The word Stress seems to be the buzz word these days. Did you know that stress can have an impact on your physical body? In this blog, we will look at the different ways stress can affect your health. We’ll also explore ways to naturally sooth stress by eating foods that will help to calm your body.
First of all, we need to understand not all stress is bad.
Our bodies get stressed in a healthy way when we need to rise to a challenge. Good stress essentially helps us when we need to perform our best. If we are anticipating an exam or a presentation in our workspace, or we have a special event ahead we can feel stressed. This is our bodies’ way of communicating that we can achieve what we set out to achieve!
Bad stress or chronic stress is more of a constant stress that we can experience over longer periods of time. It is this chronic stress that kicks our natural energy distribution out of balance.
How Stress Works In The Body
When we experience stress, whether it is good or bad stress, our adrenaline and cortisol levels begin to rise. This happens through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals in the body. The Hypothalamus, which is a small part in the brain that releases hormones and regulates our body temperature, tells our adrenal glands to release these two stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). This means that our pulse and breathing quickens, and our blood pressure begins to increase as part of the body’s “fight or flight” response.
Stress requires so much of our energy in this kind of response that our body can put all other functions on hold. The stress hormone Cortisol curbs the functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. As a result of this your body would also stop repairing your tissue and renewing your cells.
At this point there is no energy left for other essential systems such as your digestion and reproduction. Which is why chronic stress leaves us feeling irritable, forgetful, overwhelmed, isolated and sleep deprived.
There Are Two Main Kinds Of Stress
Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. Once the threat has passed, our levels of stress hormones return to normal with no long-lasting effects. In acute situations stress hormones dissipate as quickly as they were created.
Chronic stress is the response to pressures suffered for a prolonged period of time.
This constant presence of perceived stress causes our fight-or-flight reaction to stay on for longer than it should. The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the
subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all of our body’s natural processes.
Chronic stress takes a toll on adrenal glands, causing excess cortisol in our systems. It’s this excess cortisol that can leave us feeling wired but tired. Research has also shown that excess cortisol can lead to a host of physical health problems including weight gain, osteoporosis, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, heart disease, and diabetes. Cortisol also takes an equally high toll on your brain.
The Human Body Is Designed To Experience And Handle Stress.
This Ted talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU changed the way I think about stress and it reminded me that I have the power to learn to use certain elements of stress to my advantage, instead of allowing stress to run the show.
How To Sooth Stress Naturally:
Yes exercise…. Exercise releases powerful endorphin chemicals in the brain, which act like the body’s built-in painkillers and mood-lifters.
Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet
A steady supply of nutrients like essential vitamins, trace minerals, healthy fats, electrolytes, proteins and antioxidants can all help your brain handle stress better, therefore, benefiting your entire body
Manage Your Thoughts
All events can be interpreted negatively, neutrally, or positively. It takes time and practice to renew your thoughts daily. When we actively choose to see something in a positive light it changes the way our body reacts.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Good stress managers regularly practice a variety of relaxation techniques to prevent or relieve stress. This will vary from person to person. Some people might find listening to music therapeutic; others may enjoy a walk outside. You need to determine what works for you and then set aside the time to do it.
Often we find ourselves stressed because we have not planned our day. Schedule your month, week and days. By doing this you will also find that you have more breathing room and space to think things through.
Some Of The Best Foods For Natural Stress Relief Include:
Foods High In B Vitamins
Low energy and fatigue can contribute to irritability and stress levels. This is why the B vitamins, which are well-known for keeping energy levels high and improving cognitive performance, can have a positive effect. Dairy products, cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, poultry and green leafy vegetables are foods that contain high levels of the B vitamins.
Foods High In Calcium And Magnesium
Calcium and magnesium are important for relaxing muscles, relieving headaches and helping you sleep. If you struggle with sleep, try including more magnesium into your diet.
You can find these in unsweetened organic yogurt, cacao powder/nibs, wild-caught salmon, beans/legumes, leafy green veggies, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, avocados and nuts.
High Protein Foods
Foods with protein provide amino acids that are needed for proper neurotransmitter functions. Adrenaline, Noradrenaline and Dopamine are hormones that are made from amino acid tyrosine. These neurotransmitters make us feel good, stimulate us, motive us and help us cope with stress. Serotonin and Melatonin are also made from amino acid tryptophan. This helps keep us emotionally balanced and helps us establish a sleep cycle.
Healthy Fats And Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These can reduce inflammation and help to stabilize moods. Plus omega-3s are great for brain development and heart health. Other healthy fats that support brain health include nuts/seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and fish.
Foods To Avoid In Order To Keep Stress Levels Down Include:
Process foods tend to be loaded with preservatives and unnatural ingredients. And by consuming these foods, we’re feeding our minds and bodies with nutrients that actually impair our ability to tackle stress. (1)
White Flour Products
White flour can be extremely inflammatory. Inflammatory foods tend to put a strain on our digestive system, acting as an additional stressor.
Alcohol affects our liver health and can disrupt hormones. It make us dehydrated, interferes with sleep leaving us tired, and unable to successfully manage stress.
Caffeine isn’t necessarily our enemy. However, when consumed in excess, it could have harmful effects, including disrupting our adrenals and nervous system.
When we stress we can crave sugary foods, there is a physiological reason for this:
High cortisol levels send a message to our brain that we need sugar to sustain our energy in case we need to fight or flee from a life-threatening situation. It is these sugary, refined foods that cause blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day, increasing anxiety and causing cravings and fatigue.
Foods That Calm The Body:
- Green leafy veg
- Camomile tea
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea
- Green leafy veg