Consume an exceedingly sour candy the next time you’re in a high-stress situation and feel a wave of panic approaching.
The intense flavor serves as a diversion. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the portion of the brain responsible for halting an anxiety attack.
This hypothesis is being tested by a TikTok trend that has garnered over 23,7 million views.
Katie Pankonin, a licensed mental health therapist in Arizona, says that if you don’t like sweets, something extremely spicy, such as sriracha, or tangy, such as salt and vinegar chips, will have the same effect.
Ms. Pankonin told, “The harsher the taste – sour, spicy, or otherwise – the more likely it is that your brain will step outside of that anxious thought and more so into your body of what you’re tasting.”
This also induces a physiological response. For instance, eating something sour increases saliva production in the mouth, which is ‘the first step in re-engaging that digestive system,’ according to a licensed mental health counselor and proprietor of Serein Counselling in Orlando, Micheline Maalouf.
When we are experiencing significant levels of anxiety or a panic attack, our body is in fight-or-flight mode.
Ms. Maalouf stated, “Your mind is essentially thinking there is either a perceived or an actual threat, whereas in today’s world, most of the time, there is no actual threat occurring for people with anxiety.”
In response to anxiety, the amygdala, the affective center of the brain, sends a signal to the hypothalamus, the brain’s command center.
This causes the body to go awry. The heart rate increases, shallow breathing ensues, and digestion delays.
Pankonin stated, “Anxiety wants to be felt, and it demands that you feel it when it occurs.”
However, the intense flavor of sour candy or sriracha prevents this by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, a network of nerves that helps the body unwind after high-stress periods.
When we incorporate the body first, we can assist the body in slowing down. Then, we can incorporate these mental techniques,’ said Ms. Maalouf.
However, the advantage is not limited to a few Sour Patch Kids or Warheads.
Physically, any food will restart the digestive system, but foods with potent flavors stimulate salivation more rapidly.
This includes strong mustards, crackers seasoned with salt and vinegar, sriracha sauce, and even peppermint.
Ms. Pankonin stated, “I believe that if it is a taste that you are not accustomed to having daily, it will be the most effective.”
However, if you experience daily panic attacks, consuming sour candy may lose its effectiveness.
If it is something we notice daily, replace it immediately. If it’s going to be bitter candies one day, it might be ice-cold water the next. Perhaps it’s the piquant sauce the following day. But I believe that adding variety to coping abilities is crucial,’ said Ms. Pankonin.
However, experts caution that this is not a permanent solution. Ms. Maalouf stated, “It’s essentially a Band-Aid for a problem.” It’s not something you want to rely on solely. It is an implement, but it is similar to any other tool. If we discover something useful today, it may not be useful tomorrow. It does not address the core of the issue.
Moreover, eating sour candy is unlikely to entirely stop a panic attack.
Ms. Maalouf stated that re-engaging your senses and digestive system early on may reduce the intensity and duration of the condition. Perhaps you won’t feel it as strongly, but it won’t be stopped in its tracks.
In addition, these foods may contain excessive amounts of added sugar, which may hinder your health objectives or exacerbate certain medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Know biology. Maalouf advised against using this device if your health condition could be worsened by eating certain meals.
Ms. Pankonin says this remedy works better for episodic anxiety than chronic.
She said, “When it comes to coping skills, you never want to rely on just one, but we can add it to the toolbox as something that can be extremely useful in the short term.”
It is essential to combine short-term and long-term therapies for people with recurrent panic attacks or chronic anxiety. This includes cognitive behavior therapy, medication, and even physical activity.