How Stress Impacts our Health
Everyone experiences stress at different times in their lives. Stress can bring on a host of issues such as anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and insomnia. Although finding physical and emotional outlets for stress is crucial, diet can play a big role as well. During times of stress I notice different eating behaviors with my clients. There is the stressed personality that tends to overeat out of nervousness. They use food as a sense of comfort. Usually they don’t crave salads, vegetables, or something healthy. The “Feel Good” foods are usually high in sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. This is why it is not uncommon to see someone quickly gain 10 pounds when they are going through a difficult time. There is also the other extreme where a person feels too stressed to eat at all. This personality type may not have an appetite and gravitate more towards using stimulants like coffee and sugary drinks over eating normal servings of food. The high levels of stress can also rev up digestion and cause frequent bowel movements resulting in rapid weight loss.
When you are stressed, be aware of your blood sugar levels. It is important to eat several times throughout the day and not go hungry. Stress can also cause a surge in cortisol and adrenaline. Some of the best foods for regulating those stress hormones are fresh fish like tuna and salmon. Incorporate healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, as well as pistachios, almonds, and walnuts. Make sure to include green leafy vegetables since they contain important minerals like iron and magnesium. B vitamins are important during stressful times and can be found in organic eggs, oatmeal, tofu, and tempeh.
Your immune system can also become weakened and increase your body’s need for certain nutrients. Eating a healthy diet will help you stay energized, focused, and well rested during times of stress. If you are not mindful and eat junk food or frequently skip meals, you are more likely to perform poorly or get sick during stressful times.
Incorporating multivitamins and nutritional supplements can be helpful in replacing our nutrient stores that are depleted during stressful times. Vitamin C helps to boost the immune system and regulate cortisol levels. B vitamins are beneficial for nervousness and anxiety. Adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola, ashwaganda, and ginseng help to regulate the body and bring it back to its normal function.
Keep up with regular exercise so your body has the opportunity to release all the unwanted energy. Showering before bed can be helpful too. It tends to wash off the stress from a long day to allow you to sleep better. Try to get in bed at a reasonable time so you give your body enough rest to recover. Most importantly, try not to give too much thought to your stress before sleeping. If there is nothing you can do about your situation, it’s best to do something that can be a good distraction like reading a book or meditating. If you wake up feeling refreshed, you may find that your stress will actually lessen the following day.
Dr. Oz Garcia is a New York City based nutritionist. He is an expert in anti-aging nutrition and the author of several books on the matter including “Redesigning 50: The No-Plastic-Surgery Guide to 21st-Century Age Defiance”