Panic attacks! A loosely used term, a frequently stigmatized condition, and a heart wrenchingly severe phenomenon. It takes many different forms for different people. The symptoms as well as the severity of those symptoms may differ from person to person. Even the triggers are not at all fixed and usually depends on the patient’s life history.
“Panic attack is the onset of a series of symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of being fearful and afraid. The symptoms mimic the ‘fight or flight’ response by the body.”
Panic attack is usually in response to a stressful mental condition without any apparent physical danger. However, the characteristic symptoms may appear during a harmful situation too.
- Usually, people suffer from one or two attacks in their entire life and the condition typically subsides without any proper medical intervention.
- Recurrent episodes of panic are referred to as Panic Disorder.
- The diagnosis of panic disorder depends on the systematic ruling out of other physical conditions such as Lung disorder, heart diseases, thyroid function abnormalities, and mental anomalies.
- Symptoms of Panic attacks:
Some of the most common symptoms of the condition are as follows:
- Tightness in the chest region
- Inability to breath and shortness of breath
- Congestion and heart attack like feeling in the chest
- Anxiety and depression
- Lightheadedness and dizzy feeling
- Rapid sweating and hot flashes. Some people may get chills and shivers instead of hot flashes
- Fear of death and doom
- Fear and phobia of any particular sort
- Tingling in hands and feet
- Pounding in chest
Why do panic attacks occur?
Causative factors for the onset of panic attacks are called as Triggers. Triggers may be medical, environmental, physical and more often mere psychological factors. Some of the triggers are as follows:
- Emotional and physical stress
- Past trauma also leading to Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) induced Panic episode
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Drug or alcohol withdrawal
- Chronic illnesses
- Prolonged diseases such as cancer patients
- Family history of panic episodes
- Low threshold to stress and anxiety
- Excessive smoking or intake of excess caffeine such as coffee & tea etc.
- What happens to brain during Panic attack episode:
Our brain and nervous system are divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
Sympathetic system Fight or flight response
Parasympathetic system Rest and Relaxed state
Over stimulation of sympathetic system or under activity of parasympathetic system leads to uncontrolled fight or flight response by all bodily systems.
Panic attacks: what to eat and what to leave:
Treating any disease, I-e. mental or physical with a lifestyle of healthy eating is always the best option. Taking lots of medications and psychiatric therapy not only puts a dent in the purse. It also imparts concomitant side effects on the body.
Foods to avoid for panic disorder patients:
Some of the foods that worsen the condition for panic disorder patients are as follows:
- Excess sugar such as sugary drinks, candies and confectionaries, baked goods etc.
- Excessive fatty and fried foods
- Artificial sweeteners and flavors
- High salt content esp. excessive sodium concentration in the foods
- Foods containing high copper content such as Soy and soy products
- Bisphenol A containing foods such as processed and canned foods.
- High histamine inducing foods such as fermented meat, nuts, vinegars
Foods that help prevent and treat panic attacks:
There are a lot of natural ingredients that induce a state of mental relaxation and calm. In addition, such foods also help in preventing the recurrent episodes of anxiety attack, depression and panic episodes. Some of these foods are as follows:
Catch on the complex Carbs:
Complex carbohydrates are Serotonin boosters. They enhance the production of serotonin hormone in the brain. Serotonin is basically a happy hormone and mood stabilizer. The energy produced as a result of metabolism of such foods is easily replenished by the insulin hormone. This whole phenomenon produces a feeling of relaxation on a day-to-day basis. Examples of such foods are as follows:
- Corn, potatoes, yams and other starch containing vegetables
Antioxidants are your anti-stress pill:
Usually, antioxidants are linked to serious health conditions such as cancer, obesity etc. However, antioxidants are essentially strong relaxants. The free radicals produced by antioxidant containing food fight off the oxidative stress. This type of stress is produced when there is loss of balance between radicals. Therefore, it is important to feast on foods that fight off such free radicals. Some of the examples of such foods is as follows:
- Berries such as strawberries, blueberries etc.
- Citrus fruits such as tangerine, orange, lemon
- Green leafy vegetables
Vitamin B complex to treat Panic and Anxiety:
Panic and anxiety come hand in hand. One of it triggers the other. People with high stress routines are more likely to suffer from chronic depression and anxiety, and thus panic attacks. Benefits of vitamin B in panic and anxiety are as follows:
|Vitamin B6||Manage hormonal induced panic and anxiety episodes such as in the case of female hormones|
|Vitamin B9||Folic acid is an essential catalytic agent in almost all of the bodily functions. As such this plays a key role in lowering oxidative stress|
|Vitamin B5||Aid and assist adrenal gland hormones in treating anxiety and stress|
|Vitamin B3||This vitamin helps manufacture serotonin hormones from its precursor agent tryptophan. Serotonin elevates the mood and happy thoughts|
|Vitamin B1||This vitamin is used in metabolic breakdown of carbohydrates. The end result is lowering of over all blood sugar. Low sugar is linked with keeping the body relaxed and calm.|
Vitamin B complex are found in following foods:
- Mushrooms such as Oyster mushrooms
- Green leafy vegetables
- Black beans
- Split peas
Relaxing and calming teas:
It is no myth but a proven scientific fact that certain plant-based teas are a magic potion when it comes to calming the stress-monster. A warm cup of those teas on a regular basis can help maintain a sense of stability, calmness and relief from panic episodes. Some of the frequently recommended teas are as follows:
- Peppermint Tea: treats stress induces panic
- Lemon Balm tea: helps fight anxiety and panic linked to GABA neurotransmitter in the brain
- Chamomile Tea: long term use can help combat Generalized anxiety disorder and subsequently the panic attacks linked to it
Magnesium to help fight panic:
Panic episode is linked to the temperamental threshold of a person. Lesser the stress threshold in a person, more likely he/she is to suffer from panic attack episodes. Some of these episodes are usually a result of self-created and imagined scenarios. Therefore, psychiatrist suggest a diet that can lead to strengthening of nerves (both metaphorically and literally). Magnesium plays a key role in this regard. Some of the magnesium rich foods are as follows:
- Legumes such as black beans
- Seeds such as chia seeds, pumpkin seeds
We never know when the next panic attack might hit us. We also can’t even predict if it is ever going to get better at all or not. Treating a disease is always far more expensive and time consuming as opposed to preventing it. Life is like a box of chocolate; we never know what we might get next. But what we can do is strengthen our body from inside out. Its never too late to take the steering wheel in our hands. And eating healthy is just the kind of steering wheel patients with panic disorder need.