Everyone experiences stress.
With the holidays just around the corner, I've been getting lots of questions about stress and how to decrease stress during this busy time of the year. BUT stress doesn't just happen in December. People experience varying levels of stress all throughout the year. There is acute (short term), such a prior to a big event, or chronic (long term) stress, such as the consistent stress you experience from a job you don't enjoy.
Picture above: Getting outside to de-stress
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is our body’s response to situations. Our adrenal gland secretes cortisol, which is our stress hormone. Cortisol is naturally high in the morning, and low at night. Cortisol is necessary for life, however, if it’s high for a long period of time, it can cause lots of health issues.
Our nervous system is responsible for our body's response to any stressful situation we experience. It activates our Sympathetic Nervous System, which is known as our Fight or Flight response. It puts our body into survival mode, so shuts down unnecessary body functions, include digestive and immune systems. It inhibits saliva production, stomach activity, gallbladder, intestinal activity; secretes glucose for energy; and secretes adrenaline.
It's ideal to have your Parasympathetic Nervous System, also known as Rest and Digest, activated when possible. It is activated when we are in a relaxed state, which controls balance and a sense of calm within the body. It also stimulates saliva, stomach activity, gall bladder and intestinal movement. An important state to be in before eating a meal to allow for better digestion and absorption of nutrients. This is the ideal phase for our bodies to be in anytime that we are eating.
Picture above: Smoothie with adaptogens (Purica's Complete 360 contains adaptogens)
Being under stress for a long time, our body becomes depleted in nutrients that are required to make neurotransmitters and hormones, and our bodies can no longer produce cortisol. Supporting the adrenal glands with nutrients and supplements to help them build their strength and function back is important.
STRESS AND THE GUT
When you are in a state of constant stress, digestion is often shut off. You may experience symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and undigested food in stool. Even if you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, you may not be able to absorb these nutrients, and you may be lacking enzymes to break down these foods. Constant stress can lead to inflammation and increased permeability, or leakiness, in the gut.
Foods that Combat Stress
It’s important to support your body with nutrient-dense foods, but also help to support the gut to be able to absorb to nutrients that you are consuming. Be aware of bad habits during times of stress, such as mindless eating, skipping meals, relying on caffeine, eating processed or junk foods.
WHAT TO AVOID — caffeine, sugar, processed foods, refined vegetables oils
WHAT TO INCLUDE — nutrient-dense foods; vegetables, fruit, lean meats, green juices, smoothies
KEY NUTRIENTS TO SUPPORT STRESS:
** If you aren’t able to get enough of these foods in your diet, you can also supplement them
MAGNESIUM — Mineral that relaxes the mind and body, helps to promote a restful sleep and magnesium is easily lost from the body during times of physical, emotional and mental stress.
Examples: salmon, legumes, beans, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, avocado, nuts
Picture above: different forms of supplemental magnesium
B VITAMINS — Helps to maintain energy levels, relieves stress and anxiety, supports nervous system and adrenal glands, and vitamin B5 is known specially as the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin.
Examples: eggs, dairy, beef, fish, leafy greens, poultry, nutritional yeast, walnuts
VITAMIN C — A vitamin that is often depleted by stress. It helps the body to fight stress and sickness, as well as recover quickly from physical and emotional stress.
Examples: oranges, bell peppers, guava, papaya, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, tomato, kale and snow peas.
OMEGA-3s — Supports healthy brain function, reduces inflammation and helps to stabilize mood
Examples: cold water fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, hempseed
PROTEIN — Support muscular health, neurotransmitter function, creating enzymes and hormones.
Examples: eggs, lean meat/poultry, fish ,diary, soybeans, nuts, quinoa, barley, protein powder (whey or plant based), tofu
Examples of supplements that contain amino acids: collagen, bone broth
PROBIOTIC — Depleted during times of stress. A lack causes increased inflammation and intestinal permeability, which can lead to malabsorption. Supports healthy gut, which will reduce inflammation, improve GABA receptors in brain and improve anxiety.
Examples: supplement; fermented foods - kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut.
Picture above: kombucha -- a source of probiotics
FIBRE — Helps to maintain a healthy gut, which in turn supports a healthy brain, as the two are strongly connected. Also supports reduction of anxiety.
Examples: leafy greens, seeds, nuts, apples, raspberries, avocado, lentils
ADAPTOGENIC HERBS — Herbs that help to lower cortisol levels and help your body to adjust to stressful situations. Supports the body to heal, balance, restore and protect.
Examples: Reishi, Maca, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Cordyceps, Rhodiola
WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS:
Combined with eating a healthy diet, we need to find little ways that we can reduce stress on a daily basis - the important thing is finding what works for YOU. Some examples that work for me include yoga, doing a face mask, putting my phone/computer away for a short 'digital detox', going for a walk with my dog, and calling my friends/family to chat.
Picture above: Hunter and I walking, one of my favourite ways to de-stress
Make a list of three ways that you can reduce stress: