For many of us stress is simply overwhelming and when we think of eating for stress we envision scarfing down ice cream, chocolate or other feel good foods. This article is not about that type of stress eating but about using foods to balance out the bad that happens within us because of increased anxiety.
When stressful situations occur rarely do we consider what it does to us internally or how the long term effects of stress will affect us, our lives, or our bodies. Here we will discuss some of those effects as well as how you can wisely start eating for stress and improve your health at the same time. Though this won't eliminate stress from your life or your body it can help protect your health and keep you strong enough to contend with those struggles with which you are facing.
Understanding Stress and the Effects of Stress on and within your Body
Stress can be brought on by an unending number of causes and last for mere moments or for extensive periods of time. For those who experience stress more often or with situations that are stressful and long term this emotional turbulence can have extreme effects on and within your body. Some can be easily felt, some seen (eating for stress i.e mood foods) while other issues lie beneath the surface wreaking havoc, often unnoticed, in your body.
As you have surely noticed at times of high stress you can feel an actual physical reaction in your body. This often occurs when the stress is brought on by fear or situations that occur quickly but can also be felt at other emotionally stressful times. Stress is like a safety response for your body - when you are scared the chemical reaction it sets off in your body is what causes that adrenaline type rush that makes you want to run, fight or panic. You feel your heart rate increase, perhaps an internal panic type sensation, cold, sweaty - it can manifest physically in many different ways. The purpose of this reaction within your body is just a guess but stands to reason it works to notify your brain and body that something is not right.
Your fight or flight reaction is exactly the type of situation that your body is designed to create for self preservation - if you've ever had a close call in a car you've probably felt this reaction. Since most people and life in general should not consist of regular life or death situations it is logical that this chemical reaction and functions are not meant to occur regularly. This just goes to reinforce that when overused or over exposed to the effects of stress it seems understandable that there can be adverse consequences.
When such emotional conditions, such as stress, are experienced for longer periods of time it can cause your immune systems to be less "protective". This can increase the occurrence of colds, flus, and other more serious conditions and diseases. Stress causes your body's natural protector (its immune system) to become weak and vulnerable and therefore can cause serious short and or long term problems for you. This does not help when in turn you start eating for stress improperly with foods that do not replenish that which is needed or used.
Depletion and Deficiencies
What you do not see is that when you become stressed out your body secretes chemicals in your brain which in turns sends out a beacon of sorts to your adrenal glands which are what makes hormones such as adrenaline and so on . This is a natural process and is what causes you to feel your heart rate increase, get jittery and often experience that anxious feeling inside.
Though the process is natural it is not something that your body is designed to experience normally or on a regular basis. By going through or dealing with more stress other than the occasional short term issue at home or work your body actually ends up depleting itself of vitamins and other needed nutrients such as B6, tryptophan and magnesium.
Eating for Stress - How to Balance the Effects of Stress Within your Body
To balance out the issues that can plague your body and its immune system you can help counter some of the long term issues by properly eating for stress. Here are some foods that should be introduced more potently into your diet if you consider yourself as constantly stressed out or negatively anxious.
Eating for Stress: Balancing Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Increase your intake of foods that contain or assist your body in producing or replenishing healthy vitamins, chemicals and minerals such as amino acids, tryptophan, magnesium, B6 and so on . Those foods can include:
Turkey, complete protein foods consisting of both animal and vegetable protein, whole grains and beans.
Eating for Stress: Building Back Up Your Immune System
Introduce more fruits, veggies and other foods that are rich in the following vitamins and minerals to help promote a healthy immune systems and help you to counter the negative effects of stress that can weaken it. Here are some foods and food tips for a healthier immune system.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat and low sugar foods. Especially those containing Vitamin C, B6, and magnesium.
Eating for Stress is Not a Cure-All
Eating for stress simply helps you to replenish some of what is lost and help restore a more fully functioning system. It will not cure stress nor will it necessarily prevent the effects of stress from taking a toll on you both physically or emotionally. It can however provide your body with some stress relief as far as the immediate loss or toll it takes on your body.
Eating for stress relief should be an addition to other life changes such as eliminating (when possible) or facing situations that cause emotional anxiety and turmoil. There is an old saying that "laughter is good medicine" and that is true. Simply being able to be truly happy and limit the toxic emotions that you feel can be the best feel good, live well solution out there.
As with any serious condition - consult a mental or medical health professional for information on treatment, coping or dealing with emotional anxiety or disorders. This article is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or diagnose any medical or mental condition.
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