It’s happened again.
Anxiety rushes through your body.
Your nerves are on hyper alert, your breath quickens and your mind floods with fearful thoughts—you can’t calm yourself.
If only you could make this feeling stop or prevent it. Well, maybe you can.
You just need to ask yourself the right questions…
How did you get here? Where did this anxiety come from?
Your diet could play a crucial role.
Some foods by their nature are more likely to cause anxiety after eating, especially for sensitive dudes. And if you’re one of them, the following four could be the source of your torment.
4 foods that cause anxiety after eating (And a word about vices)
I first learned of the four foods below, also known as CATS, through my friend Detlef Beeker’s book Anxiety is an Illusion. These foods have been linked to anxiety in sensitive people.
As you read the list, you’ll quickly notice all these foods are vices.
And you may start to think, “Hey dude, aren’t you being a bit of a hypocrite here? Your logo is holding two beers!”
True dat on the logo.
If you’ve read An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Meditation, you know I had severe anxiety close to 20 years ago. But beer has never been a problem for me. However, caffeine has, even today.
Which is why I like to use a technique called the Windshield Effect to balance myself.
The Windshield Effect happens when you use meditation as a way to clear out negative emotions. Just like windshield wipers remove rain, dust and other obstructions from your vision, meditation can clear out anxiety, depression and other harmful emotions that cloud your mind.
In addition to the Windshield Effect, time between consumption of these vices can also keep anxiety at bay.
For example, I don’t drink coffee every day (spreading out the time between consumption). And if I overdue it and down one too many cups, I’ll throw in an extra day’s meditation session (Windshield Effect) to soothe my nerves.
So without further ado, here are four foods that can cause anxiety.
1. Sugar rush. Sugar crash. Sugar anxiety attack.
They seem so innocent. All the bright, colorful packaging that dots the cookie, cereal and ice creams aisles at the grocery store. They’re like passageways into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, a playground of sweet goodness that most dudes can’t resist.
Damn, sugar tastes so freakin’ good.
But could it be causing your anxiety?
You’re probably familiar with the ups and downs of sugar. When you swig a coke or devour a bowl of ice cream, you get a high. And then the inevitable crash comes, along with feelings of lethargy, foggy-headedness and perhaps a bit grumpiness.
These wild sugar mood swings can lead to anxiety.
And according to Psychology Today, your brain could interpret sugar crash symptoms as a sign of a panic attack, increasing your worry and fear further.
So what’s an anxiety-ridden dude to do?
Well, don’t just minimize the obvious sugar culprits. Common foods like ketchup, pasta, salad dressings and white bread can all be loaded with sugar, and therefore could cause anxiety after eating. So be sure to read your labels before grabbing that next loaf of Wonder bread.
2. Mochas, Red Bulls and teas, oh my!
With a Starbucks on every other block, red bulls a common sight at nightclubs and bars, and tea houses filling out trendy neighborhoods, it may seem like everyone drinks caffeine.
It is socially acceptable, after all.
So you wouldn’t necessarily expect that quaint, little cup of tea to cause crazy anxiety.
But it can.
And as mentioned earlier, caffeine is the one food on this list which I must personally be mindful of, because it sometimes causes me anxiety. Which is why I often rely on these 8 Caffeine alternatives to wake up.
But this isn’t just a personal observation. Harvard Medical School notes that caffeine can mimic anxiety symptoms, such as nervousness, a faster heart rate and stomach problems. And according to Healthline, studies have shown that these mimicking symptoms can trigger an anxiety attack.
Sounds scary, huh?
Well, it can be if you’re prone to anxiety.
However, you should note that each person’s body reacts differently to caffeine. Even if you have anxiety, you may be completely unaffected by it. So just pay attention to how you feel after you drink coffee, tea or even when you eat chocolate (yes, it contains caffeine). More on this later.
3. When beer is not a blessing
Just like caffeine…beer, wine and spirits are culturally accepted. Hell, I even promote alcohol on the covers of all my Ordinary Dude Guides!
Which is why it pains me to list one of my favorite beverages as a cause of anxiety.
Frankly, alcohol doesn’t give me the jitters. But everyone is different and facts don’t lie.
According to the Imperial College of London Professor David Nutt, alcohol inhibits the activity of nerve cells in the brain. Essentially, when you drink, you dull your mind—which is why almost everyone feels a sense of relaxation and ease when they knock back a few beers.
Unfortunately, this blocking of nerve activity has its drawbacks.
It creates a chemical imbalance in your brain, which the body works to correct once you’re passed out and done for the night.
According to Professor Nutt, a withdrawal happens at this point, which can cause anxiety for some. And this anxiety can last for a few hours to an entire day.
So if you’re one of those unlucky dudes who fall into a constant haze of anxiety after beers, balance out your boozing with the Windshield Effect mentioned above, or more days/weeks in between drinks.
There’s no shame in drinking less, or even cutting out alcohol altogether. And if you do, I’ll forgive you.
If we ever meet up, your O’ Doul’s or virgin mojito is on me, dude.
4. Cigarettes, stogies and (my personal fave) hookahs
While not as socially acceptable as the last two items on this list, lots of dudes still smoke.
I even enjoy a good stogie and hookah from time to time, though I quit cigarettes over a decade ago now.
That said, any dude who’s tried to stop, knows quitting is a formidable challenge. But it’s one that’s well worth it if tobacco is the source of your anxiety woes.
Multiple studies have noted a link between smoking and anxiety.
The reason is much the same as other foods on this list: tobacco changes the chemical balance of the brain and, when consumed regularly, can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
I do understand how incredibly hard it is to quit. I used to love smoking myself. And if it hadn’t been for the negative effects (specifically sinus congestion) that smoking caused me, I’d probably be writing this post puffing on a ciggy right now.
So if you are trying to quit, check out An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Habit for help. In the book, I provide 23 tactics I’ve used to change literally dozens of habits over the years, including smoking.
As an alternative, I’ve heard great things about Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. Might be worth a look.
How to stop anxiety after eating
It’s all about awareness.
You just have to know if a specific food is at the core of your anxiety.
How do you discover this?
In my friend Julia Brodska’s book Best Life-ing, she notes you should always measure how you feel after doing something—not before or during the task.
So when it comes to eating, pay attention to how you feel an hour or two after a meal.
All the foods mentioned in this article feel great going down. I mean really, how often do dudes look sad when they’re stuffing their face with pizza and ice cream?
Using this technique myself, I’ve recently quit sugary bubble tea because (low and behold) two hours after drinking it, I’d feel like complete garbage.
Could something similar be happening to you?
If you pay attention to your mood after a meal, you may realize that a food you love is actually causing you anxiety after eating. In which case, you may want to learn from my bubble tea example and kick your habit, clearing away the crappy feelings in the process.
Terrible anxiety can become a thing of your past
I am living proof.
My panic attacks and terrifying anxiety bouts which were once a constant presence in my life, disappeared after many years of practicing meditation and habit change.
While anxiety can have many causes, food no doubt is one of them.
So if you’re lost as to where to start with curing anxiety (and you’ve already seen a doctor, as I recommend that be your first option), then examine your diet. It may hold the secret to the source of your anxiety—and reveal a pathway to a more enjoyable, light and fun life.
You can get there.