Protein, Mood, and Anxiety

Earlier this week I took the time to complete the first lesson of the Surf & Turf class. Lots of great information about why we need more protein, how traditional diets always included sources of animal protein, best choices of protein and why fats are good for us. I realized since cutting out yogurt I’m not getting enough protein with my breakfast. Two eggs is not very much, so I will be looking at getting more protein in the morning.

One of the activities in the course involved taking an online questionnaire http://www.moodcure.com/Questionnaire.html. I remember doing this questionnaire a while ago and scored high in each section, meaning I was low in all the neurotransmitters listed. This time I took it and the only one that I scored high in was Type 3. Over Stressed, Low in GABA. According to Julia Ross, Author of The Mood Cure, if you’re low in any of them then taking an amino acid supplement can help with symptoms.

I think for something like the Over Stressed type that I scored high in, it’s good to reevaluate what changes I can make to address this before supplementing. One thing is obviously reducing sources of stress, which I seem to have accumulated all summer. Yesterday I came home from work and had a 15 minute nap on the couch. It’s the first time I allowed myself to rest like that on a work day all summer. Yes dinner was late, after 8pm, but I felt good. Coming home from work and powering through the evening trying to get everything done is stressful. Taking a quick break allowed me to physically calm down and approach the evening with less anxiety. Thing is, even doing this doesn’t seem to get rid of the physical anxiety feeling. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s been a feeling I have had off and on for years.

I did a quick search for natural sources of GABA and found a nice article about it here http://holistic-nutrition.suite101.com/article.cfm/gaba_foods_the_natural_antianxiety_diet. Green tea, L-Theanine amino acids, and complex carbohydrates are all supposed to help and there’s a list of good foods to stimulate GABA production. Since I like using food first, I will be picking and choosing from this list a bit more often. I love how beef liver shows up on there. No matter what I search for it seems like it all comes back to beef liver! I have been doing well with sweet potatoes, potatoes, and more root vegetables in my diet lately. My blood sugar seems more stable now and I can tolerate carbs from these sources as well as fruit. It’s interesting that complex carbs can help with anxiety and stress too.

It has been over 5 years that I’ve turned to the Internet and alternative health sources to learn more about nutrition and search for answers to my health problems. I feel like there’s still so much to discover.


I have been following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet since January 2008 to recover from Celiac disease. As part of the diet, I don't eat grains, sugar or potatoes and prepare all my meals from scratch.


  1. Thanks for sharing this Kat. Always enjoy reading your blog. I have anxiety problems and severe IBS, which led me to the SCD. I found that food is highly related to my mood. In the past, if I ate something heavy with sugars — whether it was a donut, pastry or anything else that’s directly turned to sugar — it was if I hadn’t eaten at all. I discovered — through trial and error — that I had to eat protein in order to function better, and had less panic attacks.

    Can an SCDIeter drink green tea on the diet? It used to be one of my favorite drinks, but for some reason it makes my acid stomach symptoms worse.

  2. That’s interesting about the green tea. Over stressed would define me. I’ve started drinking warm green tea a few month ago and I find it very calming. I didn’t realize there might be something to it.

  3. @Chrissy I have had pretty severe anxiety problems. I should probably post about that sometime. I have found some really good techniques to use during a panic attack! I always thought the same thing as you, I have to eat enough protein to keep the attacks away. Now I’m thinking I need to eat more protein to fix a deficiency rather than just barely stay out of that panicky feeling.

    Green tea is fine on SCD as long as it’s diluted or weak tea. I found early in the diet I was very sensitive to caffeine so I didn’t drink green tea. I think if I was in your situation, I would focus on the foods first (liver, fish, bananas), then try a supplement, then green tea.

    @Tracee I never would have thought green tea would be calming. It seems more likely to add to anxiety with the caffeine in it. Now it kinda makes sense.

  4. I’ve learned that getting enough protein in the morning is absolutely crucial if I want to start my day off right. It makes all the difference in my appetite and my energy levels for the next several hours of my day.

    I just took the Mood Cure questionnaire again myself this morning. Although I’m doing better than before, I still score rather high in the first three categories (I used to score high in all four). It really helps to go back a review my progress from time to time.

    And yes, it always comes back to liver! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. @Kat Question one: What kind of nutritional deficiency causes panic attacks? And what techniques do you use to keep them away? At one time, my symptoms were so debilitating that I was homebound. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore, and I hold a full-time job. But I still deal with feelings of anxiety. Do you think it has something to do (like Elaine Gotschall said) with the toxins released by the baddies in the gut? Have your anxious feelings lessened with SCD/GAPS?

    Just curious. I know that my panic symptoms began the same time my stomach problems did, so I’m guessing yes.

    Thanks also for talking about the Primal Blueprint diet. I actually bought the book based on your suggestion and the recipes in it are delicious, easy to make and adaptable to the SCD.

  6. I took the quiz and am actually surprised I didn’t tip the scale in any of the categories. Am I really doing that well? Too bad I don’t have time to read the book right now. I came close to a problem in one category.

  7. I find I feel much more mentally clear when I eat lots of fruits etc. I think they have their place. I like your blog and have added you to my links.

  8. @Soli @ I Believe in Butter If you’re not to an extreme in any category then I would think you’re doing quite well! At least you know a source to look at if you do have trouble in the future.

    @Dan Hi thanks for the compliment ๐Ÿ™‚ I have heard that before about fruit. Some people who have mental fogginess report feeling better with some fresh fruit. Interesting how foods play such a role in how we feel mentally.

  9. Kat,
    I noticed on the Gluten Free questionnaire that you mention feeling ravenously hungry after doing SCD for a while – have you found what helps that? Is it still a struggle? I had a lot of issues, but nothing terribly severe, so after 2 months on GAPS I felt like my appetite exploded – I couldn’t find enough food and our budget was falling apart. That is part of why I’m allowing grains again in limited quantities (and properly prepared.) I partially attribute it to a nursing busy 1yo and a high metabolism, and I do fairly well eating lots of yogurt and nuts, but when I have to ration so many things, I sometimes feel I can’t get enough food. Any ideas?

    The relationship between mood and food is so amazing and strange. I was grumpy yesterday and couldn’t figure out why, I didn’t feel hungry but finally had lunch and felt a million times better. The test is handy to indentify what things I’m needing. I’ll have to look at that more.

  10. @Jen@ Eating My Vegetables I found that eating larger portions of my meals was the best thing, not adding more snacks of yogurt or nuts. If you’re making eggs for breakfast, have 4 instead of 2. If you’re having meat with lunch or dinner, eat 6-8 oz or more instead of a regular 4 oz portion. Add fat to everything. If you’re having discomfort after eating a large meal, try a Betaine HCL supplement to encourage better digestion of proteins and fats.

    Nursing requires a lot of energy from food, so just eat lots lots lots. If you’re adding grains, it’s best not to add wheat even if it is properly prepared. Also, I’d suggest sweet potato or potato if you need more calories. They seem easier to digest than grains.

  11. This is very interesting and very useful and helpful! thanks for posting this. It is very interesting to me because I would have scored high in every category before I went on GAPS. Now, I can honestly say that my symtoms only come up every once in a while. But I am going to look into the foods that can help support me. Thanks so much!

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