Nutrition and stress are intimately linked, forming a two-way communication. When you are highly stressed, you tend to go for foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat. These often highly processed foods in turn cause biological stress on your body and perpetuate the cycle. On the flip side, the food that you choose to eat can positively impact the amount of stress that you feel. Stress eats up a lot of nutrients from within your body, but when you consume a nutritious diet you not only replenish these lost nutrients, you also allow your body the capacity to deal better with stress. We have seen in various studies that consuming a wholefood-based diet reduces your risk of experiencing depression, anxiety and high stress. Let’s take a deeper look at how stress affects your body.
How does stress deplete your body?
As I mentioned briefly above, stress puts a lot of pressure on your body, and this depletes many of your essential nutrients. Your body uses these nutrients to create happy hormones, healthy moods, good digestion and liver function, a healthy stress response and so much more. Specific nutrients that get heavily depleted when you are under stress include:
Magnesium – this is the bodies rest and relaxation mineral. It helps to reduce muscle tension and allows the body to deal with stress much more efficiently.
Vitamin C – This well-known nutrient isn’t just for immunity. It’s released in high amounts by your adrenal glands when your body is pumping out stress hormones. We can’t produce it internally, so we need to make sure we replenish this nutrient when we are experiencing stressful periods.
B Vitamins – many of the B vitamins are very important cofactors for the production of energy, hormones and in the body’s response to stress.
Zinc – This mineral is used up very rapidly in periods of high stress. It’s very important for immunity, adrenal gland function and in modulating the stress response within the body.
Not strictly nutrients, but both protein and healthy fat sources are also very important during times of high stress. They help provide the building blocks for healthy hormones, neurotransmitter and nervous system function, immunity, energy and so much more.
What happens in the body once these nutrients are depleted?
Once your body has used up your stores of magnesium, zinc, Vitamin C and B vitamins, it can no longer cope well with stress. It doesn’t have the capacity to make the required hormones, neurotransmitters and energy that your body needs to successfully manage stressful times. Symptoms of stress become more and more pronounced, and may include:
- Digestive upsets – bloating, diarrhea, IBS symptoms etc
- Headaches or migraines
- Muscular aches and pains
- Mood swings and apathy
- Fatigue, and also poor sleep and insomnia
- Muscle weakness and lethargy
- Poor immunity and frequent infections
- Poor liver function
The symptoms of stress are endless and express differently for everyone.
How to use nutrition to combat stress
Nutrients are the building blocks of everything within your body, and so to combat the effect of stress you really want to focus on providing your body with a high-quality nutrient dense diet.
You can do this by sticking to the basis of a good quality wholefood diet. Plenty of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrains like rolled oats and quinoa if tolerated, good quality protein sources like eggs, oily fish, grass fed meats and legumes.
Some particularly nutrient dense foods that you can add in are:
- Grass fed and preferably organic liver. This can be taken as a supplement if you can’t stomach the idea of eating liver.
- Grass fed butter
- Cod liver oil
- Plenty of green leafy veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Raw dark chocolate/cacao
- Vitamin C rich fruits, kiwi, papaya, citrus, berries
A beautiful wholefoods diet will benefit everyone to an extent. I could give you a dietary plan here, however a truly nutrient dense and biologically appropriate diet is dependant on your individual biochemistry and body type/needs. The Metabolic Balance program is by far the best way to ensure you are consuming a diet that is perfect for you, one that will support your body in all the ways it most needs to be supported.
If you know that you need help to manage your stress levels, and want to do it through food and a personalised plan based on your unique needs, you can book a metabolic balance discovery call with me HERE. I’ll answer all of your questions about the program, and if you feel it’s the right next step for you, we can proceed onto the program together.
I hope this article was helpful, and I look forward to supporting you to vibrant health.