20 minutes of play or exercise everyday

How I thought, do I do this without becoming a nag? My kids are on TikTok all the time. After begging them to teach me – which they refused – I downloaded the app myself and started watching videos. Warning! They are very addictive and I think I have replaced my bread craving with a TikTok obsession!

I discovered that on TikTok, they have dance and exercise videos set to really cool music. You can battle, or do duets with other families and people. After creating a video with our dog, I convinced my kids to do a dance video with me.

It was so fun that now they are asking me to make videos with them. We keep our videos private so no one else sees them. The best part is that we are getting exercise as a family.

I introduced herbal extracts, vitamins, and minerals into our diet

95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with 100 million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. For mood support, I am taking 2 capsules per day of Tranquilene.

Tranquilene contains GABA and Serotonin boosters and I find that it really helps me remain calm.

To enhance my healthy eating, I am taking all-natural supplements. For immune support, I am taking 2 capsules per day of Ayurvedic Ashwagandha and Olive Leaf Extract.

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, few herbal compounds are prescribed more than ashwagandha (withania somnifera) for nerve and immune support, healthy joints, reproductive health, anxiety relief, energy normalization, and as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals. No wonder it is often called Indian Ginseng.

olive leaf extract

Olive leaf extract is a natural source of wellness. Research suggests that olive leaf compounds may enhance the body’s efforts to fight invading organisms via two different processes. Firstly, they appear to stimulate phagocytosis (the process in which immune system cells engulf and destroy invading organisms), and secondly by interfering with the ability of bacteria and viruses to replicate themselves and cause infection – gastroprotective (protects digestive system).

The Results

After 3 days of not having bread, I stopped craving it. I started to lose weight and my digestion improved. I actually went from craving carbs to an aversion to this type of food. My daily supplement routine also helps regulate my mood.

My kids became less grumpy almost instantly and the whole house calmed down. There was some whining at first that there was no ice cream in the house, and at breakfast they asked for the sugary cereal. The whining was for the most part momentary and went away when they found something else to eat.

These adjustments to our diet combined with exercise have helped everyone’s anxiety and depression and brought us closer together as a family.

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