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Can We Manage Stress with Nutrition?

Can We Manage Stress with Nutrition

Each one of us experience Stress at various levels. Eating right or eating nutritious foods is the last thing on our minds. Sometimes eating incorrectly also adds to stress. Majority of us either skip meals, overeat or look for comfort foods without being mindful of the same.

Have you ever given nutrition a thought or a try to manage stress? Read below to know our view at BucketList Dreams.

good mood with food

Why do we get stressed?

We recognise stress with heavy breathing, increased heart rate and sometimes increased blood pressure. These are the signals sent by the nervous system and adrenal glands to the body during a stressful instance. Cortisol, the stress hormone increases heart rate, delivers oxygen and glucose to important muscles of the body for preparation. This makes the body give lower priority to functions like digestion since it is less urgent during this time.  Immune system is activated and heart moves into overdrive to support the body. Constant exposure to such stressful physiological responses over a period of time can then become a health problem.

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Stress and digestion

When the central nervous system shuts down digestion, contraction of the digestive muscles and digestive secretions are slowed down. After the stressful period, the body gets on ‘recovery mode’. During this phase, the appetite increases and food cravings could set in. The metabolic rate drops and the body conserves energy due to which one could experience weight gain especially around the abdomen. Increased cortisol levels also could lead to weight gain. Chronic stress over a long period could suppress appetite and lead to weight loss.

Foods that can worsen stress

  • Sugary and fatty foods– It is common to crave for your favourite sugary or fatty foods during periods of anxiety assuming it would relieve the tension. Missing meals, especially breakfast, leads to increased sugar cravings as well. Consumption of sugary foods, then gives instant relief but when the sugar rush reduces, it increases irritability and craving. Processed fatty foods could increase risk of depression by 58% as per the British Journal of Psychiatry. Hydrogenated and oxidised fat in processed foods can block the production of essential fats. essential fats are required for nerve health and cell membrane protection. Wholesome foods are preferable over processed fatty or sugary foods to manage stress.

junk food trap

  • Caffeine- It is but obvious for most of us to have a cup of coffee or tea to deal with stress. Did you know that this can only increase it further? Caffeine, a stimulant causes adrenal glands to further increase stress hormones when they are already high. Caffeine can also disturb sleep or increase nervousness which is already linked to high stress levels. Further, caffeine consumption can lead to vitamin B complex and magnesium deficiency.

tea coffee

  • Smoking and alcohol- A few people resort to smoking and drinking to manage stress without realising that this can only worsen the condition. Smoking robs the body of vitamin C and vitamin B12 which are essential for immunity, blood production, energy etc. These are already compromised when under pressure and smoking aggravates it further.  Alcohol increases the production of stress hormones in the body and affects blood sugar levels when over consumed.

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Super foods to manage stress

  • Oats- A bowl of warm oatmeal increases the production of serotonin and reduces cortisol levels.
  • Orange/lemon/citrus fruitsRich in vitamin C, they boost immune system and normalises high blood pressure which is essential during stressful period.
  • Spinach Spinach, other green leafy vegetables and foods like soya bean etc are rich in magnesium. This helps reduce headache and fatigue commonly seen during high stress.

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More Super foods to manage stress

  • Nuts & fatty fishes- Walnuts, almonds, cashews, salmon, tuna etc provide essential fatty acids(EFAs) which reduce risk of depression. They also protect the heart and reduce stress hormone levels.
  • Milk- Foods rich in calcium like milk, Curd eases mood swings and anxiety. A glass of milk as night cap also improves serotonin levels and promotes good sleep.
  • Exercise –  improves oxygen circulation and boosts endorphin (feel good hormone) production. Aiming for 30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week is effective in managing stress along with eating right. Breathing exercisesare also equally effective as treatment. Say no to drugs to manage stress, anxiety and depression and instead bring in lifestyle modification.

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-Aruna

Consultant, Nutrition