What is Stress?
Stress is the response/reaction in the body, to a certain situation. The body goes into flight or fight mode, stimulating the pituitary gland and the adrenals to release specific hormones. The hormones released are cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. The resultant hormonal changes that occur in the body can impact the body and mind.
How do you improve stress levels?
Key points to help relieve stress include sleep, nourishing and mindfulness.
Sleeping for a minimum of 7 hours every night is important to ensure that the body can carry out all its functions. This includes the release of growth hormones, ghrelin and leptin. A poor night’s sleep can also increase the release of the stress hormone cortisol. This is important as it can influence our food choices the following day.
Due to the connection between what is released from our cells and stress, having a nutritionally dense intake can help with stress. Some of the important nutrients to help with stress are magnesium, calcium, L-tryptophan and B vitamins, such as folic acid. This is due to the effects these minerals have on the body with deficiencies being linked to higher concentrations of lactic acid. Previous studies suggest that high concentrations of lactic acid are linked with stress.
As well as helping with sleep, magnesium aids transmission of nerve impulses in the body and brain. Low levels of magnesium can lower stress resistance suggesting its link with stress. Magnesium is rich in green leafy vegetables, raw cocoa and almonds.
B vitamins aid the metabolism of macronutrients, helping the body get energy from the food we consume. B vitamins also help with hormonal balances. Folic acid is a B vitamin used for healthy cell function and production. The intake of folic acid depends on other substrates such as B12 and zinc as well as the pH of the intestine. This suggests a deficiency can occur as a result of reduced absorption through the intestine even if enough is consumed. Good sources of B vitamins are fish, chicken and green leafy veg such as spinach.
L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid, used in the production of our happiness hormone, serotonin, and the sleep hormone, melatonin. This implies the link between stress and this amino acid, as these two hormones are important for the regulation of sleep, mood and appetite. L-tryptophan is found in nuts, cheese, milk, and eggs.
AVOID CAFFEINE, ALCOHOL AND REFINED SUGAR
These three foods are known to raise lactate levels and trigger the release of adrenaline, disrupting blood sugar levels and leave us irritable.
Consumption of sugar when feeling stressed can often lead to over indulging due to its addictive properties. Instead, opt for a piece of dark chocolate, (at least 70%) or make a cacao smoothie instead, as these contain mood boosting nutrients such as flavenols.
Mindfulness is used to help de-stress and clear the mind. Some people can use a breathing technique to reduce their stress levels, others may use a tapping technique and some people enjoy a moving meditation such as walking, running, playing an instrument or cooking.
The steps to managing your stress are acknowledging what is triggering it, using a form of meditation to focus on it and understand why its making you stressed and then letting it go.
This can take practice but is a very useful tool for people who want to manage stressful situations better.
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp honey/maple syrup
- 2 tbsp cacao powder
- Punnet of strawberries- halved.
Melt the coconut oil and mix in the honey and cacao powder until mixed well.
Pour over the strawberries and leave in the fridge for 10 minutes before serving.