Combat stress with food naturally by following these useful tips
Stress is often solely thought of within the context of emotion. You’re stressed because of your job, you’re stress because of school, you’re stressed because of relationship issues. While emotional disruption undoubtedly evokes physiological reactions in your body ultimately amounting to “stress”, stress can be additionally caused by nutrition, exercise, and numerous other physical and biological factors.
What exactly is stress?
One of the obstacles in combating stress lies in its definition itself. Stress is both an ambiguous and often subjective term, ultimately boiling down to the body’s response to perceived demand or threat. Although the word bears a negative connotation, not all stress is harmful. In fact, some is necessary to maintain a healthy life.
Physiologically, when the body experiences external stimuli the body perceives to be a threat, signals are sent to the brain to activate the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two opposing subsystems: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system promotes the “rest and digest” components, while the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for “fight or flight” responses. When one is activated, the other is essentially curbed.
When the brain receives signals regarding a potential threat, the sympathetic nervous system is activated which in turn triggers various proteins and glands to activate in order to prepare for the threat. This can be expressed by an increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased production of sweat, decrease in hunger and increased strength among others.
Why is too much stress harmful?
While the sympathetic nervous system is activated, the body is alert and physically prepared to handle the threat. However, the parasympathetic system remains inactive. The parasympathetic nervous system is critical for repair mode, orchestrating processes the body requires in order to heal and perform the vital functions not associated with immediate harm.
As stress persists, the immune system does not function as it should since it is being repressed by the sympathetic nervous system. Therefore, individuals experiencing chronic stress are much more prone to illness and prolonged injury.
How can your diet help?
The first line of defense against stress is to identify the culprit. If there is an obvious life stressor, ideally try to limit or remove it from your life. However, this is not always a plausible solution and other interventions may need to take place. Certain foods can help combat the body’s response to the stress in this case. Additionally, poor diets may also contribute to the body’s stress response, exacerbating existing issues.
Here are two types of foods that can help tame the body’s sympathetic nervous system:
1. Fruits and vegetables:
Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables can boost the immune system. Through several research studies, they have demonstrated an ability to lower stress in individuals with chronic stress and mood disorders.
2. High fiber foods:
Fiber not only contributes to satiety and prevents cravings, but additionally is thought to effect certain chemicals, such as norepinephrine, that are involved in relaxing.
3. High-quality proteins:
In foods such as turkey, amino acids in the meat can be converted into serotonin through a complex metabolic process. Serotonin helps with the rest and digest goal and can be deficient in individuals stressed for long periods of time. Other high-quality proteins can be found in nuts, eggs, and seeds.
There are many other options for healthy choices to hinder stress, but these three are a great place to start.
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