Anxiety Uptick While Fasting?

(Adam Foard) #1

After an incident a few years ago I developed some trauma related anxiety. This mostly worked through. Not on meds anymore. Life is good.

I have experimented with 2-4 day fasts about 4 times now. Each time I have noticed that I have a lot more jaw clenching than usual. This is one of my primary manifestations of anxiety. It’s annoying but totally manageable, just thought I would post about it.

Reading Intensive Dietary Management’s very long blog about fasting, I discovered that fasting upregulates norepinephrine. This seems like the most plausible cause as it is one of the fight-or-flight hormones.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

Any other insights into fasting and anxiety would be great to hear.


Fasting can definitely up regulate cortisol as well, and many folks report difficulty sleeping. I think our systems are incredibly complex and it’s probably hard to know exactly what’s going on.
Fasting in our history would probably sometimes go along with fairly intense panic/stress (about dying) and result in some energy bursts, but I bet it also happened when we knew there was another meal coming but just hadn’t caught it yet. So it’s always seemed to me that context matters a lot. A person who hasn’t eaten for three days and is legitimately worried about starvation must have a radically different physiological response to fasting than someone who’s got a pantry full of food but is fasting for health reasons.

When you go back to eating, the anxiety abates and you feel fine?

(Adam Foard) #3

Yeah generally by the time I’ve finished the feast everything settles down.

I don’t have any anxious thoughts, startle response, no white knuckle driving, or anything like that during the fast. However my jaw almost seems to clench on its own. This was one of my symptoms when my anxiety initially appeared a few years ago.


I don’t have any anxiety issues. However, my jaw clamps up when I fast/get hungry. I’ve done up to 4.5 days and, of course, the symptoms end when I eat. I guess I’m suggesting that this is only a similar symptom to your anxiety and not anxiety itself.

I appreciate that anxiety about a potential anxiety attack can become self fulfilling.

If it gets too bad try a piece of gum. It helps me.

(Adam Foard) #5

I’ve never had a full blown anxiety attack, so not worried about that.

Interesting to hear you have the same sort of symptom when you fast. Great to hear I’m not a alone!


I’m getting increased jaw clenching just from doing keto - not even fasting. I’ve woken up a few times with a terrible headache from it. Now that I think of it my teeth have been more sensitive and hurting and that’s probably why.

I’m wondering if it’s a magnesium deficiency thing. Similar to muscle cramping.


I do feel I’ve over done the coffee/caffeine sometimes; even just on one meal a day. Water and Black Coffee are definitely things I clung onto a little to get through the tougher periods. Is it possible if you are drinking caffeine drinks also that this could be a trigger for your anxiety?

(Chris Robertson) #8

I get elivated anxiety during the 1st couple days of a fast but mine goes away by day 4. I have always assumed my body is going into pan/ic mode but then it realizes that it has another fule sorce and calms down again. I’m not fat adapted yet so I’m hoping the period of anxiety stops when I have been on keto a bit longer.

(Adam Foard) #9

@Mangusdog I take a multivitamin, and additional magnesium supliment.

@AndySat I’ve been switching to tea (usually green) during a fast because I don’t like black coffee.

@corduroyew That’s a good observation about fat adaptation. I have been low carb and in/out of ketosis for a long time. I only switched to LCHF about 2 months. Maybe I need to give it another month or so for fat adaptation :thinking:

(Adam Foard) #10

Or just fast longer than 4 days if I’m going to.


You might want to try Ashwagandha. It is an adaptogenic herbal supplement that is supposed to lower cortisol and help with anxiety. I would recommend a KSM-66 version (it’s a patented method of extraction). It’s nothing that’s going to make you fall asleep in the middle of the day, but it does help take the edge off. I think about 80% of supplements/herbs/vitamins are worthless but I felt like ashwagandha was actually very helpful.

(laura) #12

Yes, I found your post looking to see if anyone elce had same thing. I have this occur too. I am going t try ashwaganda. Same as you, no other symptoms of anxiety just find myself clenching jaw frequently for no reason.

(Adam Foard) #13

After a few months regularly fasting for a day or two a week it got much better.

(Carolyn aka stokies) #14

People prone to anxiety are often far more attuned to their bodies. Studies have shown that a high percentage of people who deal with anxiety also have a heart murmur or some other irregularity in their body which they often are unaware of which provokes a baseline of anxiety unbeknownst to them. So given that heart rates fluctuate or electrolyte imbalances may be more noticeable if you have baseline anxiety, hwich COULD increase it until it is acknowledged. Others have found relief with keto as anxiety is also sometimes a chemical response to too much sugar in the body.

It’s fascinating to me - sorry. Doctoral student geeking out here…

(Kiranjeet Bhabra) #16

I hav a history of panic attacks and hypochondriac. Went into meds twice since sept 2015…i was off meds in oct 2018. Was taking Ashwaganda infact.the withdrawal.symptoms were almost non existence. Came to know bout keto diet recently and since im T2 diabetic hypertension and having gastritis…encourage me to try…aware bout the keto flu so i tried 7days early jan 2019…

My anxiety came flared.up…palpitations…chest pains…insomnia…tinnitus bcame worst

How did u all manage ur anxiety while on keto…gosh i dnt wan to indulge in SSrI.again as i hav put on nearly 20kg with ssri…im oni 5’2 tall.weigh bout 90kg…pls anyone experience the same

(Marcello) #17

Yes, I’ve had an anxiety disorder for many years. I’ve learned to manage it well through therapy, mindfulness, medication, and exercise. But I also get the increase in anxiety-like symptoms during the beginning of a fast, and I also have suspected that it is due to increased norepinephrine levels. For me it’s tension in the jaw, scalp muscles, and body a little.

I manage it with chamomile extract or maybe a benzodiazepine temporarily, more so for sleep. A beta-blocker is also useful (I asked my Dr. to prescribe me a limited amount of one.) Once I get over the hump, however, it goes away. I’m on day 7 of a fast now and have none of that. It dropped off significantly around day 4-5. I can mindfully observe it and reduce the amount I am struggling against it or tensing in response to the tension. So it’s actually a good thing if you have a technique to work with it because it’s not dangerous and lets you practice at a higher challenge level.