Sunday, April 21, 2013

Managing Stress With Diet

When we are stressed our body thinks it is the goalie in game 7 of the Stanley cup game. Our heart rate can soar, breathing is erratic, our stomach can knot like a noose (the true meaning of a gut instinct), and yes our blood sugar rises.
Making the right food choices will not make our boss a nicer person reducing our stress at work, or make our kids listen any better, however, healthy nutrition is one of the many ways we can protect our body from the hazards of the physiological response to stress. This enables us cope better, think better and make better decisions as to how to minimize the stressors in our life. Here are a few ideas to immediately implement to start taming the asphyxiating tentacles of stress.
Eat regularly through out the day: Trying to eat every 3 hours is a great way to keep your metabolism in its happy place, keep the blood sugar steady. Hunger hormones - ghrelin as an example - increase the body's stress response and stress causes the release of hunger hormones. Eating every 3 ours does not mean an all you can eat buffet, have some protein with complex carb or healthy fat. Apple and peanutbutter, almonds, vegetables dipped in tuna, whey shake with fruit - all of these make great snacks. And also remember - we often get hunger signals - when we are not hungry. Really important to drink water - don't let your body confuse the thirst & hunger signals. Short on sleep, stressed, smelling food - all of these can make us think we are hungry.
Protein... we need it for so many reasons. Our body needs the amino acids, building blocks of protein, to function properly. Tryptophan - is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin production - that happy place neurotransmitter. Eat egg whites, spinach, fish, turkey, soy, mushrooms - all of these foods plus many more provide a good supply of tryptophan.
Ditch the sugar - for every aspect of our health and yes in stress reduction as well. The sugar (aka empty carbs) will further increase the blood sugar level, calling in the army of insulin. Same for alcohol - alcohol causes us to produce more stress hormones. And of course there is smoking - which destroys the body in every possible way - so it would be like sending our soldiers out into combat without body armor. Paradoxically, the habits people turn to in times of stress - are absolutely the worse possible choices, as they further increase physiological stress, making the body far less capable of defense.
Foods really great with helping the body cope with stress:
vitamin C rich foods: fruits and vegetables (cooking destroys vitamin C), please eat the fruit, not the juice alone
B vitamins - pep and energy, mood regulating neurotransmitters: lean meats, lentils, beans, whole grains, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds, green vegetables...
Magnificent Magnesium: readily available in healthy food - and many people are deficient in magnesium. This mineral is affectionately respected as the anti stress mineral. It is responsible for the relaxation phase of the heart beat, building bone and almost every enzymatic reaction in the body. It is readily available in fish, vegetables, meat, legumes, nuts, seeds - however there is a strong belief that our soil is depleted in magnesium - which would mean we are not getting all the magnesium in our food as we think. Certain medications such as the birth control pill can deplete the body of magnesium, as well as supplementing other minerals that compete with magnesium. Supplements need to balanced, not popped haphazardly possibly creating a deficiency.
There are many ways we can control stress - and diet is a wonderful option. The anti stress diet advice is also applicable to many aspects of proactive healthy living. Use your food to create that inner ecosystem of peace, harmony, vitality & good health.
Shira Litwack, Medical Fitness Professional... proud creator of thousands of health enthusiasts & corporate health cultures world wide...
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