Food for your Mood – Is what you eat adding to your stress?

Are you familiar with any of these signs? How many regularly feature in your life?

Physical Conditions

Sleep problems
Tension and pain – often in the shoulders, back and neck
Headaches / Migraines
Nail biting
Teeth grinding
Constipation / Diarrhoea
Weight gain or loss
Fat around the middle of the body
Fatigue
High Blood Pressure
Loss of libido

Emotional Traits

Irritability
Shouting
Anger / Aggressiveness
Worry / Anxiety
Impatience
Restlessness
Talking too fast

Diagnosed Illness

IBS
Depression
Asthma
Skin conditions – eczema, psoriasis

If you recognise yourself as experiencing any of the signs and symptoms listed above then it is extremely likely that you are suffering from stress.

Although we might not be able to remove the stressors from our lives we can take some steps to help alleviate their effects.

Eat your way out of stress

The average human brain contains 10 billion nerve cells and weighs about 3lb (1.5 kg). As the entire body, brain and nervous system is built from the chemical components of food, it follows that our food choices will have an enormous effect on our moods and brain function. The brain is as dependent upon nourishment as any other part of the body. The quality and type of food that we eat can affect the brain’s chemical processes and consequently influence the way we feel.

By carefully selecting what you eat, you will be able to shift your mood, feel more alert, induce calmness, encourage sleep and reduce stress.

Today our bodies are bombarded by pollution, food additives, prescription drugs and chemicals – many of which did not exist until relatively recently. These can accumulate within the body affecting our minds, moods and overall health. Alcohol, excessive refined sugar and processed foods can all ‘fog’ the brain causing a variety of symptoms.

Do you have problems sleeping?

Stress can affect sleep by causing a disruption of the brain chemicals and hormones responsible for helping you to sleep. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which the body converts to serotonin and then on into the hormone melatonin. This hormone is responsible for regulating your body clock and sleep. Studies have linked low melatonin levels with insomnia.

If you have a busy mind stopping you from relaxing and falling into sleep then you need to increase your intake of Magnesium, which is a good mind and muscle relaxant. Magnesium also helps the body cope with stress and can be useful in reducing anxiety.

Foods which can help induce sleep include turkey and halibut, both of which are high in tryptophan. Magnesium rich foods include dark green leafy vegetables, lettuce, sweet potato, beetroot, bananas and nuts. Try to include these in your evening meal to help with relaxation and serotonin production. Having caffeine late at night is stimulating and produces adrenaline, which increases anxiety and alertness, just what you don’t need when trying to nod off.

Are you cool, calm and collected?

The body’s stress response has not yet evolved to deal efficiently with modern life, meaning the slightest emotional stress still causes a powerful release of chemicals. Two minerals, calcium and magnesium play an important part in regulating your nervous system. By making sure that you have adequate dietary intake of these two nutrients you can help yourself combat feelings associated with stress and induce calmness and relaxation. Two particular neurotransmitters are also especially helpful. GABA restores calm after a stressful event, helping you to relax. Dopamine enables your body to deal with stress more efficiently, helping to reduce feelings of anxiety.

Foods to calm you down………

    • Include dark leafy vegetables like watercress, kale, broccoli, spinach along with brown rice, almonds and walnuts, wheatgerm and sardines to top up on calcium and magnesium.
    • To boost GABA formation include chicken, turkey, eggs, and cheese in your diet.
    • For dopamine add in a few soya products like Tofu, soya milk and yoghurt, with peanuts, almonds and tuna.

Are food intolerances compounding your stress response?

Common foods can often give rise to symptoms if we have an allergy or intolerance to them. If you suffer with any of the symptoms mentioned below it might be worth considering a food intolerance test, or excluding the suspect food for a few days and noticing any chnages.

FOODSYMPTOMS
WheatDepression
Milk / dairyMood changes
YeastBehavioural disorders
SugarAnxiety and panic attacks
CoffeeHyperactivity
ChocolatePoor memory, concentration
OrangeSleep disorders
Eggmigraine
TomatoPoor co-ordination
CornNumbness, tingling restless legs
SoyaFatigue
AdditivesSAD, eating disorders