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We live in a highly driven society. We are connected 24/7, with constant deadlines chasing us on a professional level, alongside social pressures from family and friends.

It is difficult to avoid the stress and anxiety that comes from our personal and professional lives. We can, however, adjust our lifestyles to manage the effect that stress has on our bodies.

Regular exercise, both in the form of cardio and flexibility training, can have a huge impact on stress-relief. More recently, however, it has become clear that your diet also plays an important role, either increasing inflammation and stress in your body, or helping to relieve it. 

It is highly beneficial to consult a specialist in this field, be it a dietician or nutritionist, to fully understand your own body, what it needs and how you can support it through the food you eat. My Health and Fitness offers an extensive database of Health Consultants that you can contact to start a journey to a healthier lifestyle.

How can food cause stress?

In a dangerous situation, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are released to help you either fight or flee from harm, and glucose (sugar) is released in your blood to provide energy.

While this response is necessary in a life-or-death scenario, we live in a society where we are constantly anxious and stressed, which means our bodies are always in this strained state.

Stress also increases inflammation in our bodies, which has been tied to insomnia, depression, insulin resistance, diabetes and even cognitive decline.

The food that we eat can either worsen the problem, or help our bodies to manage it. Certain foods increase inflammation and cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which places added strain on our body. Other foods, meanwhile, provide slow-release energy, help to relieve inflammation and support your body.

Choosing the correct foods can therefore help you to combat stress.

How to adapt your diet

Choose complex carbs

Carbohydrates prompt your brain to release serotonin, one of your happy, calming hormones. Choosing complex carbs that take longer to digest ensures a slow-release of this feel-good chemical. Complex carbs also help to stabilize blood sugar, with fewer spikes and drops. Opt for whole-grain foods and oatmeal.

Get all your Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps to boost your immune system and relieve inflammation by neutralising free-radicals that cause oxidative stress. Foods rich in Vitamin C include guava, papaya, kiwi, orange, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts.

Load up on your Omegas

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a healthy diet should contain a balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 tends to promote inflammation, which is important for our body to function but unhealthy when out of balance. Omega 3, meanwhile, helps to reduce inflammation and it is therefore important to choose foods rich in this essential fatty acid.

Our modern, fast-food diets are loaded with Omega 6 fatty acids, which is found in many vegetable oils, durum wheat (used in pasta and pizza), cereals, eggs and poultry.

It is essential that your introduce plenty of Omega 3 into your diet to ensure balance. Fatty fish, chia seeds and walnuts are particularly good sources of Omega 3.

Reduce caffeine

The caffeine in coffee increases stress hormones cortisol and insulin. According to New York Times bestselling author and medical doctor, Mark Hyman, habitual caffeine intake can also cause insulin sensitivity, which leads to high blood sugar levels. It is therefore best to limit your coffee intake.

In serious cases it might be necessary to consult a doctor for a prescription to manage chronic stress.

Sources

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega6-fatty-acids

http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/06/13/ten-reasons-to-quit-your-coffee/

For more visit www.myhealthandfitness.co.za.

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