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Sweet Relief: 
Sour Candy Found to Ease Panic Attacks 

By Lauren Keating

Many people have a sweet tooth, but for others, there is nothing like the tart and tangy flavor of sour candy that gets the taste buds tingling. And for those who suffer from panic attacks, popping in a Warhead or a similar sour candy may help prevent the severity of symptoms. 
   Internal medicine physician, Jason Singh has been using sour candy to help his patients for years, and he believes that the sour taste can redirect the mind away from panic—making it a useful non-pharmacological option for those looking for relief. 
   His advice became viral on the social media platform TikTok, resulting in many people sharing the validity of this health hack. 
“To think about what the candy is doing, you have to understand what anxiety does to your body,” he said. 
“It sort of elevates the sympathetic nervous system.” 
When the sympathetic nervous system releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline linked to a state of stress, anxiety symptoms arise. These symptoms include an increase in heart rate, feeling restless or nervous, sweaty palms, shaking or trembling, and muscle tension. 
   “Your sympathetic nervous system is very sensory driven,” said Dr. Singh. “And one of the most potent senses is your taste.” 
   By popping in a sour candy, he says, that shock in taste helps to redirect the sympathetic nervous system while distracting the mind from racing thoughts and other unpleasant sensations linked to stress. 

Dr. Singh recommends a sour candy that has a sweet taste at the end once the sour fades to effectively use this grounding technique. The sour taste triggers these muscles to make that “sour face,” and the change in flavor to sweet then relaxes the muscles that oftentimes are tense from a state of stress. 
“You're creating a pleasurable reward system in your brain to associate a very negative experience to a very positive experience,” he said. “The reward center sort of lies with dopamine, so you're essentially breaking that cycle from sympathetic down to a parasympathetic system.” 
It’s impossible to predict when anxiety or a panic attack will occur. The sour candy trick gives people access to a tool to help ease the onset of a panic attack. It empowers patients to take charge of the physical reactions to their mental health. 
   Dr. Singh recommends using the sour candy grounding technique immediately when anxiety symptoms begin to heighten or within the first 30 minutes. It can be helpful to redirect at any time, even if a panic attack occurs. It’s a good idea to have Warheads in coat pockets or purses for those who have frequent panic attacks. 
   Just reaching for the sour candy might be enough to start tricking the mind to avoid a state of panic. 
According to researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the body will be familiar with the response to cope with the sour taste after eating a sour food once. In their paper, The Physiological Effects of Anticipation In Regards to Sour Taste Experience, the researcher found that the anticipation of eating a Warhead sour candy can create the same effects as eating one. Although this study is unrelated to panic attacks, having a Warhead as a panic attack strategy may then be looked at as a “stimulation treatment.” 
   Any flavor that is a “potent sensory drive” can theoretically work, such as spicy food. However, keep in mind that the pleasurable reward linked to sweetness, like using a Warhead, might be missing. 
   Dr. Singh also recommends leveraging the senses during a panic attack by coming up with five things you see, four things you can smell, three you can potentially taste, two things you can touch, and one thing you can hear. This is another way to help cope and to ease the sensory overload of a panic attack. 

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