Researchers suggest that there is more stress in people’s lives today than 25 years ago. It appears that more people today lead incredibly hectic lifestyles in contrast to previous years. Society has become more competitive, and fear of losing one’s place in both personal and work life has risen. Advancing technology may also play a role in adding to day to day stresses. Most people are now using smart phones, which means that they can be more easily contacted. So constantly receiving all sorts of messages from good news to bad news may mean you’re on a constant roller coaster. The funny thing is that even if something goes wrong with your smart phone or you don’t have a wifi connection, you’re still stressed. You run around like a headless chicken so that you can once again receive messages and emails on your phone while you’re eating, while you’re running errands and worryingly even while you’re driving. So what does this mean? Does today’s society like and enjoy stress? Perhaps high stress levels have become the norm for many individuals, and they don’t even notice the impact it may be having on their health.
So what is stress exactly? Stress is actually anything that causes our bodies to adapt, it appears in many forms; it can be emotional (e.g. death of a loved one), physical (e.g. lack of sleep and over-exertion), and toxic (e.g. a poor diet and high intake of medications), or a combination of these. What is important to know is that your body responds to every kind of stress the same, whatever the source. Our bodies create the same primitive response to a traffic jam on the way to work as early man or cavemen did when faced with a tiger. The initial threat of a tiger or your boss is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is your body’s answer to any kind of challenge or danger where your body goes on full alert and instantly responds to the stress – so you either ‘fight’ the tiger or ‘flight’, run away from it.
This stress response results in the stress hormone adrenaline being released into the blood stream. Also; blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen intake and blood flow to the muscles is increased so that you’re better able to run from an emergency situation. Interestingly blood flow to the digestive system, and release of digestive enzymes is reduced as digestive activity is not necessary for counteracting stress. When stress is prolonged not only may digestion be affected, but so could sex hormones, the thyroid and the adrenal glands (site where stress hormones are released from). In fact a state of continual stress may eventually exhaust our adrenal glands and lead to imbalances between the stress hormones. This may result in decreased energy production, low mood, blood sugar problems, reduced immunity and increased weight gain (particularly around the abdominal region).
Here are some stress busting tips;
Increase Nutritional Status: All types of stress are thought to reduce many nutrients in the body such as Vitamin C, the B-complex group of vitamins, Magnesium and Calcium. When we are poorly nourished, the effects of stress may become even more pronounced. So consuming a nutrient rich diet may be an important stress fighting tool to support the body during challenging times. Multivitamin and mineral supplements geared towards supporting the adrenal glands may also be helpful. These can be recommended by a nutritional practitioner.
Blood Glucose Balance: Stay on an even keel by managing blood glucose balance, this could help you become more resilient to stress. Research suggests that in order to maintain stable moods, the brain needs a steady supply of glucose. So increase you’re resilience to stress by eating regularly, this means eating every 3 to 4 hours – 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks a day with a protein source each time. Blood glucose balance may also be managed by opting for complex carbohydrates that release energy from food slowly such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta. Complex carbohydrates may also help to increase the brains production of the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. When combined with a protein source, this may result in a more relaxed, happier state of mind with less anxiety. So avoid the white bread basket and opt for some olives instead.
Sleep: Making sure to get adequate sleep may also be a powerful stress fighting tool. Chronic lack of sleep is now recognised as a health hazard. Sleeping less than 8 hours each night may be harmful for wellness, just as much as gorging on junk food or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Interestingly, research suggests that our bodies do most of their healing while we sleep between the hours of 10pm to 1am, so be sure to get some sleep during these times.
Stress is everywhere, it is all around us and we can’t do anything about it. However if we want, we can help ourselves in many ways. So let’s get started, we’re worth it!
Miss Salma S. Khan – Nutrition Consultant & Health Writer
BSc (Hons), MSc, PG Cert CC, NT, CNELM Dip NT, MBANT, CNHCreg.
Salma is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy (BANT). She is registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), and is also an associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM).
Salma, Founder & Director of ZingTality, is a highly qualified Nutrition Consultant and specialises in all matters related to nutrition. Miss Salma S. Khan offers appointments at a clinic on Harley Street in London, please email Salma directly through her website here