Stress is a bosom friend of a person who lives in a modern city. This is one of the most insidious enemies of our body, which from time to time poisons our lives. To reduce the harmful effects of stress to a minimum, we suggest that you revise and adjust the principles of your diet.
How stress affects our body
Our response to stress is largely due to the surge of hormones that occurs under the influence of certain chemical processes occurring in the brain. It is the brain that determines how we perceive stress. And hormones cause physical reactions. It turns out that even an unpleasant thought can cause a response of the body.
The main hormone that causes a storm in the body is adrenaline. It is produced by the adrenal glands and affects almost all types of metabolism. Its secretion increases dramatically in stressful situations, a sense of anger, anxiety, fear, injuries, and shock states. Under its influence, the content of glucose in the blood increases, the pulse quickens, there is a feeling of anxiety. The brother of adrenaline – the hormone of immediate response – cortisol. It is considered a close relative of adrenaline, as it is also produced by the adrenal glands. Its task is to prepare our bodies for the action of stress. Being an anti-stress mechanism, it starts some protective processes, suspends others. It is “with its help” that many in stressful situations increase their appetite. So the body accumulates strength to overcome difficulties. At the same time, thanks to cortisol, the metabolic rate decreases, also to preserve the energy that will be required to combat stress.
Symptoms of acute stress: severe exacerbation of hunger, craving for sweets or alcohol, irritability, panic attacks, sweating, heart palpitations, restless sleep, nightmares.
Consequences of chronic stress
Chronic stress causes persistently elevated cortisol levels. Outside of stressful situations, its indicators tend to rise during the day when we are active and need energy. At night, they descend, giving us the opportunity to rest and recover.
However, in a state of chronic stress, constantly elevated cortisol levels do not give us the opportunity to catch our breath and often cause sleep disturbance and insomnia. During such periods, our digestive system also sometimes fails. This can lead to a number of eating disorders: irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, constipation, and even stomach ulcers. This is due to irritation of the mucous membrane and improper functioning of the smooth muscles of the intestine.
Chronic stress can also affect the body’s ability to resist diseases and infections. Surely you have repeatedly noticed that you are cold or experiencing severe malaise after a stressful period at work, moving, repairing, or such a joyful, but the troublesome event as a wedding.
Symptoms of chronic stress: loss of strength, lack of energy, a feeling of lethargy, mental weakness, insomnia, allergy attacks, infectious diseases (such as colds, flu, fungal diseases), depression, reduced sex drive, lack of thirst for life.
Alcohol and caffeine for stress relief
Human nature is such that the instinct of self-preservation prompts us to look for an antidote to stress. Intense situations, some resort to the “help” of alcohol. And is a glass or two able to relieve stress and contribute to relaxation at the end of a hard day’s work? Initially, alcohol acts as a stimulant of serotonin – a hormone of joy that improves mood. But regular and excessive use of it can have the opposite effect. After all, alcohol, like stress, stimulates an increase in the level of adrenaline in the blood, causing irritation and tension. In addition, this, at first glance, an easy way to deal with stress can develop into an addiction.
The same can be said about caffeine. For many of us, the morning becomes good only thanks to this “alarm clock”, which gives strength and vivacity. At the same time, the principle of its action is about the same as that of alcohol. And over time, prolonged and frequent consumption of coffee can also increase irritability and exacerbate the symptoms of chronic stress. To prevent this from happening, limit yourself to three cups of coffee a day. Try to stretch the pleasure, not drink on the run.
Stress and food
Very often, in stressful situations, gluttony becomes the same bad habit like smoking, alcohol abuse, or even biting lips and nails.
Usually, people are divided into two categories – those who seize stress, and those who, on the contrary, refuse to eat. At the same time, in the natural conditions of normal life, the first usually carefully control what they eat. And in a stalemate, they lose control, which in turn leads to even more stress. Since childhood, we know that food can not only saturate but also bring pleasure (especially on the example of sweets). By the way, this happens in the animal world. Scientists have proven that when animals are stressed, they also begin to seek solace in food. As a “sedative”, they prefer their favorite treats.
But if your “favorites” can lead to weight gain or guilt, try to find new, more useful joys. For example, replacing eating chocolate with walking in the fresh air, relaxing baths with sea salt by candlelight, and shopping therapy has not been canceled.
How to Cope with Stress
It is not surprising that all these consequences of chronic stress (rapid heartbeat, vasoconstriction, unauthorized insulin production) cause many cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, and even obesity. But we can (and should!) make a difference by carefully reviewing our diet. Here’s what the famous Australian nutritionist Fiona Carruthers recommends.
Fractional nutrition will help stabilize blood glucose levels, which are often disturbed in a state of stress, and affect our well-being and mood.
For a long time to recharge us with energy is best possible for products containing long (complex, slow) carbohydrates and with a low glycemic index (GI): whole grain bread, muesli, fruits, cereals. Since the breakdown of long carbohydrates (into glucose) occurs gradually and smoothly, an excess of sugar in the blood is excluded.
Short (simple, fast) carbohydrates (sugar, cakes, sweet soda) can give an instant surge of energy but have a high glycemic index, respectively, when eating them, blood sugar levels rise sharply. This, in turn, can cause irritability and trigger mood swings, similar to symptoms of stress. In addition, excess glucose almost immediately turns into fat deposits.
Protein products (lean meat, fish, or legumes) in the company of carbohydrate foods help regulate blood glucose levels and are also necessary for the growth and development of muscle mass.
For the proper functioning of all body systems, it is important to reduce fat intake. However, it is not necessary to completely exclude them from the diet. Make sure that the “right” fats regularly appear on your table: redfish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, unrefined vegetable oil (especially olive), avocado, flaxseed oil, nuts. These foods are well absorbed and saturate us with elements necessary for our health.
To obtain the desired result (namely excellent health), all these components of a balanced diet should be supported by vitamins and trace elements. Antioxidants – vitamins A, C, and E – valiant fighters against photoaging of the skin. They protect us from the destructive effects of free radicals formed under the influence of ultraviolet radiation. Record holders for the content of vitamin A – liver, especially marine animals and fish, butter, egg yolk, cream, fish oil. Most vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, cereals, legumes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, rosehip berries, sea buckthorn, cherries, mountain ash, apple seeds, and pears. Vitamin C you will find in fresh fruits, vegetables, greens. Rosehips, sea buckthorn, black currant, red pepper are real storehouses of this vitamin. But in products of animal origin, this vitamin is absent. Keep in mind that the content of all vitamins, and especially vitamin C, in plants depends on the variety, area of cultivation, soil characteristics, lighting, etc. In addition, the content of vitamin C decreases during storage due to the presence in vegetables and fruits of the enzyme ascorbate, which destroys ascorbic acid.
In addition to vitamins, an important role is given to tracing elements. Magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of the heart, and also increases efficiency and stress resistance. Especially rich in them are apricots, peaches, cauliflower, tomatoes, and potatoes. Zinc supports the health of the immune system, is involved in wound healing, and helps shape the structure of proteins and cell membranes. Sources of zinc are beef, shellfish (crabs and oysters), chicken, and turkey. Calcium is responsible for the health of teeth, bone development of the musculoskeletal system, and blood clotting. It is found in cottage cheese, dairy products, rose hips, almonds, sesame seeds, legumes.
When and how much to eat during stress
Alas, we cannot completely eliminate stress from our lives. But thanks to a balanced diet, we can reduce its consequences and increase stress resistance. For an uninterrupted supply of “fuel” to the body, three meals a day are needed. The main rule: eat often, little, and at the same time slowly. By the way, if you miss any meal in the hope of losing weight, then you are on the wrong track. Such experiments are regarded by the body as unnecessary stress, believing that it is starved and immediately turns on the “energy-saving” mode. Consequently, he is set not to waste, but to store (i.e. to postpone for a “rainy day” in the form of fat) as many calories as possible.
Fast and useful
To food brought benefit and pleasure, and its preparation took a minimum of time try:
- make a menu in advance for several days in advance;
- be sure to make a snack if you did not manage to fully eat. Make sure that you do not have large breaks between meals (maximum 4 hours);
- pre-pack the refrigerator. It should always be: vegetables, fruits, cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, lean meat;
- do not forget to replenish the supply of cereals, pasta, spices and sauces.
The basis of the “anti-stress” diet
WATER. Train yourself to drink an average of 2 liters of plain still water per day. Every morning, start with a glass of not cold water with lemon. It is beneficial for both skin and digestion. If you can not deny yourself a coffee, then drink a glass of water with it (so you will protect the body from oxidation).
OATMEAL, sir. Porridge on the water is a great start to the day. Even if at first you will not experience pleasure from it, over time you will get used to it, for which the body will immediately thank you. Show gastronomic imagination and diversify the porridge with fresh berries, dried fruits, or nuts.
BANANAS. These fruits are good as a snack. They contain a large amount of fiber (extremely useful for digestion) and magnesium (which strengthens the heart muscle).
RED/ORANGE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruits. They have a low glycemic index, contain a large amount of fiber and antioxidants.
BEANS are a source of fiber, vegetable protein, and vitamins.
LEAN MEAT AND SEAFOOD provide us with protein, zinc, and omega-3 acids.
NUTS are the record holders in terms of nutrient content.
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