Stress is our body's reaction to physical or emotional strain. The activity of our nervous system is heightened when in this state, it is commonly called the "fight-or-flight" response. This is due to the fact that the physiological effects allow us to physically fight or flee. These effects include the following:
- our muscles do not tire as easily
- blood flows to the muscles to allow them to work more efficiently
- fat is broken down for energy.
Furthermore, the body prepares itself for injury by increasing rate at which the blood can clot - this means that if a cut occurs, the blood quickly clots to stop bleeding.
The physiological response to stress whether it's physical or emotional is exactly the same - our ancestors would have made good physical use of this 'fight or flight response' but in today's world it's more likely that we'll be under sustained emotional stress. This can make us feel tense, tremble or have an upset stomach. Once the hormones dissipate these symptoms wear off.
Sources of stress in everyday life
Stress is a major part of our lives - whether it's related to your job, traffic jams, exams, housework, finances or relationships, all can aggravate stress levels at one time or another. It may be
difficult to find the time to practice stress-relief whether that's a relaxing massage, an energising gym session or just a simple short walk. Too few people deal with stress effectively and keep it in
check - as a result their health can suffer.
Diet and nutrition can boost your stress resilience
The fact is, diet and nutritional supplements can give a massive boost to your
‘stress resilience’ – without taking up too much precious time. Few
people realise just how much ongoing stress plays havoc with health. When the body is in ‘survival mode’ stress hormones raise heart rate and blood
pressure, keep your muscles tense, and weaken digestion. Immunity and brain
function suffer too, leaving you more prone to infections, memory loss, anxiety
Stress depletes the body of important Vitamins and Minerals
stress hormones - adrenaline and cortisol - sap the body of important
nutrients, particularly B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and the minerals
Calcium and Magnesium. They can also cause carbohydrate cravings by lowering levels
of serotonin which is a calming hormone. Ironically,
when under stress, most people turn to junk food for a quick fix –
pastries, crisps, coca cola or coffee usually fills the energy hole. Yet when in this condition your body requires nutritious food more than ever. You should always try to get your nutrition in tip-top shape by eating a diet rich in oily fish, dark
green leafy vegetables, bananas, fruit, fish, nuts and wholegrains. It is advisable to cut
out caffeinated drinks, which enhance anxiety, and avoid the nutrient ‘thieves’
- these are foods that take more goodness out of your body than they give. Alcohol, sugar
and sweets, crisps, white bread and pasta are the main culprits.
Nutrition by diet alone can be tough - supplements can be important
It is hard
to keep the stressed body sufficiently nutritionally supplied through diet alone, therefore supplementing can
be important. Initially, think about strengthening your overall nutritional status with a good
all-round Multivitamin and mineral supplement. Vitamin C is a key anti-stress supplement as it has been
shown to counteract negative effects of the stress hormone, cortisol. In one study, where German researchers gave
120 people a public speaking task and maths problems, stress-hormones were
significantly lower in those who took a daily dose of 1,000 mg vitamin C.
A Vitamin B Complex can help the body turn carbohydrate
into energy, ease digestion and promote a healthy nervous system - B Vitamins are
burned at a high rate under stressful conditions. Turning to herbal extracts, Chamomile and Passiflora can
calm anxiety and nervousness. If you are suffering from stress-related depression St
John’s Wort or 5-HTP are popular supplements. For those suffering memory loss, Ginkgo Biloba is very popular.
Always find some daily relaxation time
Above anything else it is important to make a concerted effort to find some relaxation time each day.
Just for a few minutes every now and then, sit down, switch off and just
breathe deeply. This instant medicine is probably the most effective of all.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.