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Stress Relief: Five Areas To Focus On From A Nutritionist

Stress is a common issue in today’s society, characterised by the body’s response to a disturbance or demand, which triggers what’s known as the ‘stress response’. On one side, a degree of stress is a natural part of life and can spur positive action or change. However, extreme or chronic stress can cause a harmful stress response, leading to negative implications for our health and wellbeing.

Explore the following five focus areas, focusing specifically on nutrition, to help mitigate stress and support the body in dealing with it effectively.

Focus Area #1: Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet

Inflammation and stress have a symbiotic relationship, each driving the other. Breaking this harmful cycle may involve prioritising anti-inflammatory foods in your daily diet. Start with consuming 8-10 portions of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients such as polyphenols and flavonoids, known for combating chronic inflammation.

Incorporating nuts and seeds, and healthy oils such as olive oil and flaxseed oil, may also help to reduce markers of inflammation. Moreover, cocoa contains flavonoids with anti-inflammatory properties, while green tea offers an abundant source of polyphenols and antioxidants for added anti-inflammatory benefits.

Don’t overlook the potential of specific herbs and spices for reducing inflammation in the body. Turmeric, in particular, may be the wonder-spice missing in your daily routine for reducing inflammation, owing to its biologically active component, Curcumin. Try our Turmeric Defence Shot for a dose of turmeric on-the-go, which also contains 100% of your daily intake of vitamin B12, a vitamin that is often depleted during times of stress.

Focus Area #2: Balancing blood sugar

Making smart choices about your carbohydrate intake, and specifically opting for complex sources such as vegetables, whole grains and fruits, may be one of the best ways to regulate blood sugar levels. Unlike refined carbohydrates such as white breads, pasta, sugary sodas and sweets, which tend to lead to sudden spikes in blood sugar, complex carbohydrates are high in fibre, leading to slower digestion and more steady increases in blood sugar.

Additionally, the order in which you eat your meals matters: start with high-fibre foods first such as vegetables and fruits, followed by proteins and fats, saving refined carbohydrates for last. This simple method may reduce sharp rises in blood sugar levels and promote longer-lasting satiety.

Incorporating sufficient protein in your daily diet is essential for managing blood sugar levels, with plant-based sources including legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains being fantastic sources. Another handy tip is adding apple cider vinegar, which may have the potential to reduce post-meal blood glucose levels. Opt for our Berry Gut Health Shot for a dose of apple cider vinegar.

Focus Area #3: Microbiome support

Stress can negatively alter the composition of the gut microbiome through the release of stress hormones, inflammation and changes in the autonomic nervous system. Strengthening the gut is therefore key for coping with stress, and the bidirectional microbiota-gut-brain axis describes this process well.

While stress affects the microbiota, the gut may influence neural pathways, suggesting that improving gut health may have positive implications for our mental wellbeing. So, how can we improve the resilience and diversity of our microbiome? Adding prebiotic foods, such as dandelion greens, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke and garlic, is beneficial as research suggests that they may stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Probiotic foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and yoghurt, are equally necessary for introducing beneficial bacteria into the gut in the first place. Consider our Berry Gut Health Shot fuelled with millions of live bacteria to pack a flavourful punch.

Finally, including polyphenol-rich foods such as tea, coffee, berries, olives and dark chocolate, may have prebiotic properties and antimicrobial effects against pathogenic bacteria, thereby promoting a healthier gut microbiome.

Focus Area #4: Avoiding refined carbohydrates and alcohol

Excessive intake of refined carbohydrates and saturated fats can harm the intestinal barrier, reduce microbial diversity and increase gut permeability, disrupting the gut-brain axis and possibly leading to a heightened stress response and higher risk of mental health issues such as depression.

Moreover, refined carbohydrates may disrupt blood sugar regulation, negatively impacting mood. Instead, prioritise the consumption of complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and legumes, which are high in fibre and may help balance blood sugar levels.

Alcohol may deplete glutathione and vitamin B1, potentially leading to increased risk of depression and anxiety. While alcohol consumption initially reduces stress responses, these effects quickly wear off and may lead to negative emotional states and pain. Opting for alcohol-free alternatives where possible may support balanced neurotransmitters in the brain for better and balanced moods over the long-term.

Focus Area #5: Supporting digestion

Stress may trigger the sympathetic nervous system dominance, placing the body in ‘fight or flight’ mode, and possibly disrupting digestion and rest. To combat this, incorporate abdominal breathing techniques before meals as this may regulate the autonomic nervous system, which in turn supports healthy digestion.

Additionally, consume bitter foods and herbs such as rocket and dandelion greens around 15 minutes before meals to stimulate the release of gastric acid, and prime pancreatic enzymes and bile, required for effective digestion.

Lastly, focus on mindful eating by thoroughly chewing and being fully present while eating, shifting one’s attention to the mind-body connection as this may also promote better digestion.

 

Author: Plenish Nutritionist, Katie Morley

DipNT, mBANT, mANP, CNHC

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.holsome.uk