Friday, January 2, 2015

Eat the Stress Away

Yesterday, I blogged about supplements that could help with the body's relaxation response. If you have been following along, I learned how much my lifestyle is contributing to increased cortisol production. All that excess cortisol is starting to impact my health. So, I started researching how to lower my cortisol production and improve my relaxation response. While supplementing can help improve our cortisol balance, it is more important to get these critical nutrients through natural food sources. So, Today I am looking at how to improve my Stress response, decrease cortisol and increase production of those feel-good neurotransmitters through dietary changes.

As I said yestereday, our American diets, high in processed sugar, bad fad and sugar is contributing to poor nutrition and depleting our bodies of vital nutrients we need to deal with stress, sleep well and ward of illnesses. Furthermore, since we are all plugged in all the time, we are not relaxing ourselves enough and our bodies are constantly in stress mode, this is taking a toll on our health, longevity and our waistlines. It becomes a viscous little cycle, our body produces more and more cortisol, which is a hormone that regulates the body's flight or fight response, by lessening removing the focus from processes that are not vital to the active need to fight or flee. These processes become depleted of essential nutrients as cortisol directs all the action elsewhere, to ensure survival. Then, we tend to eat horrible, highly processed foods that are more stressful to the body and do not replenish the supply of nutrients caused by the original stressful event. When the vital nutrients are missing, our body thinks we are starving and begins to panic, this increases the adrenal response, producing yet more cortisol and so on. We start having trouble sleeping, eating more foods that are not nutritionally dense and the cycle continues. Below, I have listed some of the important nutrients to help get the cortisol response under control and reduce this ugly little cycle and get back on our way to getting on track.

Vitamin C
This antioxidant has been shown to help reduce cortisol levels, aid in collagen synthesis, enhance recovery and improve your immune system. Ironicaly, we have all been fooled into thinking that citrus fruits are our best bet for vitamin C, however, there are actually a few other foods that are richer in vitamin C than citrus fruits and have less sugar.

Papaya has the highest concentration of Vitamin C
Bell Peppers, Broccoli &  Brussels Sprouts are next in line and have far less sugar than papaya and citrus fruits. These three are my picks for increasing vitamin C through diet.
Next up, Strawberries, followed by Pineapple, Oranges, Kiwi, canteloupe and cauliflower.

Of course, there are other foods that can improve our Vitamin C intake, but these are the most healthy foods, rich in Vitamin C.

These vitamins promote healthy cortisol levels by supporting the metabolism. B vitamins maintain the adrenal glands and get used up during the “fight or flight” response and when converting food into energy for the body. Evidence also suggests that B-vitamins are important in the balance and metabolism of Neuro-toxic chemicals that have been linked to anxiety and depression related conditions. Finally, they are thought to assist in GABA and serotonin production. (which we need for sleep and to feel good)

Think Protein when you think of getting B vitamins in your diet as the best sources of Vitamin B are Tune, Turkey, Beef, Chicken and Salmon. Followed by Sweet potatoes, potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach and finally bananas.

Remember, not all meat is equal. It truly does depend what the animal was fed and how they were processed. Sad, but true, you get what you pay for and grass fed Beef and Dairy products have been shown to have higher levels of vitamins than other beef that has been fed grains.

This mineral is important to many of the body's systems. While research on zinc supplementation provides contradictory evidence on its benefits, some studies have shown zinc is necessary in the body's inflammation response, immune system and in the treatment of Alzheimer disease, diabetes and upper respiratory infections. As I stated yesterday, this mineral should be considered for supplementation because no one food provides the entire daily recommended allowance of this important mineral and the body does not store zinc, so daily intake is required. However some of the food sources high in Zinc are:

Similar to B- Complex, zinc can be found in several protein sources such as Beef, Lamb, Oysters, Shrimp Turkey and even Quinoa.

It is also readily available in several Seeds and Beans like Sesame, Pumpkin, Garbonzo and Lentils.

Spinach, Asparagus and Mushrooms are your best bets for vegie intake.

Cashews are the nut to grab, when trying to increase your zinc intake.

Vitamin D
This sunshine vitamin is made from cholesterol, just like cortisol, so when your body is constantly in a stressed mode, it will produce cortisol over vitamin D. This is because when your fight or flight system is activated, the body will move its resources to activate the mechanisms that are required for survival.

Salmon, Sardines, Tune, Eggs, Mushrooms and Milk are your healthies options for inproving your Vitamin D intake.

This mineral is often depleted by stress. Magnesium is an integral part of the nervous system and electrolyte balance. Ironically, as stress depletes magnesium in our body, poor magesium levels inhibit our ability to deal with chronic stress. This mineral is also thought to be part of the sleep process and may relieve both mental anxiety and muscle soreness. (Think Epsom Salts) Experts think the average American falls woefully short on this important mineral. Averaging 66% of their daily recommended intake.

The best food sources for magnesium include Pumpkin Seeds, spinach, swiss chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, Quinoa, Black Beans, Cahews, Sunflower Seeds and Navy beans.

Vitamin A
Often used for healthy skin, this vitamin may also reduce cortisol levels. In order to increase your consumption of both retinoids and carotenoids, the two important parts of vitamin A, you should eat these:

Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Spinach, Kale, Greens and Winter Squash.

Folic Acid
Controls the actions and functions of the adrenal glands, which is where cortisol production originates. Lots of beans fit the bill for increasing your folate consumption. Think Lentils, Pinto, Garbanzo,Navy, Black and Kidney Beans. Vegies rich in folic acid include Asparagus, Spinach, Turnip Greens and Broccoli.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid
These healthy fats have been found to reduce excess production of the inflammatory and stress response, increase the production of serotonin and have a calming effect on the central nervous system. Of course, we often think of fish when we think of Omega 3s, but flaxseeds, walnuts,soybeans, brussels sprouts and cauliflower are actually good sources as well, along with beef and tofu. To get the most out of your fish, try sardines, salmon and shrimp.

This vitamin appears to be important in the body's synthesis of Omega 3s, supplementation of this vitamin should be considered when supplementing with Omega 3s. Yep, More Greens will be required to get your RDA of this helper vitamin.

Kale, Spinach, Greens, Swiss Chard, Parsley, Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts.

This amino acid has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and induce relaxation and reduce mental and physical stress. It is commonly found in green tea. It has calming effects, and is used in Japan for these purposes.  Theanine also seems to increase levels of GABA receptors in the brain, another item that may have significant calming effects. You are going to have to drink your way to rich theanine intake, Thin Green Tea, both Chinese and Japanese green tea varieties will fit the bill, however the Japanese varieties tend to be much more expensive. Also, the bay bolete mushroom, also know as Boletus badius, is another naturally occurring source of theanine. According to mushroom expert Roger Phillips, these mushrooms grow in wooded regions of Europe and North America. They are most abundant in the fall, and are very high quality mushrooms for cooking.

This is the most abundant free amino acid in muscle tissue. Another ugly little cycle, too much cortisol is also associated with low levels of glutamine, which seems to counteract the catabolic impact of cortisol. It has also been shown to provide a source of fuel for the small intestine and may enhance the anti-inflammatory response and boost immune function. Finally, it is suspected of assisting in muscle protein turnover and of enhancing glycogen synthesis. Glutamine is a vital nutrient for weight-training athletes. Take 5 grams 3 times daily, including before and after working out.

Just as this amino acid is found in our muscle tissues, it is also produced in animal tissue. So, to increase your intake of these essential acids, think protein again:Meat, Fish and Seafood are the best sources. Lean meats seem to be richer in the amino acid, but this changes when you consider the source of your beef, as I said not all meat is equal.

Well, there you have it, you will notice that proccessed food is NOT on this list. I know, I know, I love the taste and convience of processed food too, but this year is the year of health for me. How about you?

It is important to note that I am not a health care provider and you should consult your Doctor or practitioner before starting any new supplements to ensure they do not interfere with any or your current prescribed medications.

Read more about stress and the negative impact it has on your body and other ways to improve your reaction to stress and lessen its impact on your health:

Stress is killing me
Conquering Cortisol
Supplementing your Stress Response

Decompressing Ancient Medicine


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