Stress and its effects
Ever wondered what happens inside your body with stress and how can this affect your health and overall well being?
Well, when the body is undergoing stress, Low stomach acid due to low HCL production and digestive enzymes stops releasing. Oxygen in the blood is diverted to the muscles instead. Your digestion is put on hold. Hence eating at this time when digestion is compromised can be very stressful for the gut and lead to bloating, gas, heart burn to begin with! And stress deeply can impact the following :
Weight: During stress, there is an Increase in cortisol increasing visceral fat, the dangerous kind of fat! It produces cytokines which causes inflammation. Prolonged inflammation in visceral fat can contribute to heart disease, poor blood sugar control and depression. Cortisol can also stimulate appetite causing the person to take in more calories than they need.
Food allergies and intolerances: When body is stressed, it releases chemical including histamines which will intensify food allergies. Also when cortisol is high leading high blood sugar, body can get sensitive to various foods.
Blood sugar: when body is stressed, it produces glucose which fuels the fight or flight response to get ready for the danger. But clearly the body is not running!! Also chronic stress, cortisol prevents the body from secreting insulin, hence leading to high blood sugar levels and this can set the body for insulin resistance.
Inflammation: Stress creates inflammation, and inflammation results in more stress. And this together can lead to anxiety and depression. Inflammation makes it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. Also inflamed cells are resistant to burning giving rise to higher fat percentage.
Microbiome: The more stressed one is, the less healthy bacteria exist in the gut.
Immunity: cortisol suppresses immune function. During acute stress, immune function is enhanced, but during chronic stress, it is suppressed.
The stress management diet has 4 elements
- Reduce the source of stress or have a perception shift
- Herbs and supplements
Reduce the source of stress for eg sleeping less number of hours can create weight gain, as soon as that is addressed, goal is achieved. Perception shift helps positive thoughts override the negative ones and preventing the body of being in a constant state of stress.
Diet – Eating certain foods can exuberate stress hence crowding out few dietary irritants can help,
- Crowd out sugar, caffeine and alcohol. These are usual picks at the times of stress but the comfort is psychological, they actually make us feel worse! Caffeine and other stimulants can stress the body and heighten its response to whatever is already going on. So if youre anxious, caffeine can make you more anxious. Similarly sugar feels calming at the beginning, but is usually flowed by a dip! The same goes with alcohol!
- crowd out junk food: these create inflammation, suppressing the bodys immunity, energy and creating brain fog.
- avoid any foods that one is intolerant to during stress times, when the body is stressed, it releases histamines which can worsen the response to allergies and intolerances.
- When stress is high it is important to control blood sugar levels, stress can make blood sugar unstable and also lead to poor food choices and mood swings. Also during stress blood sugar rises, however with chronic stress it can also face low blood sugar bouts leading to over eating. Hence the key is balance!Consider eating every 2-4 hours, consuming whole fruits and vegetables and eating on a schedule. Eating complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, high fiber fruits and veggies would be beneficial.
- Ensure prebiotics and probiotics in foods and supplement form. Hence fermented veggies and soluble fiber in the form of fruits, veggies and whole grains come in play. Having a healthy gut can help body handle or modulate stress. A robust microbiome allows for proper digestion of nutrients which can build up in the body which are depleted during stress.
Herbs and supplements
Basil – rich in antioxidants and vitamin c, helps the body protectagainst stress. Can add these leaves in herbal tea or chew few leaves in the morning
Glutathione – helps to repair the gut lining, glutathione rich foods are;
Chamomile- has a calming effect, can be has as a tea at night
Exercise :We know that high intensity workout is best for loosing fat and building muscle. But when the goal is strengthening and activation parasympathetic system, the best results come from calming practices such as Tai chi and yoga. These fluid movements and breath focus practices are meditative and grounding and can bring the body in a relaxed state. Additionally light aerobic exercise is good for the immune system.
The kind of food we eat affects our mood and at times when we feel a sudden dip in our energy levels, it may be because of not eating right! Hence, we must consume those soul foods that lift our spirit and enhance mental health. When we choose to have the right ingredient it boosts our mood into positivity and strengthens our ability to manage or cope up with stress!
1. Refined and processed foods lead to fluctuation in blood sugar levels. This leaves us feeling low on energy and mood swings. It would be wise to consume whole grains and legumes that help us feel better. Don’t forget to dump the junk foods.
2. Vitamin B6 also known as pyridoxine helps in improving our moods. It is found in spinach, oats, avocado, walnuts and salmon
3. Vitamin B 12 is again an important feel-good vitamin. Healthy B12 levels help you feel good. It helps to combat depression. Its sources are salmon, yogurt and eggs
4. Dopamine plays a major role in the control of emotions and moods such as feelings of pleasure, motivation, drive and the joy of being rewarded. Exercise supports improvements in dopamine levels. Hence lifting weights along with aerobic workouts never lets you down.
5. Eating good nuts with essential fatty acids like walnuts and almonds are beneficial.
6. High-quality protein like eggs, lean chicken, fish, skim milk and skim milk foods products are building blocks for a mood-boosting diet.
7. Including in high fiber foods in your diet reduces the sweet cravings and dips in the mood.
8. Serotonin is also known as a mood regulator which promotes positive and happy thoughts. Its sources are walnuts, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, plums and tomato.
9. Foods rich in tryptophan are also beneficial as it can be converted to serotonin. Its sources are milk, curd, paneer, fish and chicken. It is also found in oilseeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, soybean, oats and whole eggs.
10. Adequate sleep, water status and stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, sport, dancing or pursuing a hobby go along way to cope up with everyday stress.
Take away : stress is actually beneficial for the body. It nurtures growth and inspires you. The belief that stress is negative makes it ugly. The trick is to have a deeper understanding of stress and changing our relationship with stress !