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October 2, 2016

By Dr. Yasaman Meek, ND & Dr. Nicole Cain, ND MA

If you suffer from anxiety or panic, then this article is for you. There are many causes of anxiety and you can feel like yourself again by getting to the root cause of why you have anxiety. Here are some powerful tips on how to eat your way into health.


The top 6 edible causes of anxiety may be lurking in your food pantry:

  • Food dyes
  • Food sensitivities
  • Fried foods
  • Food additives
  • False Fuel
  • Fructose


Your body is like a car: Well-tuned and containing the proper amount and type of fuel, fluid, and energy, your car will function with optimal performance. But if your gas-tank is filled with Kool-Aid instead of premium-unleaded gasoline, you will experience major problems. This is the same with your body. What you put in it will impact performance and your overall health.

Avoiding the 6 F’s may not only impact your all around emotional and mental wellness, but cleaning out your pantry and focusing on healthy eating may have positive powerful impacts on your other symptoms as well.

  1. Food Dyes
    • Known as: Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 3, Red 40, Green 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, FD&C Lakes, Citrus Red 2, Artificial Color.
    • Found in: many processed foods such as frosting, cereals, pizza crust, baked goods, candies, gums, most commercial pickles, some multivitamins, cough syrups and chips.
    • Impact: disrupts nervous system function. Contributes to mood swings and phobias. Causes difficulty concentrating.
    • Solution: read labels carefully! If it has any of the above dyes listed or any other ingredients you cannot identify—don’t buy it. Instead, buy organic products or fresh foods.
  2. Food sensitivities
    • Two of the top food sensitivities I see in clinical practice are gluten and dairy, however you should talk with your naturopathic doctor about what kinds of foods are best for you.
    • Other words for gluten: wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, faro, graham, khorasan wheat), barley, rye, triticale, malt, brewer’s yeast.
    • Other words for dairy: casein, whey, lactose
    • Gluten is found in: cereals, crackers, breads, pastas, sauces, breading, baked goods, beer, granola bars, and others.
    • Dairy is found in: baked goods, pie, bread, ice cream, canned foods, sour cream, cheese, milk, crackers, and so much more.
    • Impact of eating food allergies: nutrients aren’t absorbed properly. Can cause irritability, and trigger panic attacks. Lowers the “feel-good” neurotransmitterserotonin, which helps lower anxiety. Causes difficulty focusing and brain fog. (The interaction with serotonin is why medications that affect serotonin also cause many side effects in the digestive tract and not just the brain).
    • Solution: gluten/dairy/allergy-free food options! There are so many allergen-free options nowadays. Just make sure to read the labels to avoid any additives!
  3. Fried foods (Trans Fats)
    • Found in: certain peanut butters, baked goods, many chips, fried foods like French fries or fried chicken, margarine and creamers.
    • Impact: raise your “bad” cholesterol and lowers your “good” cholesterol. Increases anxiety levels and the risk for depression. Is associated with aggression and causes memory impairment
    • Solution: eat healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts…)
  4. Food additives (MSG, Aspartame, HFCS): MSG is also known as monosodium glutamate and HFCS is also known as high fructose corn syrup.
    • Found in: gums, sweeteners, creamers, soups, salad dressings, snack foods, frozen foods, deli meats and broths.
    • Impact: triggers panic attacks, headaches, sweating and chest pain. Causes palpitations, behavioral disturbances, irritability, aggression, insomnia and phobias.
    • Solution:read labels carefully, and not just what is on the front of the packaging. Avoid flavorful salty snack-foods as many contain MSG. When eating out, avoid buffets, and chain-style restaurants, as most of their foods will contain MSG and HFCS. Opt for restaurants that serve whole fresh foods.
  5. False fuel (Caffeine)
    • Found in: coffee, teas, energy drinks
    • Impact: that delicious “cup of joe” in the morning can trigger anxiety or enhance it, as well as cause symptoms like increased heart rate and palpitations.
    • Solution: get plenty of water and sleep. Try a glass of refreshing mint ginger lemonade for some energy.
  6. Fructose (Sugar)
    • Found in: fruits and fruit juices, honey, maple syrup, sweet wines, soda, energy drinks, sweetened teas, baked goods, and ice creams.
    • Impact: causes moods swings and triggers panic attacks.
    • Solution: only use small amounts of raw honey (ideally the honey will be locally produced) sparingly throughout a week (unless diabetic).

If you have been suffering from anxiety, take a look at the types of foods you eat daily. Ask yourself if you are eating mostly packaged foods, frozen foods, or eating out. If so, begin to introduce fresh, whole foods into your diet. It can be as easy as starting your day with a green smoothie (see below for recipe). A well-balanced, nutrient dense diet goes a long way. Want to start feeling better today? You will most likely begin to feel more at peace after clearing the 6 F’s from your pantry and from your diet.


Green Smoothie Recipe

  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 stalk kale
  • Handful of parsley
  • ½ cup spinach
  • 1 lime or lemon
  • Small piece of ginger (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 fruit of choice
  • 1 cup water (add more if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed


Dr Yas in Tempe

Dr. Yasaman Meek is a naturopathic physician working at the Integrative Mental Health Center in Scottsdale, AZ. She attended the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ where she received extensive medical training in conventional and traditional medicine. Her interest is in working with individuals who are experiencing digestive concerns, sleep disturbances, and mood dysfunction, with an emphasis on the mental and emotional aspects of disease. She firmly believes that it is possible for every person to achieve his or her greatest well-being. Through restoring health, her patients find the clarity and direction to lead their lives and do what it is they truly love and enjoy. During her down time, she loves to go hiking and explore new trails.

To learn more about Dr. Cain and her practice, please visit:

For more articles like this and to learn about the Gut Psychology Program, go to


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F.Bellisle, J.E.Blundel, L.Dye, M.Fantino, E.Fern, R.J.Fletcher, J.Lambed, M.Roberfroid, S. Specter, J. Westenhofer, and M. S.Westerterp-Plantenga. “Functional food science and behaviour and psychological functions”, British Journal of Nutrition, (1998), 80, Suppl. 1, S173-S193.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J. “Stress, Food, and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at the Cutting Edge”. Psychosom Med. Published online 2010 Apr 21. doi:  10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181dbf489.

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Mercola, J. “Fructose Overload Infographic”. Retrieved on July 12, 2016 from

Sanders, H., “What is Fructose and Is it Bad for You?” Retrieved on April 3rd, 2018 from 

Anderson, J. “An Overview of Celiac Disease”. Retrieved on June 10th, 2019 from