Five Triggers for Anxiety (That Your Doctor Might Not Tell You About)

What’s Behind Your Anxiety?

If you struggle with anxiety or depression, you know it affects your entire life. It affects how you move (or don’t move), your concentration, your ability to sleep, your interactions with others, even your bathroom habits. Because anxiety is on the rise, and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, I want to share some little-known triggers for anxiety that you may not be hearing about from anyone else!

Like everything I share, remember that your body’s response to food or internal/external stressors is individual to YOU. What is a trigger for one person might not be a trigger for you. Being aware of how your unique body responds to this world is only something you can determine.

Five triggers for your anxiety that your doctor might not tell you about: 

  1. Artificial sweeteners and dyes – not only do they disrupt nervous system function, but sucralose decreases beneficial gut bacteria and aspartame increases anxiety and depression (just another reason to lay off the Diet Coke). Sweeteners can also negatively impact blood sugar – which can increase panic attacks! Food dyes may trigger “mind-storms,” which are issues with the brain’s wiring or electrical activity. No bueno!
  2. Too much screen time – blue light from screens can suppress the hormone melatonin which is needed for restful sleep. Screens can also disrupt the calming neurotransmitter Gaba, along with serotonin – the happy one.
  3. Magnesium deficiency – magnesium calms your nervous system and prevents the creation of excess cortisol, the stress hormone. Some call it “nature’s Xanax.” It’s needed for just about every process in the body. It’s found in nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens, but it’s also an inexpensive supplement! Two of my favorite formulations are the Plexus one, here, or Nutritional Frontiers, here.
  4. Excess caffeine – a little is fine, but too much can stimulate the fight or flight response and trigger racing thoughts, or even panic attacks. Some people metabolize it slower than others, so keep that in mind when you have your afternoon coffee or tea break – your mind might be racing at 1 am!
  5. Stored trauma that hasn’t been addressed – trauma can keep our bodies in that constant fight or flight state, which can lead to poor sleep, inability to concentrate, and panic attacks. Fortunately, there are a wide range of trauma therapies, and many mind-body strategies available to help your body unlock trauma and heal! EMDR and EFT (tapping) are two of the most popular. The wellness center I work with has some amazing trauma therapists and resources here.

Honorable mention:
Blood sugar issues: when we’re riding that blood sugar roller coaster it can cause all sorts of poor mental health symptoms. Limit sugar consumption to limit the swing. Consume plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, brain-boosting fats and quality protein with each meal. Many times we fail to fill up on necessary nutrients so we stay hungry, reaching for quick fix glucose fuel and perpetuating the cycle of brain fog and hunger.

Poor digestion: If you can’t digest protein, you can’t make the neurotransmitters needed for mental health. Period. You know that old saying, “you are what you eat?” It’s not true. It should be, “You are what you are able to digest.” When we can’t create serotonin from our food nutrients, we can’t access melatonin either, which affects mood AND sleep. Taking digestive enzymes and working on gut health can help, something I love helping people with!

The next round of Feast 2 Fast, an online coaching group that pairs science-based nutrition principles with timeless spiritual truth to reset your mind, body, and soul starts May 3. Join the wait list here.

You Are What You Think

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And let me take that further. You are what you think about what you eat.

Every thought you think is a chemical messenger that sends signals to the rest of your body. Your body doesn’t know the difference between a real threat or a perceived threat.

Let that sink in. The physical effect of a negative thought, whether it is reality or not, will have a negative impact on your entire body.

If you’re stressing about every bite you take and how many calories or points it is – your body will only hear “I am stressed and fearful.”

If you’re beating yourself up for a bad macro ratio, or you didn’t put the right amounts in the right colored containers, your body will hear, “She’s freaking out, time to activate survival mode.” Your digestion will suffer, and so will your hormonal health, blood pressure, and much more – including your immune system. (Psst – if you don’t believe me, look up the studies on psychoneuroimmunology – it’s pretty fascinating)

Change the way you talk about your body. Change the way you talk about your food. Your body is on your side, and will pick up on the signals you send it.

Eat what nourishes you, and be grateful for all the processes your body incorporates to keep you healthy and safe! Toxic thoughts are toxic for your body. It’s time to change the script you read to yourself every day!

For more on this, check out ReFOCUS 21, my new 21 day body image freedom and food peace course starting February 1.

Should You Practice Fasting?

Should you try fasting this year?

That’s a hot topic question right now!

Fasting is a practice that has been implemented for thousands of years for a variety of reasons. It isn’t a dieting trend, though it is often misunderstood as another weight loss quick fix. While there are plenty health experts promoting it as a great option to bring balance to your body, optimize insulin sensitivity and support digestion, there are others who treat fasting as if it’s a type of starvation tool that will lead to an eating disorder.

This is why fasting must be addressed with an individualized approach – what I teach in my Feast 2 Fast program!

Most people can benefit from different types of fasts, whether it is a true water fast, or fat fast, or even a bone broth fast. It is a good way to improve your health, and it can be a beneficial spiritual discipline as well.

The majority of studies on the trendy 16:8 style of intermittent fasting have been done on men and postmenopausal women, so it’s important for women who still have a menstrual cycle to nourish hormones and not restrict food too much at all cycle phases. That can really backfire and cause stress to your body!

My advice? Start with a 12 hour fast. Everyone can benefit from a 12 hour break between their last meal and first meal. And hey – if you’re sleeping 8 hours at night most of your fasting will happen then, which makes it even easier!

Want to make fasting work for you, while also learning how to incorporate more nutrient density into your real life? Join my four week Feast 2 Fast program that starts January 4!

This program is one of the most science-based approaches to health I have seen! But we don’t just target physical health; that’s secondary. Every day you will receive nourishment for your soul in the form of a short devotional. We even meet weekly on Zoom to individualize our approaches to even more!

For more details, and to sign up, click here

Past Participants Say This:

“Through Feast 2 Fast I learned to listen to the natural cues from my body. After years of dieting I had stopped listening to the natural cues like hunger. Feast 2 Fast slowed me down and forced me to listen and learn what is best for my body and not just follow it because some ‘diet’ tells me it’s right. It literally brought joy back to my relationship with food!!” – Jen

“The feast to fast program allowed me to stop and really think about the way food affects me. It was truly like a reset and I now feel more in-tune with my body and mind! I lost a lot more weight than I expected and gained confidence in my ability to listen to my body!! That is priceless!” – Laura

Join the program here!

What to Cook When You’re Sick of Cooking

Thanksgiving was last week and I think many may be suffering from “kitchen fatigue.” Whether it’s the limitless sides and casseroles and baking, or unending prep and clean up, I know there are many of you out there who just don’t want to think about food after a holiday.

So let’s get back to basics. Let’s keep it simple! Step inside my kitchen for a second, and I will share my favorite ways for simplifying cooking in a way that packs in the nutrients.

The first thing I do after a time of celebrating or a big holiday is consider how I can up my veggie load again. Veggies make me feel good and my brain clear, and even though I turned just about every vegetable I know of into some kind of casserole for Thanksgiving dinner, I missed the simplicity of roasting them or throwing them into a quick salad.

This is where my favorite tried and true principle of “cook once, eat a few times” comes in.

Continue reading “What to Cook When You’re Sick of Cooking”

My Top 5 Mood-Boosting Foods

I take eating for my mental health seriously. I don’t prescribe to a specific diet or style of eating, but there are numerous studies out there showing that food IS mood. For those of us who fight a mood disorder of any kind, the way we eat can impact brain health.

Because our gut microbiome produces necessary neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA, plus 90% of our mood neurotransmitter serotonin, what we digest in our gut matters. What we feed our gut impacts what our brain receives.

Not all things will be digested equally by all people. Every BODY is unique, just like every brain is unique. But generally speaking, the foods I list here can be a wonderful addition to any body and brain!

Here are 5 of my favorite mood-boosters that I always try to add to my day:

Continue reading “My Top 5 Mood-Boosting Foods”

Top Reasons to Try Dry January

I know you probably woke up wondering: how does our casual alcohol habit impact blood sugar, hormones, and mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder?

Okay, maybe you didn’t wake up wondering that. That was just me. Either way, let’s go there today.

First off, what we consider an occasional drink here and there may actually be more than we realize. Female alcohol use disorder increased by 83.7% from 2002 to 2013, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. High-risk drinking (which is only 3 drinks in a 2 hour time period or over 8 drinks per week) increased by 58%, and alcohol related deaths increased by 85%! Continue reading “Top Reasons to Try Dry January”

Food Sensitivity Test Results (and a coupon code)!

In case you didn’t know by now, I’m kind of a gut nerd.  Learning about the different ways my body responds to various foods has made such an impact on my overall health and well-being. That’s why I was so excited to finally take a food sensitivity test with EveryWell. They test for reactions to 96 different food items.

The kit comes with all the instructions you need for a finger prick test. (Embarrassing side note – I had to get the husband to prick my finger because I was too nervous to do it on my own.) Then I squeezed blood onto a little card with circles to drop the blood samples, and mailed it into the bag they provided. 

Continue reading “Food Sensitivity Test Results (and a coupon code)!”

Immune Boosting Tips for 2019

It’s that time of year – some like to call it Cold and Flu Season, but some of us in the nutrition world call it Sugar and Lack of Sun Season. Recently I wrote all about sugar cravings, but what I failed to mention is that sugar suppresses the immune system.  As days get shorter and colder, we get less sunlight… meaning less vitamin D which our immune systems need as well.

So what to do to strengthen our bodies this time of year?

Here are 5 ways to boost your immune system for fall and winter (to see more tips in more detail, check out last year’s immune boosting tips here). Continue reading “Immune Boosting Tips for 2019”

What’s the Deal with Sugar Cravings?

I feel like I have ultimate credibility when it comes to sugar cravings. I battled them for most of my life. There are many factors at play there: gut dysbiosis, adrenal fatigue, low dopamine, and nutrient deficiencies, but one of the biggest hurdles is that I had a HORRIBLE relationship with food.

I was a chronic dieter. There were good foods, there were bad foods, and somewhere in that system of thinking I associated good food and bad food with Good Erin and Bad Erin. My food issues became intertwined with my value as a human.

While one of the best things I have ever done is address my gut health and nutrient deficiencies, I also have received so much healing from normalizing sugar.

If I want something sweet, I have it. When I allow myself the freedom to have whatever I want, nothing off limits, the appeal of the forbidden goes down. In fact, I’m better able to take a few bites of something and tell if it’s worth eating. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

img_8341 Continue reading “What’s the Deal with Sugar Cravings?”

Simple Salad Dressing Tips

If you and I toured the grocery store together for a little education on label reading and what to avoid and what to include, one of our first stops would be the salad dressing aisles.

Why? Well, most salad dressings are LOADED with ingredients that will do much more damage to your health and well-being than good. ESPECIALLY those lovely labels that trick you with words like “light” and “reduced fat.”

Now, knowing that most veggies contain fat soluble vitamins, which means we NEED fat to absorb them, why in the world would we throw on a dressing that is reduced fat?

>>Pause here. If you are following ANY kind of eating plan that promotes light or reduced fat dressing, it’s time for a new plan!<<

Don’t get me started. One of reasons I hated salads for years is because they never filled me up for more than an hour (there are other reasons I go into here, but I won’t go there now).

When I load my salad up with the RIGHT kind of fat, I feel fuller longer. It’s better for my mental health and way tastier. Most bottled dressings contain canola oil, soybean oil, and/or a bunch of random artificial chemicals and sugar. For example, even the Newman’s Own Olive Oil Blend, which seems to be a pretty safe option, contains soybean and/or canola oil added to it!

My favorite brands for dressings with yummy brain fats are Primal Kitchen and Tessamae’s. I’ve heard Bragg vinaigrette is awesome, but I haven’t tried it yet.

It is much cheaper and nourishing to my body and brain to make my own dressing. I put the ingredients in a small mason jar, shake them up, and store it in the fridge. I don’t like soggy lettuce and a lot of dressing, so I may use less than some.

Keep your oil and vinegar to a 3:1 ratio, and get creative with spices! Here is my favorite combination.

Favorite Salad Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or apple cider, red wine, etc)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Dash of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, lemon juice, lime juice, get creative!

Combine in a mason jar and shake. Serve immediately or store in fridge for up to a week.