Community//

Stress relief: How diet and lifestyle can help

Daily stress can play havoc with your health, both in the short and long term. Restore the equilibrium of body and mind with our dietary tips…

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

Daily stress can play havoc with your health, both in the short and long term. Restore the equilibrium of body and mind with our dietary tips…

Stress is a common problem that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. There are many factors that bring stress upon the body – external pressures such as work or family responsibilities, and internal influences – what we eat and how our digestive, immune and nervous systems are functioning.

The good news is that there are plenty of simple lifestyle changes that we can make to help us to manage our stress levels. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed or struggling to cope, help is available – visit the NHS website or speak to your GP.

How stress affects the body…
Stress triggers a set of biological responses including:

The release of stress hormones from your adrenal glands – adrenaline and cortisol
An increase in blood sugar
Rising blood pressure
Rapid heartbeat

All these responses, known as ‘fight or flight’, are designed to help you meet physical challenges that threaten your survival when faced with stress (e.g. how your body would respond if you were being chased by lions). The trouble is, in today’s high-stress culture, the stress response continually remains on full alert and the body does not have a chance to recover.

How hormones are affected…
The adrenal glands, nestled on the upper, inner surface of each kidney, produce the main stress response hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Over time, the adrenal glands may become overworked and have difficulty producing the right amount of these hormones.

How diet can help
Eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to helping our bodies to manage the physiological changes caused by stress. An important part of any stress response includes identifying and reducing the causes of stress. Adrenal function is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels, therefore much of the dietary advice below aims to stabilise levels of sugar in the blood.

Choose whole, natural foods and ensure a minimum of five portions of non-starchy vegetables per day – and eat a rainbow!

Start the day with a balanced breakfast. Avoid sugary cereals, pastries and too much caffeine.

Prioritise protein. When chronically stressed the body has increased demand for protein. Protein requirements are estimated at 0.7-1.8g per kg body weight daily. Choose smoked cod roe, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds in each meal. Protein helps to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

Try not to skip meals. Ensure that you eat regularly, taking healthy snacks as necessary. Small, regular meals will help to maintain energy levels and mood while decreasing tiredness and irritability.

Avoid highly refined foods such as white bread, pasta, chocolate, biscuits, sweets or foods with added sugars. Hidden sugars are also in many bowls of cereal, bread, tinned produce and processed or packaged foods. Replace processed foods with unrefined foods such as brown bread, rice, oats and rye. Note that excess alcohol can also cause imbalanced blood sugar levels.

Watch the caffeine. Stimulants such as tea and coffee may provide a temporary energy boost, but consuming too much may reduce energy levels and deplete nutrients in the long term. Aim to drink at least 1-1.5 litres of filtered water throughout the day and try incorporating herbal or fruit teas instead of caffeinated drinks.

Emotional eating. Try not to reach for food when you are in a stressed state. Stress diverts blood flow away from your digestive system, which you don’t want when you are trying to digest your food. You may experience bloating, gas and become prone to discomfort.

Key nutrients
Nutrients that specifically support the adrenal glands include:

Vitamin C found in most fresh fruit and vegetables. It is stored in the adrenal gland and is required to make cortisol.
Magnesium is dramatically depleted in times of stress, and symptoms of deficiency often include fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and predisposition to stress. Include plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds to supply adequate levels of magnesium.
B vitamins can help to support adrenal function, particularly B5 which directly supports adrenal cortex and hormone production. Sources include whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Meditation is a great way to calm your mind, plus it’s free and you can do it anywhere, anytime.

Yoga may help with practising mindfulness – not only is it a great form of exercise but it incorporates meditation to slow down and calm the body and mind.

Get outside for fresh air and to connect with nature.

Good quality sleep is of utmost importance for long term health and regeneration. Few people can function properly with less than seven or eight hours of sleep per night.

Regular, gentle exercise is very beneficial for relieving stress and decreasing negative emotions such as worry or anxiety. However, for people with significantly depleted adrenal hormones, intensive cardiovascular exercise may further deplete adrenal reserves.

Regular relaxation needs to be built into daily life. Reading, having a bath, getting a massage or listening to music are great ways to promote relaxation.

Counselling or other therapies may be beneficial for those having to cope in the face of severe stressors

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Courtesy of Dmitriy Prayzel / Shutterstock
Well-Being//

A Study On Piglets Surprisingly Sheds Light on How the Human Body Reacts to Stress

by Adam Moeser
Community//

How to Overcome the Health Effects Triggered By Stress to Our Body

by Serena McKenzie
iQoncept/Shutterstock.com
Community//

How to De-Stress for Better Health

by Irazema Garcia

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.