Health – Eat to beat stress
By Siobhán Carroll – BA; Dip Nat; Dip Herb; MANP; MGNC
Stress affects nearly all of us from time to time. When looking at how to manage stress, your diet is a great place to start. Certain nutrients are depleted during times of stress and need to be topped up, whilst others help to reduce stress.
So what nutrients do you need when you feel under pressure?
Firstly, it’s important to understand what happens to the body when we experience stress. You’ve probably heard of your ‘fight or flight’ reflexes, but what you might not realise, is that every time you experience stress, these reflexes are triggered. ‘Fight or flight’ is great for fleeing actual danger but a little excessive when pulled into a meeting with your boss. When stressed your body prioritises where it spends its energies and nutrients are leached away from less vital areas of the body, such as your skin and hair, and redirected towards key survival organs.
Short term survival is the name of the game when your stress response kicks in and any nutrients that can support this, such as magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C, are used up more quickly. Your adrenal glands will also be working extra hard to produce the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol, and will be using up plenty of vitamin C in the process.
Low levels of magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C can lead to fatigue, low energy and poor concentration, all common symptoms of stress.
Magnesium is one of the main nutrients to be depleted by stress and yet you need it to help support your metabolism, your muscles and joints, and your mood. Food sources of magnesium include leafy green veg, bananas, cashews, dark chocolate, quinoa and avocados.
B vitamins are important for supporting energy levels – think brown rice, millet, almonds, broccoli, red meat, spinach and sunflower seeds, as is vitamin C. Food sources of vitamin C include spinach, oranges, peppers, blueberries, blackberries and tomatoes. Low levels of vitamin C can be doubly problematic because you need vitamin C to help absorb iron, a mineral that is crucial for energy levels. Look to broccoli, lentils, pumpkin seeds, quinoa and spinach if wanting to increase your intake of iron.
A number of nutrients can help to reduce stress.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they have a wide range of actions throughout the body. When it comes to stress, there are three amino acids that really matter: tryptophan, tyrosine and theanine. Tryptophan can be converted into serotonin, a feel good neurotransmitter that can help to relax your nervous system and boost your mood. Tyrosine and theanine help to support your cognitive functions and levels of other soothing neurotransmitters like GABA and dopamine. Oats, green tea, eggs, fatty fish, tofu, pumpkin seeds and lentils are good sources of these amino allies.
Essential fatty acids are crucial when it comes to helping the body absorb nutrients, produce hormones and maintain healthy nerve functioning. EPA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, has been linked to reducing cortisol levels, helping to relax your nervous system and promoting healthy sleep patterns. Load up on omega-3s by incorporating oily fish, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and soy beans into your diet.
Need a little calm? If you’re really struggling to stay on top of stress, you could try a gentle stress remedy like A.Vogel’s AvenaCalm tincture. Prepared using extracts of the oat herb plant, it works to soothe your nervous system, enabling you to cope better with emotional turmoil.
There’s also Passiflora Complex Spray to support relaxation.
Siobhán Carroll is a fully qualified clinical Herbalist and Naturopath based in Ireland. She runs her own clinic in Co. Clare and online via her website nerdynaturopath.com. She has 10 years of experience in the field of natural health, she also teaches yoga and meditation and is a lecturer at the College of Naturopathic Medicine.
Siobhán is also a cold-water sea swimmer, a loving mum and a massive Harry Potter fan. She has a deep connection with plants and is passionate about empowering people to look after their own health using the healing powers of nature.
Siobhán Carroll BA; Dip Nat; Dip Herb; MANP; MGNC