Anxiety Stress & The Food that Caused It

If you had told me six months ago that we’d be living this way, I would have giggled and shoved another powdered donut from a bag into my mouth.

I mean, I’m not the mom who reads all of the labels, chooses organic over regular, and advocates for chemical-free, preservative-free, artificial flavor-free foods. I’m too busy for all of that… or so I thought.

I was not a “crunchy” mom in any way, unless I was crumbling up some Doritos to add to the top of my casserole for texture.

Until about 8 weeks ago…

It was the end of the day, and I was standing in my kitchen wondering why I was more anxious than usual… wondering why my daughter who is a lot like me was struggling more than usual, too. She’s like a little canary that one – sensitive to things others might miss or be able to tolerate.

And like me, she seemed to be struggling.

We were easily worked up, easily agitated, harder to calm, and had a hard time focusing.

My daughter was displaying so many of the behaviors that she had when she was younger and we hadn’t yet realized that she had a severe sensitivity to food-dyes.

Moms of kids with extreme sensitivities to food-dye know exactly what I mean when I say my daughter was acting like I had given her a glass of red Kool-Aid. *YIKES* 

I wondered if it was our move across the country. Were we just stressed? Our entire lives had just changed, but it seemed too similar to what we had experienced in the past that was related to food, and this time… it wasn’t just my daughter… it was me, too.

Everything had seemed fine, until all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

That night in my kitchen, I decided to look for answer, and did what ever good mom does. I asked Google for help.

Can I just say this? Never underestimate the power of a mom with access to Google, because what I found changed our lives. And I’m not over-exaggerating.

***Before I go on, I need to stop and say this. I’m not a doctor. Yes, I have a doctor. I consult my doctor often. But here on this website, I’m just a mom sharing her experiences that should not be mistaken for medical advise.***

Backstory: I have a genetic disorder that hinders how a certain enzyme works. The MTHFR gene, short for Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase, is necessary for methylation, a metabolic process that switches genes on and off, repairs DNA and many other important things.

Sounds important. Right? It is.

MTHFR is often linked directly to anxiety, and is likely the root of the anxiety I experience. I knew this already.

What I learned that night in my kitchen is that methylation is responsible for is the breakdown of histamine.

Isn’t histamine good? What’s the matter with extra histamine?

You might immediately think of an allergic reaction when I mention histamine. Histamine helps keep your body safe from outside intruders. It causes your blood vessels to swell so that your white blood cells can get after the pollen or allergen causing an attack. It also acts as a neurotransmitter for your brain.

Too much histamine can cause all kinds of problems for the body – even affecting the brain and causing anxiety.

But do you want to hear something crazy?

When you’re all stressed out, your body actually releases hormones and other chemicals, including histamine!

If your body fails to break it down (like me), then it just builds and builds and you become more and more anxious. So, it becomes a cycle. Stress releases the crazy amounts of histamine in your body which causes you to feel anxious… which leads to your body being stressed.

Make it stop!

This is bad all on it’s own, but what on earth does it have to do with changing our diets and cooling it with the cool-ranch Doritos?

Listen, here’s how this all works together. Chemical ingredients like preservatives and artificial flavors and colors actually STRESS the body. Your body has to decide what to do with them because they are not natural. This stress causes the release of histamine into the bloodstream… leading to… you guessed it… anxiety.

But that’s not all!

Methylation is needed for the body to be able to break down chemical toxins in our foods. If our methylation process is broken, then these chemical ingredients cannot be broken down and this directly impacts our nervous system and overall brain health!

This was it. For us, this was the answer we had been looking for – the cause of the the chaos.

I spent the next few days going through my pantry and looking up online the names of additives and what to look for on labels.

And then, I made the decision to go all in. No more chemicals of any kind. No more preservatives. No more artificial anything.

Just real, organic (when possible) whole ingredients…

And do you know what we experienced in our home after eight weeks? Peace. Peace like we had never experienced peace before… We were no longer easily worked up, easily agitated, or hard to calm. We were able to focus.

The stress is still present as we navigate our new lives, but our bodies are not having to deal with the stress of the increased histamine and the stress of the chemical-laced foods we were eating!

For 8 weeks, we have been chemical-free, and that has meant a ton of huge changes… like no more fast food (except for Chipotle) but for us, the changes have been worth it. For us, this has been an answer to prayer.

I cannot stress enough that I’m NOT saying this lifestyle is for everyone. But I am saying that it is something worth considering if you have explored all other options.

What does it look like exactly? What do we eat? I plan to continue writing on our journey over time and sharing how this average American mom helped her family become whole.

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