Foods and Drinks that can Trigger Panic and Anxiety Attacks

Food and drinks that can trigger anxiety and panic attacksIn this short series about practical steps on how you can overcome fear, panic and anxiety, I want to include a post about some of the common dietary triggers of panic attacks.

I need to start with a disclosure that I am not a doctor, a dietician nor nutritionist. I’m simply someone who has experienced panic attacks first hand, and I’ve seen certain foods and drinks trigger those rushes of adrenaline. So, I want to share my experience with you.


I believe caffeine is one of the most common culprits of anxiety and panic attacks. It increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure and puts your body into fight or flight mode. Too often, we seek that rush of energy that comes from a strong cup of coffee or energy drink. We push ourselves to work harder and longer, not taking time to let our body and mind rest. Caffeine is the most widely used, legalized drug in the world and it’s growing. Today, it’s very common to see people consuming lots of coffee, entire energy drinks and 5-Hour energy shots to get a quick boost of energy. But, it’s just not healthy, especially to those who are highly sensitive to the surge of adrenaline.

It would be smart to remove all caffeine from your diet if you are susceptible to anxiety and panic attacks. Don’t feed the fire by pouring more fuel onto it. I used to drink lots of coffee and diet sodas. But today, I only have one cup of tea in the morning and that’s it. There was even a season when I did not have any caffeine in my diet. It was just too much for my overly-sensitized nervous system.

If you drink lots of caffeine, it would be smart to taper off slowly and let your body adjust to the change.


I believe sugar is another very common trigger. Most junk food today contains lots of sugar. The rise and fall in blood sugar can trigger anxiety and panic attacks. You need to avoid high sugary snacks, and find a more healthy way to boost your energy, like fruit with its natural sugar.


One of my worst panic attacks happened after a night of drinking in college. The morning after was horrific. My nerves were on edge and it created the perfect environment for a mental meltdown. You should avoid alcohol. The alcohol converts to sugar creating those spikes and falls in your blood sugar. Plus, the alcohol will leave you anxious and nervous the next day.

Starchy Foods

Starchy foods can also fluctuate with your blood sugar. Our family keeps the starchy foods–like potatoes, rice, breads, and pastas–to a minimum.


I’ve personally never had a bad experience because of MSG, but I’ve read stories about how MSG can trigger panic attacks. We typically avoid MSG in our diet.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid occurs naturally in your body after a strenuous workout. Your body stores this lactic acid and it crystalizes in your muscles causing the soreness.

Some people claim that lactic acid can increase the anxiousness and even cause panic attacks, but I haven’t had this happen to me that I’m aware of. Certain foods and drinks have lactic acid in their ingredients. Be sure to read the labels.


While it may seem contradictory for me to list exercise right after lactic acid, I have found exercise to be remarkably beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety, fear, panic and stress. Your body’s natural fight or flight mode automatically releases adrenaline in your system, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. It’s preparing it to fun or fight. Exercise is a great, healthy, natural way to release that built up adrenaline in your system. Plus, it releases the natural endorphins in your system, creating a sense of peace and rest in your body.

For me, exercise has been incredibly helpful in fighting through stress, panic and fear. Today, I often run and compete in various athletic races. Last year, I started doing triathlons, and yesterday, my wife and I competed in a local sprint triathlon. After the triathlon, I felt so good, so peaceful, so restful. I can’t recommend exercise enough.

Real Freedom

Please keep in mind that learning these dietary triggers and how to avoid them is not a real solution to freedom. These are only triggers. It is absolutely essential that you find true freedom in your soul. As I’ve stated quite a few times before, freedom happens through Christ as he brings complete healing to your body, soul and spirit.

Prayer: Father, as I learn more about these sensitivities in my body, please help me along my path to true freedom in Christ.

  • Kelly Brown

    Eating foods rich in vitamin helps reduce anxiety. Maintaining healthy eating habits can help combat panic attacks, depression or any other ailments associated with anxiety.

  • Dallas

    Very interesting article – thanks! I have social anxiety disorder and occasional panic attacks and I didn’t know caffeine was so bad – as I only have 1 cup per day but will cut that out now.

    I totally agree about the exercise, it’s had the single biggest affect on my condition but for it to work for me, a 20min walk doesn’t have the effect, I have to do at least an hour a day of cardio where my heart rate is at least 120bpm. It took me about a year to build up to this though (i’m 49), as I had chronic fatigue as well, probably caused by the anxiety so it was a real battle getting though that, I had to increase my exercise every day a few steps at a time and each were very painful. Now I can run 10km every second day and I feel on top of my condition now rather than it controlling me.

    • Russ

      Yes, caffeine can be a major culprit for anxiety and panic. I have to be very careful about my coffee and tea intake. And like you, exercise has been a wonderful tool for me as well. I find that it helps in every area of my life. My biggest struggle was sleep, but exercise sure helps me sleep well at nights.

  • Andrey blayz patrick

    Hav had panic attacks several times,most of the time is after takin starchy meals like rice,bread,garri and it can b veri scary like my hrt wil xplode bt am tryin 2 control it nd i pray God shud help me 2 ovrcome it…bye

    • Russ

      Starchy foods can be triggers as well. They tend to increase your blood sugar creating the adrenaline response that causes panic attacks. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tara Ramsey Wright

    Almonds can be a trigger for anxiety, little known and little written about it.

    • Russ Pond

      Interesting! I’ve never heard that before.

  • Kimberly

    I have panic attacks and anxity and i get really scared everytime i get them i always think something is going to happen i start crying and it scares me and i have 3 young kids and my husband is over the road. I have depression to but im trying to not take meds for it i want to try and get better with out the meds.

    • Russ Pond

      Kimberly, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I know how scary it can be, especially when you have a family. You want to be there for them. I want to encourage you that you can beat this and overcome the fear. God is with you, and he can give you incredible peace and strength in this difficult time.

    • MJ

      Kimberly I know exactly how you feel. I feel the warm sensation come over me then the tightness in the chest and then I am crying which probably makes matters worse. So I have learned if you can stop crying, stand with your legs slightly apart take your arms over your head and while you do that breath in and then as you let your arms down exhale. Repeat that until you can feel some releif just try to breath that’s the main thing. What that does it gets the heart rythem back to normal, so just try to stay calm as possible. My boy friend use to help me get through them, maybe your husband can work with you. He can do it with you then it takes the focus off you. Then it is like you are excersing together.

  • Russ Pond

    Yes, God can help you beat this. I know he can. My heart used to pound like that all that time. I’d wake up at 3am and my heart was racing out of control. It was terribly scary. Today, it doesn’t happen any more, but I know how scary it can feel. 

    • Melita Johnson

      I can totally relate unfortunately I had to go on Bystolic which slows down the blood flow to the heart, I was having heart palpitations and it is scary. You feel like your heart is going to jump out of your chest. My doctor also perscribed a low dose of xanax and that really helps. I was just reading all of these articles, and did not realize coffee is no good. So here I sit having a cup but will now be switching to decaf. They say that anxiety you can control but it can sure take over your body real quick, as soon as I start to feel the tightness in my chest I pop a pill. I really don’t like to take anything but with me having alot of stress in my life right now and being unemployed I have no choice.

      • Russ Pond

        Thanks for sharing, Melita. Caffeine can definitely be a trigger, so switching to decaf should help quite a bit.  After a few weeks, let me know how it’s going.

      • Gwen

        Hello. I came into this website this morning by way of Google search after going through a terrible early morning bout and not being able to sleep because of anxiety attacks. I recently went on Bystolic and was able to drink decaf coffee before with no problem. But now it appears to be a trigger to my anxiety/panic attacks. It’s happened to me twice and last night was one of the times. It may not happen to anyone else but I was led to share this information. I profess my healing on a daily basis and know that God is always with me.

        • Russ Pond

          Yes, God is always with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Never. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kay

      I agree I went through the same thing and God healed me!! I had been taking midol and womens one a day metabolism booster “vitamins” I overlaoded on caffiene at that time..I was also drinking coffee. I suffered panic attacks that woke me up out of my sleep. I prayed connected with God like never before and trusted him to heal me and he did.

  • Dmlucas1

    This truly helpful and very potent information!

  • MJ

    That is some awesome advise, I will for sure cut out the caffiene. I think I drink about 3 cups in the morning, no wonder my nervous system is in high gear. Is it ok to drink decaffeinated coffee? Also I know this is going to sound strange but for a few times now,  I have frosted mini wheats and a bananna for breakfast and not to long after that sometimes I go right into a panic attack. Do you think my breakfast could be doing it? I love the prayer ubove, and that’s exactly what I do when I feel one coming on. I have been through all of the testing on the heart and a chest x-ray everything has come back normal. I can not figure out why these keep happening, I do not have anything going on in my life that would cause this. I will take any advise anyone has to offer. Thank you, and I will start to exercise again that could be some of the cause also. Not to mention I am going through menopause, and that is one of the symptoms. Also some times when I am sitting still it feels like my chest is jumping, and real nervouse feeling.  

    • Russ Pond

      I think decaf coffee is fine. I switched to that for awhile. I also used to do just one cup of hot tea in the morning and that seemed to be okay for me.

      Sometimes, certain foods can trigger the fight or flight mode. Hard to say what it is exactly that’s causing it. Sometimes it’s just the sugar sending your blood sugar levels spiking, but other times it can be certain ingredients. MSG and Lactic Acid have been known to trigger attacks.

      When it comes to what is triggering the attacks, it’s always so unique for each person. I have found that most attacks are triggered by mental patterns (strongholds) that somehow cause us to instinctively react and thereby releasing the adrenaline. I have found the journaling really helped me sort through some of my thoughts. And, even talking to a counselor was also very helpful to me. 

      I wrote a series of articles about my journey through the emotional and mental part of finding freedom.

  • Abbystevenson

    Caffeine is pure poison and it is known to CAUSE anxiety, depression and thought and sleep disorders. Some people are more sensitive to it than others but it is a dangerous drug. Our whole society is built on caffeine now and it is a multi zillion dollar business and no one is going to tell you about it. Just like cigarettes years ago and pharmaceutical and other producers of chemicals today. Drugs have their place only in life threatening conditions like a brain infection or something. Millions and millions of people are on drugs they don’t need. Drugs kill multitudes of peoople every year and send others into a hell they cannot believe and some never return to normal. There are many chemicals in our food these days too.

  • kay

    This blog is very helpful to me. Yesterday as I was walking to work, I had a panic attack because I had overloaded on sugar the day before. The experience scared me like crazy. I started feeling numb all over like I was going to pass out. I was able to get home and get to the hospital and they gave me a shot to help me calm my nerves. I felt allot better after that until I began to wonder why I had it in the first place, especially since I wasnt really stressing about anything. Then I googled Anxiety attack causes. I came accross this blog to find that the OVERSIZED cookies and cream bar that I had the day before was the cause of my panic attack. Prior to that candybar, I had been drinking hot chocolate. The day before, I indulged in a large amount of icecream. My body was telling me that I had had enough sugar. When I went to the hospital, my BS was high and the doctors were very concerned. This is truly a wake-up call for me to go back to my strict diet and excercise routine. On a more positive note, Exercising makes me feel AWESOME and it does decrease stress and it improves your overall health :-)

  • Ien

    Jesus isn’t going to help me or anyone else with panic attacks. Screw you and Jesus. But thanks for the triggers.

    • Russ Pond

      You’re welcome.

    • Isabel White

      HAHA! Exactly!!

  • jal

    Hi , just found this blog , I find that eating biscuits etc , sugary stuff like that really fills me with adrenaline , then I will fly off the handle at slightest thing .but when I give up caffeine , refined sugar etc I stay calm in most situations, has anyone else found this ??

    • Dallas

      Yes I pretty much avoid sugar and refined carbs these days for that reason and the effect can last for hours, although I have found that I can have a cup of coffee at times when my stress and anxiety levels are low. For instance after a lot of intensive exercise or when lifes stresses are minimal. Generally though I have to avoid it and never more than one cup!

      • bugg

        I know I’m 2 years late to chime in but I found that I can drink coffee at certain times of the day & not have any anxiety while other times I fly into a full-blown anxiety attack. For me it has to do with my cortisol levels at the time I drink the coffee. If they are high (usually in the morning) I experience an attack. Amazing! I have found L-theanine helps ease the caffeine effects tremendously if I take it prior to my coffee. Just a thought. :)

  • Angelina

    I guess the problem is that each person is different, and I am trying very hard to figure out what triggers my panics. I am 37 years female, gave birth to a healthy boy 1 year and half ago, happily married, but full of anxiety and stress. Part of it is work-related, but it’s my perception anyways. I think it’s stressed, whereas it’s not. I had 1 full-blown panic attack and ended in ER last October, and yesterday I got a minor thing in the bus. I got tinglining in my hands and head, and inmense fear. I was able to control it, but I am still not stable. I refuse to take tranquilizers. i only take valerian roon pills now, which sort of help me. They are not strong though, so I feel my heart palpitations from time to time. I also have the lump in a the throat for the last 2 weeks…
    Anyways, i think my yesterday’s minor episode was related to 2 pieces of 70% chiradelli dark chocolate pieces and piece of bread I snacked at 5 pm. Each chocolate piece contains 22 mgs of coffein – I checked. And voila, I am all panic! UNBELIEVABLE!
    i am trying to talk myself out of it, but the lump in the throat and heart pulpitatoins are just not leaving me. I can’t find peace. :( Angelina

    • Russ Pond

      Angelina, I think you are already making great progress! You’re starting to recognize triggers and what’s causing those attacks. It’s a first, very important step you are taking. Keep on moving along this journey to freedom! I know you can make it!

  • Tiffany

    I no longer drink caffeine, but sugar never really did anything until recently. I would eat ice cream, or drink really sugary tea, and I started noticing late at night when I got settled down before bed, I’d get random anxiety feelings and sometimes panic attacks. I’m now going to cut sugar out, or at least cut WAY back and see if it helps relieve some of this!

  • becky

    It’s interesting that lactic acid is on this list…a light bulb has just gone off for me! I realize that, generally speaking, exercise is beneficial against anxiety but in seasons when I’ve been especially struggling with panic/anxiety I’ve found that exercise (I’m talking a heart-pounding, sweaty workout, not a leisurely walk around the block) makes me more prone to panic attacks. I haven’t been able to figure out why this is but now I see there’s a lactic acid connection.

    I totally agree on the caffeine and alcohol. I notice the negative impact of these immediately. I hope one day I’ll be strong enough to enjoy them again, but for now it’s decaf coffee :-)

    I’ve never thought about sugar being a problem…maybe I should try cutting down on it. I have noticed that allowing myself to get ravenously hungry will trigger panic so I try to always carry a protein bar with me to prevent this from happening.

    I just found your site today. I am a Christian and cannot agree more that prayer is an integral part of overcoming anxiety.

    • Russ Pond

      Thanks for sharing. What’s interesting about lactic acid is that it sometimes trigger panic but then can go away. Years ago when I was super sensitive and most anything would trigger an attack, I was very sensitive to lactic acid. But today, no longer. Last year I did my second half ironman triathlon and trained hard all year, but no panic. So, I believe it can go away.

    • John Wick 1

      people are missing the connection with the body reacting to chemicals, and therefore technically not being an anxiety issue (mental). doctors seem unaware of potential chemical reactions. I would follow up with an allergist and rheumo

      • Russ Pond

        I believe there are physical triggers. At the same time, I also believe that all of these triggers are rooted in emotional and mental triggers.

  • Emma

    The last one was my favorite:) I ate too much sugar too late and now it’s keeping me up and causing me to panic over stupid things when I normally can just fall asleep.

  • Britt

    Thank you for this Russ. I am currently 17 weeks pregnant and dealing with anxiety attacks… UGH! I have dealt with them for years though, not just since I’ve been pregnant. I am also a Christian and am believing for my supernatural healing. I have a couple of questions:
    Did you/do you take any medications for panic/anxiety?
    I have cut out caffeine for the most part (we own a coffee shop so that’s not easy!), but did you cut all starchy foods & sugar? Or do/did you just limit them?
    Any suggestions you have, I would love to hear!

    • Russ Pond

      Hello Britt. I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with anxiety. I’m believing with you for complete healing and freedom.

      As for medication, I wrote an article about my experience. Rather than write out all the details here, you can read the article at this link:

      Caffeine was the biggest culprit for me. Starches, not so much. Sugar was probably second to caffeine. Sugar does this crazy thing with your blood sugar levels and can trigger anxiety.

      Hope that helps!

  • Troy

    I am new to this anxiety thing. I think, I have always been a high stress worry type person. I am now 43, My first two times I had attacks, I thought I was having a heart attack. After being checked out, everything was good. So now I just ride it out.

    The last one started when going to bed. I was having shortness of breath, When I would start to dose off, I would awake feeling like I was not breathing. That is when the attack kicked in even more. I could feel heart and pulse beat, got shack’s. it lasted for about an hour. I am not sure if the shotness of breath was the start of the attack. or if it was why I was having it. I would like to try to stay away from taking any meds for this. I am still not sure what set mine off.

    • Russ Pond

      Sometimes it’s hard to know what triggers these things, but shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms. People experiencing this often find it hard to take deep breathes. I often encourage people to practice keep breathing. It actually helps reduce the anxiety and panicky feelings.

    • cheryl

      Hi troy have you ever went to a doctor about your dozing off and getting short of breath? i do the same thing i thought it was sleep apnea my dr sent me for a sleep study said i have nocturnal sleep anxiety said i am having anxiety attacks in my sleep i wake up several times a night out of my sleep gasping for air. i also suffer from generalized anxiety disorder . if you are still suffering with the waking up short of breath talk to your dr about a sleep study. hope all works out for you..

  • Emilia

    Hi, I used to have panic attacks because of alcohol and sometimes it happened after I had to much coffee or food but Iv got better after I accepted Christ in my life so you are perfectly right in what you said.Thank you for the advise! I will definitely reduce my daily sugar.

  • Angie

    When they hit, my attacks will hibernate and linger for hours, even all day. The only options for remedy are talking myself through it with breathing or sleep. I refuse to take meds! The panic ranges from being a little dizzy or a little short of breathe to all out chaos in my body. When my worst ones hit I could be in mid sentence and lose my train of thought and literally not be able to form a sentence or even begin to sort my thoughts well enough for them to reach my lips. I was short of breath, dizzy, had tunnel vision and hearing, nauseous, felt like I was going to pass out or fall asleep. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. ALL of these feelings make it a trillion times worse and just cause the panic to continue and worsen. It’s truely the scariest feeling EVER. I literally feel like I could die at any moment….they I start thinking oh no I’m going to die hence making it worse still. I am 32 and my first attack was about 3 years ago. Unfortunately, I dealt with this growing up because my mom has panic disorder extremely bad…..BUT until you have this feeling for yourself you can truly NEVER understand how someone having a panic attack feels, plus each persons triggers, thoughts and symptoms are totally different.

    • Russ Pond

      Thanks for sharing, Angie. I know what you’re feeling, and it can be so terrifying. I want to encourage you that freedom is possible. I really believe that because I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve talked to many others who have find peace and freedom for panic attacks. Be encouraged!

    • danyalekb

      I agree with Angie’s rendition and I couldn’t have said it better myself. I feel 100% exactly the same during my episodes. I know stress, caffeine, and I’m sure other things are contributing to mine, but when I’m in the middle of an attack, I can’t seem to recall those logical causes…instead I’m in complete fear of everything. Mine have progressed to the point that I have even had some mild to moderate paranoid thoughts, which is not generally like me at all. I also have a fear of taking medications. It’s bad enough without medicine that I feel like I’m loosing my mind. I’m seeing a doctor this week about it all. Hopefully he can help me pinpoint the reasons I started having all this anxiety and panic within the last five years. Before then, I’d never had experienced anything like this. I did start exercising with a personal trainer about 8 weeks ago. That’s helped some, but I agree with this blog, when I eat like crap and don’t give my body the rest it needs, I most certainly pay the piper for it. I hope anyone that experiences panic finds what works best for them to alleviate it and never has to deal with it again. Blessings for you all.

  • Crazy just plain crazy

    Hi, This is probably a goofy problem. But I get so irritable especially a couple people at work drive me nuts. Just the mention of them. These are the people who are always up to something. Of course, I respond incorrectly giving them what they want. At this point, I have very little sugar or caffeine. Any ideas on how to deal with this or if this is anxiety.

  • ibtiamat

    It is scientifically proven that having a peaceful religion in your life can ease stress, anxiety, depression, and ultimately panic attacks and early death.

  • Lori

    Thank you , it seems as though we need not know one another personally yet we share the same experiences with having experienced and lived with panic attacks . It’s good to know you are helping others , knowledge is power and through Christ anything is possible ! God bless

  • Debbie Gibson Harr

    I love this article…. my daughter is having some anxiety problems lately and we were just talking about how we need to turn to Christ! Thanks for the reminder!!

  • Eleyii

    Suffering from Agoraphobia since nearly 10 years (I’m now 24) and still struggling. There are better days when I’m quite happy to achieve my “big” goals like goin into a restaurant (the ultimate for me haha)/cinema/etc and bad days when I get panic in a shop buying some stuff or just thinking about situations that could happen in future -> whoop panic.

    I had no idea caffeine can trigger em! Drank sometimes energy drinks/black tea but I’ll stop it now..(yes I just drank one hour ago an energy drink and had a random panic attack and wondered, so I gave google a shot and discovered your article).

    Thank you!
    Best wishes,

  • Jet

    Creatine, a sports supplement is also a trigger – I can confirm that from personal experience. Can confirm Alcohol as well and probably working 12 – 14 hours a day and without taking weekends for long periods of time

  • Pingback: Foods That Cause Anxiety | Crossed Connections()

  • bugg

    I too found this blog– by ‘accident’ when I searched about anxiety and bread consumption. When I read the word adrenaline that is EXACTLY what it felt like when I suddenly had a powerful attack. I never gave it much thought that food can play a large role in anxiety attacks. I used to be a happy-go-lucky gal & never had these attacks. Perhaps my chemistry changed when I reached a certain age–I don’t know but this really helped me. Thank you! Blessings to you

  • elaine

    Thanks for this article. It gives hope to people who suffer from panic attack like me.

  • John Wick 1

    I doubt I have a panic disorder as this has been going on for years.. however when I ingest cocoa/ or tea and coffee ( I suspect it’s the caffeine, but also potentially compounds in cocoa), I have a severe reaction.
    It is akin to a convulsion of sorts, extreme nausea, feeling of passing out and throwing up at the same time, heart begins to race and breathing difficulties.

    I’ve never experienced these symptoms without dietary input. In other words, it’s probably a food allergy/intolerance or something else chemical.

    If anyone knows what it could be, that would be nice ?

    • Russ Pond

      It’s hard to say if what you’re experiencing is related to your food intake. Do you experience these physical symptoms 100% of the time when you consume this specific food and drink? And, are you 100% free from these experiences when you do not consume it? If so, then most likely your adrenaline system is triggered by something in this food. If however, you experience the symptoms without any of the food, then you might have a different kind of trick or, maybe an emotional or mental trigger.

      All of the symptoms you described are common symptoms for anxiety, stress, and panic attacks. Here’s another question for you, when those symptoms happen, do you feel afraid or fearful? Or do you feel a strong urge to fight or be aggressive?

      • John Wick 1

        I answered most of these questions in my initial comment. It appears however that some text has been removed? you are also the moderator so I find this very strange.

        Anyway, to Clarify :

        I am 100% free of these experiences / symptoms without the dietary input (i.e. when I do not consume)

        I am aware that they symptoms I describe are common for anxiety / stress etc. anaphylaxis without swelling can also mimic a heart attack of choking *

        I am also aware that panic attacks / stress etc produces a flight or fight response? But so does adrenaline, so what is your point ? Histamine release is also a defensive mechanism? Does it mean anaphylaxis from peanut allergy is psychological ?