It is essential in times of stress that you maximize your nutrient intake by including a broad range of whole foods in our diet and reduce the amount of processed foods. Whole foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds and lean proteins contain numerous key phytonutrients, some of these are;
Vitamins and minerals; found in fresh fruit and vegetables. These are particularly important as when your body is undergoing stress as you require a higher amount of these nutrients to aid with energy production and stress adaption. Furthermore fresh fruit and vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables) are essential for you as they keep your body in an alkaline environment, thereby keeping your cells in there most optimal state for providing your body with energy.
Essential fatty acids/ omega 3, 6, 9; found in nuts and seeds and oily fish’s i.e. salmon, anchovies etc. Theses fats, particularly omega 3, are anti-inflammatory and counteract the inflammatory effects of cortisol brought about by stress; furthermore they are essential for proper neurotransmission, assisting in stabilizing your moods and assisting with memory function.
Antioxidants; found in colorful fruit and vegetables particularly berries. These are essential during times of stress to protect your body’s cells against carcinogenic (cancer forming) changes which may occur from the inflammatory effect of stress hormones. Antioxidant’s also assist your body with providing sustainable cellular energy.
Protein found in eggs, tofu, nuts, fish, chicken and lean red meats. Protein supports your body to achieve a healthy metabolism and normal blood glucose levels. Protein also provides your body with sustainable energy and also assists in stabilizing your moods. Protein is essential for your lean muscle development and strength and also protects against the catabolic effects of stress hormones.
Foods and items which you should avoid, which are inflammatory foods include items such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors/sweeteners, excessive salt, grains, refined foods, recreational drugs and smoking. All these not only contribute to inflammation in your body but also contribute to an acidic environment and add to the excretion of nutrients from your body, and reduce your bodies ability to adapt to stress efficiently. With regards to caffeine and stimulants these not only have the negative effects just mentioned, but these also falsely activate the fight or flight stress response in your body creating more excessive and unnecessary stress hormones to be released into your body.
On a final note regarding dietary advice for those under stress, as humans we all have individual needs and requirements, therefore there is no one dietary guide that can be applied to everyone, it is essential to adopt a nutritional plan specific for your requirements, i.e.; for those with insulin resistance or those who are overweight these individuals may benefit from a carbohydrate controlled diet and this should always be carried out under the supervision of a qualified Naturopath or Nutritionist and those with a history poor lifestyle/ dietary choices or poor gut health these people may need a Naturopathic detoxification program, again seek professional advice to see what dietary programs is most suitable for your needs.
Herbal Support for a Hyper Stressed State, With symptoms of Anxiety, Nervousness, Insomnia, Agitation or Digestive Symptoms (Pain, Bloating, Cramping, Constipation/Diarrhea)
There are many traditional herbal medicines which have several supportive effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and on the adrenal glands, while the body is in a hyper stressed state. These herbs have a calming, anxiolytic, sedative and relaxing effect on the CNS and adrenal glands, particularly where there is anxiety, nervousness, and agitation, digestive discomfort due to stress, heart palpitations and insomnia.
Zizyphus spinosa (Zizyphus)
Indications; anxiety, insomnia, aggression, heart palpitations, night sweats.
Magnolia officinalis (Magnolia)
Indications; anxiety, depression, insomnia.
Passiflora incanata (Passion flower)
Indications; anxiety, muscle spasms, insomnia.
Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm)
Indications; anxiety, reduced cognitive function, insomnia, gastrointestinal symptoms such as gut spasm associated nervousness.
Piper methysticum (Kava kava)
Indications; nervous anxiety, menopausal anxiety, generalised anxiety and insomnia.
Lavendula angustafolia (Lavender)
Indications; anxiety, insomnia, poor concentration, gastrointestinal discomfort and bloating.
Herbal support for a Chronic stress state with symptoms of Depression, Fatigue, Insomnia and Muscle Fatigue
Avena sativa (Oats)
Indications; nervous exhaustion, fatigue, convalescence.
Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)
Indications; stress, fatigue, poor immunity.
Rhodiola rosea (Golden root) root
Indications; depression and erratic mood, enhancing work performance, fatigue, sleep difficulties, poor appetite, irritability, poor memory recall, headaches and fatigue.
Glycyrrhiza glabra (Liquorice) root
Indications; chronic stress, chronic fatigue syndrome, menopausal depression, muscle fatigue, digestive discomfort, depression.
Withania somnifera (Winter cherry) root
Indications; fatigue, low libido, stress, anxiety/ depression, weight loss, low iron levels, addictions.
So before stress gets the better of you, plan ahead and implement some of these stress buster techniques and dietary recommendations, review your diet and seek out some herbal support.
It’s always better to assist your body while it’s in a state of heath and aim to prevent any health concerns relating to stress, and in cases where stress has already depleted your body, there is still hope; aim to take a Naturopathic approach to your lifestyle and diet as discussed earlier, and seek out professional advice (with a Naturopath and Nutirtionist) as to which herbal treatment and dietary program is appropriate to restore your body’s natural state of vitality and to regain the health you truly deserve.