This article was in my email inbox this morning -- one of the daily inspirational and informational articles that I receive from Early to Rise -- Life Lived Well (Craig Ballantyne). Since I have been discussing this very thing with a number of my clients and friends recently, I felt it timely to share.
PS-- read through to the end; exercise is a factor as well. No surprise there, but it's good to have the reiteration of that healthy balance between diet and exercise.
Slash Your Stress Using Your Diet
By Isabel De Los Rios
What can bring down the strongest man down, but cannot be avoided?
Stress. It’s a silent but deadly killer.
Stress can break your body down both mentally and physically; it can lower your immune system and can create inflammation in the body.
However, it’s not all gloom and doom – the good news is your body can repair itself when given the right materials. One of your body’s best defenses against stress is food. If you’re stressed out, a lack of a nutritious food will make a bad situation worse.
Heather discovered this truth the hard way. She is a Managing Director at one of the world’s biggest advertising firms. Heather was a serious workaholic and would spend hours sitting in the same position, hunched over her computer. The advertising world is extremely competitive, but Heather thrived off of this intense energy. Her daily diet consisted of vending machine treats, fast food and cola and she averaged about four hours sleep per night.
Eventually, the stress of her job, lack of sleep and poor diet drained her mentally and physically. She felt physically weak and she picked up colds pretty easily. Despite her feeling “out of sorts," she chalked up her low energy to on-the-job stress. She decided to do some damage control. Over the next four weeks, she decided to take on fewer projects and delegated the rest to her team. She was sleeping better and noticed her stress levels going down, but she still felt hollow inside.
Heather began to realize that she wouldn’t be able to get rid of her sluggishness until she changed how she ate. And that was how she and I met; Heather reached out to me and made an appointment for a nutritional consultation. She and I rebuilt her diet from the ground up and I’m proud to say she’s made a remarkable improvement. She still deals with lots of stress, but her diet helps to counteract it. She’s still a work in progress, but who isn’t? The point is, her diet helped to heal her body of stress related damage.
Today, I would like to share with you the key components of the stress fighting program I recommended for Heather. The nutrition plan is centered on healing the body, while simultaneously promoting calm.
Healing Your Adrenals
The adrenals are small glands that sit on top of the kidneys; they look like little top hats. At first glance, these tiny glands seem insignificant, but don’t be fooled – they pack quite a punch.
The adrenals are made up of two distinct parts: the medulla and the cortex. The medulla secrets adrenaline, which helps your body deal with high stress; the cortex releases cortisol which reduces inflammation within the body. The adrenals will try to keep your body balanced by producing the necessary hormones, however, if you’ve been under stress for a long time, you run the risk of adrenal fatigue. Many people suffer from adrenal fatigue without even knowing it; one of the tell-tale symptoms is a constant, tired feeling.
The adrenals need specific nutrients to function well: protein, water, fat, salt, B vitamins and Vitamin C. Good examples of ideal, healthy fats are: Extra virgin olive oil, Omega 3 rich wild caught salmon, avocados, walnuts, chia and flax seeds. Quality sources of protein include: Chicken, fish, red meat, eggs and nuts. Great sources of Vitamin C include: Berries, peppers, tomatoes, kiwi, guava, papaya and citrus fruits. The B vitamins present in the foods spinach, parsley, broccoli, beets, mustard greens and asparagus are great for promoting a healthy nervous system – an important component to managing stress. Salt. Yes the adrenals need salt. I know that a lot of people are fearful of sodium, but the salt that I am talking about is quality, unrefined sea salt, such as Celtic sea salt. This salt is rich in trace minerals, the adrenals need these minerals to function correctly. You can find Celtic Sea Salt online or in your local health food store.
Stress causes inflammation and feeding your adrenals helps to keep inflammation low. Inflammation is responsible for causing pain and disease – two things that everyone can do without.
Ante Up with Antioxidants
Antioxidants help to protect cells from damage. Every day we are faced with toxins in our air, food and water that cause oxidative stress in the body; antioxidants act as tiny soldiers that fight back against these toxins. Think of oxidative stress as rust on a metal pipe – antioxidants help to prevent this rust from forming. If you are under serious internal stress and dealing with environmental stress, antioxidants should definitely be part of your diet.
The most common antioxidants are Vitamins C and E. Foods rich in antioxidants are as delicious as they are powerful. Foods that contain antioxidants are: Berries, citrus fruits, avocadoes, spinach, sunflower seeds and almonds. Green tea also contains antioxidants, such as catechins. According to a 2004 Harvard health publication, catechins are even more powerful than vitamins C and E in preventive oxidative stress. Drinking green tea also reduces the risk for several cancers, including, skin, lung, breast, bladder and colon.
Silence Stress with Serotonin
Do you know the warm, tingling you feel when you’re in a good mood? That’s the rush of the hormone serotonin being released from your brain. Serotonin is the “feel good hormone” and is crucial to battling stress. Your serotonin levels are directly related to your mood. The higher your levels of serotonin, the better you’ll be able to handle stress.
Serotonin is produced from the amino acid, tryptophan. Tryptophan is found in a variety of foods; the foods with the highest levels are:
Serotonin also is released when you exercise. This makes sense since a workout is one of the best stress relievers – yet another great reason to get out there and bust a sweat!
There’s nothing that you can do to avoid stress, but you can definitely take action to minimize it. That’s how you can beat stress through good nutrition.
[Ed. Note. Isabel De Los Rios is a world-famous nutrition expert who will show you how to eat for energy and health. Discover her personal transformation from an overweight, low-energy young woman to a high-energy, lean and happy mom who is now inspiring hundreds of thousands of men and women around the world. Check out her life-changing Beyond Diet program here.]