In today’s hectic world, almost none of us can escape the effects of stress. Whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual, stress is very much responsible for creating or worsening many health-related issues like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer‘s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.
Stress can enter our lives from many angles. Most of us are aware of the typical causes of stress like too much to do and not enough downtime. Or psychological stress – when we worry about things we have no (or little) control over. Also for any athletes out there, you may have experienced physiological stress – too much training and not enough rest.
However, there is another type of stress many of us don’t often take into account – Nutritional Stress. Eating food that requires a lot of energy to digest and assimilate yet gives us a very few nutrients back.
From my experience nutritional stress is the most overlooked and detrimental stressor, but is the easiest one to get under control once you understand how. So let’s take a closer look at what you can do to reduce this uncomplimentary stress in your daily life and explore some simple dietary habits that will allow you to feel better physically and emotionally.
Stress created by food, because of its unhealthy properties. When the body doesn’t get the proper nutrients, it needs to keep pace with cellular regeneration (“repair” of the cell tissues and organs) it experiences “nutritional stress.” The body reacts to nutritional stress just as it does to mental or physical stress.
Nutritional stress results when you lack vitamins, minerals, fibre, high-quality protein, and healthy fats.
Convenience foods that are cheap, available everywhere and attractively packaged are the top culprits of first world nutritional stress. These highly processed, heavily-refined, allergen-laden foods aren’t just low in nutrition—they’re also usually loaded with bad fats, sodium and empty calories.
Nutritional stress takes a toll, not just on how stressed you feel, but on your whole health and well-being.
You may feel older than your age, suffering from sore, stiff muscles. Or you may struggle with digestive problems or develop food sensitivity you didn’t have before.
These symptoms all add up and can have a negative impact on your body including a decreased ability to handle other stressors in addition to getting sick more often and feeling exhausted or fatigued.
STRESS REDUCTION THROUGH BETTER NUTRITION
Each of us can take our health into our own hands. The dietary suggestion listed below will provide the essential information; from there anyone can apply it for a meaningful change.
AVOID PROCESSED FOODS
Nutritional stress is caused by the refined foods that have a commonplace in the North American diet but also by what could be argued to be a more significant problem – the lack of nutrient-dense whole foods. Whenever you are about to make a decision that relates to your diet keep in mind that “the more food is altered or processed, the less nutrient value remains.”
Eating clean means avoiding foods made in laboratories, or simply put: limiting foods that have not been purchased from a farmer’s market. Foods that are genetically modified, termed “artificial foods” are laden with pesticides and herbicides. They have the opposite effect of nourishment and cause bodily-and planetary-stress.
FOCUS ON WHOLE PLANT-BASED FOODS
Whole, unprocessed plant-based foods are essential for cellular regeneration and stress reduction. Food choices in a plant-based diet maintain their nutritional value because they do not get heavily processed after being picked or harvested. Whole foods naturally contain nutrients your body needs to thrive.
EMPHASIZE NUTRIENT DENSITY
Plant-foods have the most amount of nutrition and the least amount of calories. They come packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that are essential for optimal health and performance. These nutrient-dense foods are alkaline-forming, which helps reduce inflammation, enhance bone health and immunity, among many other things.
STAY AWAY FROM NUTRITIONALLY STRESSFUL FOODS
*Adapted from Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Concepts
RESULTS THAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM REDUCED NUTRITIONAL STRESS
- Improved ability to burn body fat as energy
- Better sleep quality-therefore less is needed
- Elimination of cravings
- Reduced body fat
- Less joint inflammation
- Improved mental clarity
- Eliminating the need to rely on stimulants for energy
- Improved ability to build lean muscle tissue
- Quick recovery from exercise
- Reduced cholesterol level
- Stronger bones
- Better skin
- Improved sports performance
OTHER EFFECTIVE METHODS FOR STRESS REDUCTION
While nutritional stress, and therefore a large part of overall stress, can be attributed to poor diet, we should also consider other stress contributors. The following suggestions will further help you manage uncomplimentary stress, overcome anxiety, stop constant worrying, and end panic attacks.
FOLLOW A REGULAR SLEEP ROUTINE
Sleep regenerates the entire system. Go to bed as early as possible after sunset. This new habit will calibrate your whole body to natures rhythms and strengthen you on every level.
When your body is hydrated, you function at your best. Hydration keeps your blood at an ideal consistency easing the flow of blood through your body. There is, in fact, a chemical reason why you get more stressed. When you’re even mildly dehydrated cortisol levels in the body increase. The stress response triggers cortisol production. And one way to balance these chemicals in your brain? Drink more water.
ELIMINATE OR DRASTICALLY REDUCE ALL ALCOHOL
Many people turn to alcohol as a means of dealing with stress, but while it may have an instant calming effect on the body, in the long-term drinking increases the amount of stress in people’s lives. Alcohol often, can lead to complications such as addiction and take a toll on overall health and well-being. Sleep problems, nervousness and skin irritations are common side effects of drinking because alcohol makes the body release larger amounts of adrenaline and affects blood sugar levels.
GO EASY ON CAFFEINE
A chemical found mostly in tea, coffee and some soft drinks; caffeine reduces our ability to deal with stress. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, causing the adrenal glands, activated by the flight or fight response to release more hormones like cortisol. Due to the strain, our bodies are already facing, hormones like cortisol have already overproduced. High levels of caffeine also contribute to insomnia and nervousness, which intrinsically link to stress. Also, caffeine consumption can deplete levels of magnesium (needed for energy production) and metabolism-boosting B vitamins from the body. Substituting coffees and teas for herbal varieties or green tea can help reduce your caffeine consumption.
DO NOT DELAY BATHROOM TIME
If you have to go, then GO! When people are busy and stressed, they tend not to take care of their bodies. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, many people put off going to the bathroom. Delaying a bowel movement is one of the most common reasons people become constipated. This delay, in turn, leads to discomfort, a toxic colon and increased stress.
DO NOT SKIP MEALS
Establish a regular eating schedule and avoid eating on the go without taking the time to chew your food. Inconsistent or rushed meals can lead to increased stress and problems in the gut.
INCLUDE RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Mindfulness and meditation are growing in popularity for their relaxation and stress-relieving benefits. Breathing exercises and physical activities such as yoga can also provide significant relief while helping to improve overall health and well-being in the long-term.
TRY HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS AND ADAPTOGENS
Long periods of stress including hard training sessions deplete the adrenals, so it’s a good idea to supplement with an adaptogen, post-workout. One of our favorites is maca – a root vegetable native to Peru which aids in the regeneration of the adrenal glands, helping to reduce the effects of stress. Gelatinized Maca has been heated to remove the hard-to-digest starchy component of maca root. It is easier for your body to digest, and assimilate. Try adding gelatinized maca to your smoothies.
Excess stress is the cause for most diseases, cravings, poor sleep quality, fatigue, signs of premature ageing and even obesity. Its reduction can have a profound effect on vitality as a whole. Eating mostly raw plant-based whole foods in place of standard refined foods can help to reduce biological workload and therefore decrease stress and its debilitating effects.
I can speak from personal experience that by improving nutrition to reduce uncomplimentary stress, and managing other stressors with intention, it is possible to increase productivity, and be a happier, healthier, more energetic human overall.
If what we’ve just shared resonates with you and you are ready to LIVE a healthy, happy and thriving life as well as discover precisely how to make healthier choices to create positive, lasting habits and heal from the inside out, then…
…we suggest you check out our online AV Coaching program – we’re here to guide you through your journey to optimal health.
Dedicated to your health & wellbeing,