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Could a simple dietary change stop panic attacks?


It starts with a feeling of being unwell, spaced out, light-headed or shaky. What follows can be frightening –   your heart beats faster, breathing gets shallow and your chest can feel tight. These are typical symptom of panic attacks.

What happens during a panic attack?

When you begin to feel unwell this is because your blood sugar levels are dipping. Common symptoms of this include:

–         Light headedness

–         Nervousness

–         Shaking/Tremors

–         Anxiety

–         Headaches

–         Irritability

It is dangerous for your blood sugar levels to dip too low and so your body kicks in with a ‘stress’ response from the adrenal glands. This response is a huge rush of adrenalin whose purpose is to encourage the liver to release its glycogen stores to replenish blood sugar levels. However, the side effects of this ruch of adrenalin include rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and heightened responses. Some people also experience digestive symptoms like stomach pain and diarrhoea or sickness and this are all produced by the adrenalin release.

Reactive hypoglycaemia.
These symptoms are a product of reactive hypoglycaemia. When blood sugar rises and falls and fails to find balance. This is not usually picked up through a standard blood sugar test that is looking to rule out diabetes.

Reactive Hypoglycaemia can be controlled through careful dietary choices. Elements of the diet that can cause it include regular consumption of sugary, starchy foods and caffeine. It is particularly common in habitual coffee drinkers.

The best way to control blood sugar is through eating regular meals and snacks (skipping meals is a big no –no!) and making sure that those meals contain good levels of protein. A good choice of snack could be nuts/nut butter, eggs or meat/poultry. Team the protein source up with wholegrains or vegetables rather than refined starches (white bread, rice, etc).

Other factors that can affect blood sugar balance include food intolerances – eating foods that affect you can precipitate blood sugar imbalances, provoking an adrenaline response. If you want to look further at food intolerance testing then do get in touch with us.

Magnesium deficiency.
And lastly, it’s not possible to cover blood sugar imbalances, anxiety and panic attacks without considering magnesium deficiency. Blood sugar imbalances will obliterate your magnesium stores. If you drink plenty of coffee or eat sugary foods your magnesium levels are being depleted daily. This is not good news when you know that magnesium is nature’s tranquiliser.  It is a powerful nutrient as far as anxiety is concerned. Likewise, it’s deficiency has far-reaching consequences for our peace of mind. Common deficiency signs include:

–         Difficulty breathing

–         Anxiety

–         Chest tightness

–         Muscle tightness

–         Disturbed sleep

–         Tics

The easiest and safest way to quickly replenish your magnesium levels is to take a warm bath containing two cups of Epsom salts. Magnesium from Epsom salts is absorbed through the skin allowing stores to be replenished. You can also add extra leafy green vegetables, meat stocks and nuts to your daily diet or look into ways to improve your digestion.

Author: Sarah Hanratty

Sarah is a specialist practitioner at the Brain Food Clinic. She has a degree in Nutritional Medicine and is a certified Gut and Psychology Syndrome Practitioner. Sarah helps people to overcome physical and mental health issues using bespoke nutritional protocols.

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