It has been estimated that 75% – 95% of all doctors’ visits are due to stress-related ailments and stress-related disorders. Stress has been linked to a diverse range of health problems such as cancer, diabetes, immune system breakdown, alcohol and substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis, anxiety, depression and suicide to name but a few. Even worse news is that experts believe the already worrying picture of stress in the UK is likely to get worse not better. Tackling the ill effects of chronic stress requires a multi-faceted approach that combines dietary, lifestyle and psychological change. Here we look at some simple dietary steps that can start to make a real difference...
5 Simple Steps to Beat Stress
1) Remember to eat – Many people simply don’t eat when they are suffering from chronic stress, blaming either lack of time or low appetite. However this is one of the worst things you can do. The stress response places extra demand on the body’s nutrients – and since the body interprets stress as an emergency, it will get first call on nutrients meaning other processes such as energy production may miss out. In times of stress you need to supply extra nutrition, not less, to cope with this extra demand. Convenience foods and snacks, which many people turn to in times of stress, are often devoid of nutrients and will only add to the problem. It’s important therefore to choose nutrient-dense foods such as colourful fruits and vegetables, high quality protein and wholegrains to ensure your body has optimal nourishment to cope during stressful times.
2) Cut out stimulants – Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and sugary drinks and snacks are commonly used as a quick fix in times of stress. However, these foods and drinks actually rob the body of nutrients, making the problem even worse. In addition, stimulants place extra pressure on the stress response too – and in times of chronic stress, it’s important to take pressure off the stress response as much as possible.
3) Exercise – Exercise is a great way to reduce the effects of stress and whilst it may seem like adding in extra activities is the last thing you need, this is one that’s definitely worth making time for. Even just making time for a short walk each day will help significantly.
4) Optimise intake of key stress nutrients – If you’re suffering from chronic stress it’s unlikely that your diet will be able to supply enough nutrients to fuel this, as well as keep all other bodily processes functioning optimally too. You could try using an adrenal glandular concentrate to support balanced stress hormone production. They can be particularly helpful to those feeling drained and tired by stress. You can also supplement with a specially targeted formula that supplies high levels of magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc. Herbal support can be particularly useful too; focus on adaptogenic herbs such as Asian ginseng, Rhodiola Root and Cordyceps Mycelium extract.
5) Relax – In addition to exercise, making time to relax properly is an essential part of dealing with chronic stress. Mindfulness meditation and yoga have both been found to significantly help reduce stress. Check out www.headspace.com for a simple introduction to mindfulness meditation. Nutrient-wise, a combination of milk protein hydrosylate and l-theanine, an amino acid found in tea has been found to be helpful in supporting a balanced response to stress and feelings of alert calmness.