When we are stressed hormones are released (via the HPA axis) causing a cascade of effects throughout our bodies and minds. We know that mental health and physical health are closely related, and therefore stress impacts our musculoskeletal system too. Holding excessive tension in our muscles over a prolonged period can increase the risk of headaches, joint pain, muscle strains, ligament sprains and indigestion. Our bodies have not yet adapted to todays stressful society – the stress response was designed to be used in life-threatening situations, not on a daily basis!! I believe taking a holistic approach, and making a number of lifestyle changes, has the best outcome for most people. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ with health, therefore it is important to try lots of things and pick what works for you. There are many things we can do to relax our bodies and minds, such as meditation, yoga, exercise, fresh air, walking, talking to friends, hugs and love etc… but in this blog I will explain what dietary elements are particularly important when we are stressed.
A Balanced Diet
A mediterranean diet rich in fruit, nuts, protein, herbs and spices helps us to balance blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation. A healthy diet sheds excess pounds that put load though joints and reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes.
False sources of energy such as caffeine, alcohol and sugar should be avoided, particularly when we are stressed. They are also thought to trigger anxiety or panic attacks.
Anti-Inflammatory Food Sources
Inflammation is usually a good thing – our bodies attempt to protect and repair itself. When inflammation becomes chronic, it is actually having a negative effect and potentially creating pain where there is not longer physical tissue damage. Stress also increases the level of inflammatory markers in our blood. Foods such as fish oils, chia seeds and turmeric are natural anti-inflammatories that nourish our body, and don’t put the additional stress on our organs that some drugs do.
Sleep is so important for essential growth and repair to take place. Insomnia can enable the negative cycle of stress. Try essential oils such as lavender and valerian on your pillow, feet or temples before you go to bed. You can also get food-grade essential oils and add them to your cooking. Turkey contains tryptophan which boosts our mood and helps us sleep.
Boost Your Immunity
Stress inhibits our immune system, making us more susceptible to colds and flu. A lower immunity means me are more likely to get ill, and less able to overcome current illness. Echinacea is a nice herb that can be taken in tincture, tablet or dried form. Swap your caffeinated hot drink for chamomile, echinacea or dandelion tea.
Reduce Heavy Metals
Lower the levels of toxins in your blood by choosing organically farmed fish, and buying fresh produce. Walking on side-streets instead of heavily polluted main roads can also reduce the levels of pollution in our body.
Lots of research has been done on the ‘brain-gut axis’ and the close link between inflammation in the gut, and inflammation in the brain. Eliminate inflammation and candida in the gut by eating well for you. Nutrition is very personal so use a food diary or intolerance test to work out what you should avoid. Taking probiotics improves the healthy bacteria in the gut, and has been found to improve brain function and mood. Probiotics can also be found in live yogurt and kefir.