Food and stress seem so different from each other that it sounds a bit odd to see both mentioned together. The fact that food can play a role in managing stress sounds odder and is also fairly difficult to explain.
To understand the connection between stress and food, it is imperative to know the biological changes that occur when we are under stress. The body’s autonomic response is to prepare for meeting the threat that is causing stress. For this purpose, there is an increase in the production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and blood sugar shoot up. In addition, some bodily functions like digestion slow down while the immune system is restrained.
While increased levels of hormones cannot be reversed, the factors that act to stimulate production of these hormones can be controlled, and the other changes that occur can be turned back with the aid of various stress relief measures. One of the easiest ways to relieve stress and alleviate stress symptoms is to reverse these changes by modifying your diet.
Vitamins, in conjunction with minerals, help in stress relief through their antioxidants and other properties. Vitamin B aids in normal functioning of the nervous system by acting as a catalyst to enzymes responsible for the production of serotonin. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that prevents damage from free radicals that increase during stress. Vitamin B, C, E and B complex as well as minerals like manganese, zinc and selenium should be sourced from plants. The following food choices will go a long way to provide you adequate energy, vitamins and minerals.
- Fresh green, yellow, orange and leafy vegetables
- Fresh fruits and juices-- avoid canned juices
- Vegetable soups
- Fresh yogurt
- Fish, especially tuna fish and mackerel
Vegetables are high in fiber content, which helps in treating constipation, one of the effects of continuous tension caused by suspension of the digestive process during stress. Stressed individuals often develop peptic ulcers, and yogurt effectively manages acidity in the intestines, the major cause of this type of ulcer.
Stress often leads to heart disease, and fish like tuna and mackerel are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Choline, a vitamin B complex found in fish, is also good for memory. Herbs like chamomile, kavakava and valerian are effective sedatives, and if taken in prescribed dosages, can have a calming effect on the mind and body.
Food is only one of the options for stress relief, and may help in managing stress symptoms caused by long term stress. A permanent solution to stress, however, is a positive frame of mind and accepting that things cannot possibly always go your way.References: