Need to reduce your stress levels?
It’s safe to say we all experience stress in some form and to varying degrees in our lives.
Stress may come in various ways and be brought on by different factors, which include mental, physical, emotional, environmental, lifestyle and relationships.
Our body’s reaction to stress can determine the effect it has on our health.
What happens when we become stressed?
Stress is likely to affect the entire body. Our immune system; cells and gut health are all interconnected, with a problem in one area having a negative effect on other areas of the body. As an example – IBS is commonly triggered by stress.
Nutrient absorption from food may be reduced; elimination of toxins hampered; sodium (salt) and calcium can build up in the body; magnesium and potassium levels may be depleted.
The adrenal glands, situated at the top of the kidneys, release the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. They also release an anti-inflammatory hormone – cortisol. Prolonged stress will elevate cortisol levels, which can result in inflammation.
Stress can also trigger a fight or flight type situation in our minds where muscles tense up and our heartbeat becomes faster.
Levels of the hormone serotonin (responsible for mood balance) can drop. Another hormone, aldosterone, is released when we get stressed. Aldosterone may cause sodium retention and raise blood pressure.
The telltale signs of stress
If you regularly experience at least two or three of the following symptoms, stress may be having an adverse impact on your adrenal glands:
- can’t focus or concentrate
- memory loss
- rapid weight gain or loss
- lowered libido
- can’t ‘slow down’
- cravings for stimulants such as tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco
- aching muscles or joints
- low blood pressure
- salt cravings
It's very important to accept stress is not something that can ever be completely controlled or suppressed. Stress is the body's natural response to many situations. However, there are several easy and natural key steps you can take in an attempt at minimising the negative impact of stress on your life:
1. Keep hydrated – drinking 1.5 to 2 litres of hydrating fluids throughout the day
2. Eat a breakfast with plenty of protein i.e. eggs, fish, chicken, nuts, protein shake
3. Eat in a relaxed and calm situation, taking time to chew and swallow food
4. Reduce or eliminate potentially inflammatory foods that contain gluten, dairy, wheat, etc. Some people have a level of intolerance in relation to foods from the 'nightshade family' like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, paprika and cayenne pepper. Inflammation can occur if the body doesn't get on well with these foods.
5. Limit stimulants such as tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco
6. Eat plenty green veg, nuts, seeds, pulses, eggs, fish and lean meat
7. Switch off TV and electronic devices at least an hour before you go to bed
8. At the end of the evening – mentally tell yourself any worries or stresses can only be addressed the following morning
9. Practice meditation type activities such as mindfulness or yoga
10. Reconnect with nature by going on walks or visit places that make you feel relaxed and happy
11. Exercise regularly – a very effective form of stress release for many
12. Support gut bacteria balance by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh or kefir. Probiotics and digestion supplements can also help.
13. Brain, stress and mood supplements can provide a welcome boost.