Our Relationship with Stress & Nutrition
As part of National Stress Awareness Month, we take a look at our relationships with stress and nutrition - both the impact of stress upon our nutrition and the impact of nutrition on stress and how to bring more balance to the two.
A balanced diet, maintained by eating regular meals and from all food groups, is integral to boosting our wellbeing and for helping us to manage and minimise our stress levels. Of course, our nutrition is closely linked to our energy levels, which influence both our physical and our mental health, and as a result our day-to-day motivation and happiness. If we don’t pay enough attention to looking after ourselves and our nutrition, we open the doors to becoming more stressed as our mental and physical fatigue increases. Equally, when our stress levels increase there is a danger that we may neglect our balanced diets and put ourselves at risk of nutrient deficiency. As the Mental Health Foundation's 2018 study revealed, 46% of people reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. The relationship between stress and nutrition therefore goes both ways, and so it is imperative that we keep the two in balance to maintain optimum health and happiness.
What happens when we are stressed?
When we are thrown into a stressful situation our bodies react with a ‘fight our flight’ system, whereby our bodies have an instinctive and intense physical response that releases a combination of hormones within us (including adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine). If we are unable to shift our feelings of stress and in tandem this release of cortisol, the impact of these hormones on our bodies continues. These hormones have numerous physical effects, upon us from high blood pressure and increased heart rates to ‘brain fog’ and a sense of panic that can seem all-consuming. Our bodies need certain levels of cortisol for every day body-functioning, as it regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body including metabolism and immunity, providing us with bursts of energy when we need it. However, too much cortisol has an impact on our weight, blood pressure and other functions. For example, if we are stressed and sleep-deprived, we elevate both our cortisol levels, which turns the proteins in our bodies into glucose, and we increase our ghrelin levels that control our body’s hunger hormone and have us reaching for sugary snacks. Our bodies hunger after high-energy sugary foods for a quick fix, but this will increase our likelihood of feeling stressed and disrupt any sense of balance.
So how can we achieve more balance through our nutrition?
First, let us look to B Vitamins, which are natural mood boosters and help conquer stress. There are eight essential B vitamins: thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, biotin (vitamin B7), folic acid (folate) and vitamin B12; all of which have special qualities that help transform our moods and combat stress. Balancing out neurotransmitters for optimum brain function, these B vitamins have the power to rebalance you and stabilise your mindset and mood. Holland and Barrett have a really useful article on this (click here) which lists out each of their individual benefits and food sources you can turn to for your daily intake of these vitamins (as they are often found in food groups such as nuts, seeds, eggs, fish.)
If you’re confident with your diet, however, but are looking for a supplement that is packed full of B vitamins and will help bring you more inner balance, then we would recommend Ringana’s CAPS moodoo. This helpful pot of 90 capsules contains a supplement with natural ingredients that will help you combat fatigue and tiredness, with a calming effect that helps you alleviate stress. While the Vitamin B1, B6, B12, folic acid and niacin contained in buckwheat germ powder help to preserve normal mental and nervous system function, even in stressful situations, the combination of niacin and riboflavin counteract exhaustion and fatigue. Calcium from alga powder regulates nerve function and helps signal transmission between the nerve cells and extract from the ashwagandha root promote physical and mental relaxation processes and helps us to calm down. While there are many elements to our diets that help ease our stress, and no quick fix, this is a helpful way of ensuring you are receiving those important vitamins and bringing a sense of balance to your body.
Next, let’s turn to Magnesium. Magnesium is a really important mineral in our diet to stabilise our nervous system functioning by helping to rebalance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. As the National Institutes of Health outlines, “Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.” Its impact on energy production is therefore really important for building strength, motivation and minimising stress. How best to ensure you are keeping up your intake of magnesium? Be sure to eat lots of green leafy vegetables (spinach and Swiss chard), nuts, seeds, avocados, brown rice, legumes and whole grains.
It is also important to look after your digestive system and to make sure you are getting lots of good bacteria into your diet. If your digestive system is irritable your stress levels are likely to increase, and visa versa - digestive systems can also be reactive to stress. To help keep your digestive system functioning efficiently, it is recommended to bring lots of soluble fibre into your diet, which can be found in lentils, beans, and fruit. Fermented foods that contain live cultures, meanwhile, are packed with healthy bacteria to help your gut, including yoghurts, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. If you’re interested in taking supplements to support this, then we would suggest the Ringana Cleansing Pack, which contains fresh fibre and calcium to promote healthy intestinal activity and to regulate digestion in a natural way.
At Hayya Health, we will always see everybody as an individual with different nutritional needs. The levels of these vitamins and minerals that we should be taking may vary for each individual deepening on work-life balance, age, and physical health. That is why Hayya Health wants to help people tailor unique nutritional plans that are personally attuned to meet the demands of each individual lifestyle. As a trained nutritionist, Aliya Jasrai offers consultative and bespoke nutritional advice to her clients. After your consultation and assessment Aliya will suggest the best plan for you with various different options, including a simple nutritional plan, a well defined nutritional plan, and a holistic nutritional plan with coaching. Prices vary depending on your plan, but rest assured, each will be bespoke and guide you to achieving optimum health, wellbeing and happiness. So if you are interested in a consultation, either via email, phone, or a face-to-face session, please do get in touch and discover some of Hayya Health’s nutritionist plans in the link here.
No individual should suffer imbalance and stress in their lives, and we all need some guidance now and again on ways we can boost our energy and motivation. We believe a great place to start is your nutrition. So why wait any longer!
Words by Lottie Franklin