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Stress Relieving: How diet and lifestyle can Reduce Stress

Physical, emotional and intellectual responses that occur as a result of changes in normal reactions taking place in body are referred as stress.

What is Stress

Normal reaction of human which is faced by everyone is stress.

It is nature of body of human to experience and give reaction to stress as it is designed in such manner.

Physical and mental responses produce while experiencing stressors (changes or challenges). These responses are stress!

Responses of stress help the body in adjustment according to new and versatile situations.

It can be positive and negative too. As positive, our body stays alert, highly motivated and ready to tackle all situations.

As negative, without relief or no period of relaxing it always stay continues as stressors. 

How Stress is Diagnose

Stress can never measure by tests as it is subjective.

It is only determine by the person who is going through it and can feel its severity.

The physiatrist or helping body can take different questionnaires and sessions to estimate the level of stress, severity and its effect on life.

Stress Hormones

Hypothalamus- the part of human brain at the base, reacts when it senses any kind of danger.

Nerve and hormone signals are sent to adrenal glands by hypothalamus and it releases hormones in abundant amount.

Nature plans are good for us by releasing hormones to face the problems, danger and ultimately, the chances of survival are increased.

Adrenaline is one of these hormones which are released. It is also known as epinephrine or hormone of fight-or-flight.

Adrenaline Works For

  • Increasing heartbeat
  • Increasing rate of breath
  • Making it easy for muscles for using glucose
  • Contracting blood vessels  so that blood can direct towards the muscles
  • Stimulating rate of perspiration
  • Inhibiting the production of insulin

As adrenaline is helpful, these surges lead towards:

This hormone is  important, but it is not primary  stress hormone. The primary  stress hormone is cortisol.

Stress and Cortisol

Cortisol as major and main hormone of stress plays very important and essential role during the situations of stress.

Functions of cortisol are:

  • Help brain for using glucose in effective manner
  • Raise the substance’s accessibility that are helpful for repairing tissues
  • Restrain those functions which are non-essential for a situation i.e. life-threatening
  • Raise the glucose amount in bloodstream
  • Alter the responses of immune system
  • Dampen reproductive system and processes of growth
  • Affect brain’s parts that is used for controlling fear, motivation, and mood swings

Above these help us in dealing with high-stress situations in very effective manner.

For survival of human survival, it’s a normal and crucial process.

If cortisol stays in our body for a long time, then it imparts negative impact of our health. Than it contributes in:

Its impact on mood is negative.

Stages of Stress

There are three stages of stress:

  • Alarm Reaction Stage
  • Resistance Stage
  • Exhaustion Stage

1. Alarm Reaction Stage

When the body is under stress, the initial symptom which is experienced by body is alarm reaction stage.

“Fight-or-Flight” response is the physiological response of stress.

These reactions make us ready for flee or protect ourselves during the alarming or dangerous situations.

Our heart beats in increased manner and release of cortisol takes places from the adrenal gland and this release leads to increase in energy.

In alarm reaction stage the reaction of fight-or-flight takes place.

2. Resistance Stage

At the end of initial shock and fight-or-flight response, repairing of body begins by its own self.

It leads to normalizing the heart rate and blood pressure and release of cortisol lowers.

After entering in recovery phase, body remains alert.

Body begins to return in pre-stress state when it overcomes with the stress and situation is controlled.

Heart rate, blood pressure and hormone level become normal.  

Some situations of stress are long lasting. Body adapts and begins to learn to live in higher level of stress if the condition lasts long.

During resistance stage, body faces such changes which are new and don’t know how to tackle in this situation of stress.

Resistance stage shows following signs including:

  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Frustration

3. Exhaustion Stage

Chronic or prolonged period of stress is result of exhaustion stage.

Physical, emotional and mental resources begin to drained up it stress remains for long period of time.

There is no strength in body to fight in stressful situations.

This may lead you to give up and you feel hopeless.

Exhaustion signs includes:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Decreased stress tolerance
  • Burnout
  • Anxiety

The physical effects of exhaustion stage leads to weakening of  immune system and  risk for stress-related illnesses increases.

Types of Stress

There are several types of stress, including:

  • Acute Stress
  • Episodic Acute Stress
  • Chronic Stress

1. Acute Stress

Everyone faces condition of acute stress. To new situations of challenges body gives immediate reaction, this is the acute stress.

Acute stress does not harm body in casual conditions.

These may be beneficial for us. It is better for our body and brain to practice these to face the different and stressful situations in future.

After the danger condition passes, the systems of body begin to return normal.

2. Episodic Acute Stress

It is referred to as episodic acute stress because this is followed by frequent episodes of acute stress.

When we are anxious or worried about something to suspect, this attack of episodic acute stress may happen.

One feels as he is going through an unending series of crises and problems.

Mental and physical health can be affected by severe acute and episodic acute stresses. 

3. Chronic Stress

Chronic stress exists when one faces the high level of stress for long lasting period of time. Stress for long-term impart negative impact on the health. This contributes in:

Headaches, upsetting of stomach and difficulties in sleep can also be because of chronic stress.

What Happens To The Body During Stress?

Heart rate, breath pattern, changes in vision and many more are controlled by autonomic nervous system of body.

It immediately makes the body ready for facing stressful situations by creating “fight-or-flight response”.

Wearing and tearing of body start up when body is exposed to stressful situations for chronic long-term stress.

Development of physical, emotional and behavioral  symptoms takes place.

Physical symptom of the stress includes:

  • Chest pain or a feeling like heart is racing
  • Stomach or digestive problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
  • Trouble having sex
  • Weak immune system
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking

Stress leads to symptoms of emotions and mind , i.e.:

Sometimes, people having chronic stress try their best for managing it with their behaviors that are unhealthy,  that includes:

  • Drinking too much or too often
  • Overeating or development of eating disorder
  • Drugs usage
  • Participating compulsively in sex, shopping or internet browsing
  • Gambling
  • Smoking

What Are the Signs of Stress?

How one might feel

  • Anxious
  • Afraid
  • Angry or aggressive
  • Sad
  • Irritable
  • Frustrated
  • Depressed

These feelings can often produce physical symptoms, making one feel bad.

How one might behave

Man may behave differently if he is in stress condition. He may:

  • Withdraw himself from other people or snap at them
  • Become indecisive or inflexible
  • Become tearful
  • Have problems while getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Experiencing sexual problems
  • Smoke, drink alcohol or take up of drugs more than usual

How body might react

If we are stressed, we may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilating
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Aches and pains

Factors

Facing stress is a common practice which is faced by each of us during different stages of life.

The factors that are cause of bringing stress to our body are body.

  • External pressures such as responsibilities of work or family, and 
  • Internal influences that is what we eat and functioning of immune, digestive and nervous systems, how they work.

Factors That Impact the Level of Stress

Medical researchers have found that there are seven factors that are contributing in overall level of stress. Those seven stress risks are

  • Depression
  • Distress  
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Chronic stress
  • Loss of sense of control 
  • Sleep apnea
  • Many stressful life events in the past year

Stress Management

It is impossible for one to get rid of stress completely, but it can be managed by different ways.

For managing stress,

  • Initially, it is to identify the causes and things that lead towards stress or triggers.
  • Figure it out that which one of these stress causing agents may be removed or avoided.
  • In last, go towards finding the ways for coping up with the negative stressors that are not easy to get removed or avoided.

Some basic ways for starting management of stress are:

Stress Relief Through Food

  • Negative impacts of stress on body can be reduces by eating healthy food and taking healthy diet.
  • Taking healthy food strengthens the solid and enduring foundation.
  • Reduces the oxidative effects and inflammation.
  • Helps in reducing the gain in weight.
  • Healthy foods and eating habits to improve the diet and reduces the level of stress.

How Exactly Do Healthy Foods Reduce Stress?

  • Blood pressure and flow of blood are affected negatively by stress.
  • Fluctuations between blood flow and health of brain there exists a strong relationship.

How Diet Can Help

To manage the stress that causes physiological changes, healthy balanced diet is key factor.

Identification and reduction in causes of stress are important parts to manage the responses of stress.

Blood sugar level significantly influences the functions of adrenal.

Following dietary advice aims in stabilizing the sugar level in blood.

  • Choose whole, natural foods
  • Watch the caffeine
  • Prioritize protein
  • Avoid highly refined foods
  • Start the day with a balanced breakfast
  • Emotional eating
  • Try not to skip meals

Key Nutrients

For the support of adrenal glands nutrients play important role. These nutrients are:

  • Vitamin C lies in almost all fresh fruit and vegetables. Vitamin C store in adrenal gland, and it is necessary for making cortisol.
  • Magnesium depleted in dramatic manner during the times of stress, and deficiency symptoms includes the fatigue, anxiety, insomnia etc.
  • It includes plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, whole-grains, nuts and seeds for supplying the adequate magnesium levels.
  • B vitamins helps in supporting adrenal function, particularly B5 which helps in supporting the adrenal cortex and productions of hormones directly.
  • Wholegrains, nuts and seeds included in its sources. 

Pantry Staples For Stress-Fighting

  • Whole grains
  • Dark chocolate
  • Olive oil
  • Decaf tea
  • Oats
  • Seeds
  • Unsalted nuts

Fresh Ingredients For Stress-Busting

  • Fatty fish
  • Leafy greens
  • Red bell peppers
  • Yogurt
  • Avocados
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Oranges

Role Foods To Eat When Stressed

Following types of food are eaten up during stress conditions

1. Warm, Soothing Foods

To tackle the stress, the nutritional profile of food is as important as the feel that we enjoy after having it.  

Take a cup of warm and calming tea. It has soothing effect to sip out drink, which is warm, ignoring the flavor.

But some herbs show relaxing effects in themselves.

Anxiety of the body can be lowered by Chamomile as it rewires the stress responses of body, produces a handsome amount of serotonin and dopamine i.e. feel- good hormones. 

2. Dark Chocolate

Men do not like to have dessert when he is stressed out, but dark chocolate can be taken exceptionally.

Dark chocolate helps in reducing stress by two ways i.e. by chemical and emotional impacts.

It helps in reducing stress. Antioxidants are rich in dark chocolate and lowers the level of stress in body.

Take an adequate amount so that to a void the excessive intake of calories and gaining weight.

Serving size must be kept in mind. Only take a serving of 1-oz  or less of about 60% cacao  dark chocolate on each day basis.

3. Whole-Grain Carbohydrates

The right level of carbs acts as busters of stress.

Carbohydrates help in increasing the level of serotonin in body that is a chemical helpful for helping in boosting up the mood and stress reduction.

If the level of serotonin is more concentrated it means the energy level is high to work whole day. The critical point is to pick up the right amount of carbohydrates.

Refined Carbs

Refined carbs tied up towards stress, inflammation, and depression.

The refined carbohydrates can  raise blood pressure, strains the heart health, and leads towards overeating later during the day.

Complex Carbs

These can perform wonders for levels of stress because digestion of these is more slow and keeps the level of blood sugar even.

Complex carbs are found in include sweet potatoes and whole grains

4. Bananas

Banana is the quickest and easily available food.

Dopamine i.e. Mood boosting chemical is found in this yellow, rich in potassium and magnesium fruit which elevates the level during stressful conditions.

Bananas also contains certain B vitamins, especially Vitamin B6, that is beneficial for proper and correct working of nervous system and helps in decreasing the level of stress and fatigue. And lower the blood pressure.

5. Fatty Fish

Stress affects the heart. Fatty fish helps in strengthening the heart and it boost up the mood.

Healthy for heart, omega-3 fatty acids found in whole  fish like halibut, salmon, tuna and sardines helps in easing the depression.  

It’s another benefit is to lower the overall stress and anxiety.

6. Water

During stressful times, hydration has a very high importance.

Very less level of dehydration leads to increase in cortisol level and this leads towards increased stress conditions.

Intake of enough water does not mean that the stressors is all vanished, it means that the body is ready to handle itself during the stressful conditions.

The need of water of average women is about 2.7 liters of water/day, while the need of average men is about 3.7 liters/day.

About 80% of the hydration comes from beverages, whereas the other 20% comes from other foods.

7. Milk

Milk and other products of dairy containing calcium and some additional vitamin D helps the muscles relaxation and it stabilizes the mood.

These nutrients help in easing the premenstrual syndrome symptoms, which ladies knows how they can crank up the stress.

8. Nuts

In more than one-way nuts are boon for our health.

Nuts are satiating, which means that these can helps in removing the unhealthy cravings. These helps in lowering the blood pressure.

Most important functions of these are to lower the level of stress by their B.

An adequate number of nuts must be consumed as these carries a lot of calories.

If taken in high amount can lead to gaining weight.

9. Oranges And Other Fruits Rich In Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps in vanishing scurvy but also these nutrients keeps the stress far away.

Eating and starting with citrus fruits, including strawberriesgrapefruit, oranges and is good but man needs these supplements for reaching at  such highest levels of the nutrients.

10. Avocados

Avocados are filled up with healthy vitamin  B6, monounsaturated fats, potassium ,vitamin C , and  fiber, and  make a snack perfect for fighting with stress.

Vitamins B6 and Vitamin C helps in reducing the  stress, and the potassium in fruit helps in lowering the blood pressure.

11. Leafy Greens

Salads are the best choice for lowering the stress levels. Some leafy-green  vegetables are considered as stress-busting powerhouses i.e. kale and spinach, and other raw type of fruits and vegetables.

Level of blood sugar and cortisol are regulated by leafy greens as these are Magnesium rich sources.

Folate is also found in leafy-green vegetables and plays an important role for production of  a feeling-good chemical known as  dopamine.

12. Eggs

Nature’s multivitamin is said about eggs because they have a very profile of impressive nutrients. 

Whole eggs contain, minerals, vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants those are essential and required for a healthier response to stress.

Whole eggs that are choline rich.  It is the nutrient that is found in larger amounts in only in few foods. 

Choline plays an important role in brain health and it protects against stress.

Conclusion

It is difficult to avoid the different levels of stress, physical and emotional health of man is disturbed by chronic stress.

These leads to increased risk of health conditions like heart disease and depressions.

Some foods and beverages have the abilities and qualities to relieve stress.

Impact of stress can be countered by taking healthy food and it shores up the immune system of the body and lowers the blood pressure.

One must maintain a healthy diet by having fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, lower salt and sugars.

A lot of nutrients and minerals are found in fruits, vegetables and other products of dairy, these are consume in large amount by the individuals who are in stress.

These certain food plays important role in vanishing stress and leads to live healthy.

Written by RIDA FATIMA BSc (Hons) Food Technology. Institute of Food and Nutritional, PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

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