Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Stress can be caused by average daily tasks like being stuck in traffic or arguing with a friend, or serious life events like an automobile accident or cancer diagnosis. Our bodies respond to this stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and shunts blood to your muscles to help you escape from that stressful event. While this is a phenomenal mechanism we possess, problems arise when our hours and days are filled with these stressful events and our bodies aren’t given the opportunity to restore and rebalance. Over time, continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses (1).
In this article, we’re going to share 7 ways to lower your stress through nutrition by providing examples of foods and nutrients that are key in supporting your body’s functions in maintaining balance, and therefore, health.
It most likely does not come as a surprise that water is essential for life. Water has many roles within our body including flushing toxins, cushioning bones and joints, hydrating our cells, improving oxygen delivery to cells, and transporting nutrients. Staying properly hydrated is vitally important to maintaining balance and supporting the body through stressful events. As a general rule, the goal is to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces. For example, if you’re a person that weighs 200 pounds you should consume roughly 100 fluid ounces of water per day. Keep in mind, fresh fruits and vegetables also are hydrating, but should not replace drinking hydrating beverages such as water, coconut water, or bone broth.
It is impossible to find a system in the body that does not rely on protein for healthy functioning, as all of our cells require proteins to exist. Hormones, nervous system messaging molecules (neurotransmitters), digestive enzymes, and energy-producing enzymes all depend on protein. Incorporating this macronutrient in your diet is key to supporting your body through stress as it will fuel your system from a cellar level, ensuring your body will return to balance.
The role of choline in the body is complex and is required for a wide range of critical functions (2). Choline has been shown to play an important role in brain health and may protect against stress (3). Egg yolks are the most concentrated source of choline in the American diet. Other very good sources of choline include shrimp, scallops, cod, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, swiss chard, asparagus, and spinach (4).
Selenium is required for the proper activity of a group of enzymes that play a key role in the body’s detoxification system and protection against oxidative stress (5). Studies have found a connection between severe and continued stressful events and higher biomarkers for oxidative stress (6). Incorporating selenium-rich foods will protect the body against oxidative stress and ensure proper detoxification. The best source of selenium is brazil nuts, followed by oysters, clams, liver, and kidney.
Vitamin D may be one of the most fundamentally important building blocks available to us for creating and sustaining vibrant health. Of its many roles, vitamin D regulates immune function, cell growth, and neuromuscular function. Studies suggest that vitamin D status plays an important role in supporting our bodies through acute stress (7). The very best source of vitamin D is the sun, followed by nutrient-dense whole foods like salmon, eggs, and sardines.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Prized for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, recent studies have shown the spice plays an active role in treating various central nervous system disorders as well as offering a protective action against stress (8). Turmeric can be utilized either fresh or dried and is easily incorporated into many types of cuisines. A great beverage option that utilizes turmeric is Golden Milk!
Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs known to mankind. Chamomile is best known for its wonderful calming action and is used to ease tension and stress, emotional upset, nervousness, and insomnia (9). Purchasing the dried, organic flowers in bulk is an easy and affordable way to always have chamomile on hand to be utilized as a tea, compress, or a lovely addition to your bath.
- “5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml.
2. Zeisel, Steven H, and Kerry-Ann da Costa. “Choline: an Essential Nutrient for Public Health.” Nutrition Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782876/.
3. Glenn, Melissa J, et al. “Supplemental Dietary Choline during Development Exerts Antidepressant-like Effects in Adult Female Rats.” Brain Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 Mar. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3327365/.
4. “Choline.” The World’s Healthiest Foods, http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=50
5. “Selenium.” The World’s Healthiest Foods, http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=95
6. Schiavone, Stefania, et al. “Severe Life Stress and Oxidative Stress in the Brain: from Animal Models to Human Pathology.” Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 20 Apr. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603496/.
7. Quraishi, Sadeq A, and Carlos A Camargo. “Vitamin D in Acute Stress and Critical Illness.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3751798/.
8. Kulkarni, S K, and A Dhir. “An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders.” Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Medknow Publications, Mar. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929771/.
9. Justis, Posted ByAngela. “A Family Herb: Chamomile Flower.” Herbal Academy, 25 Jan. 2018, theherbalacademy.com/a-family-herb-chamomile-flower/.