If the past year has taught us anything, it's that life is unpredictable! A lot of us have been more stressed than usual so in this blog we’re answering the big questions like ‘what is stress?’, ‘how to deal with stress’, and ‘how to reduce stress’.
Being resilient to unwanted change, the ability to be adaptable, and managing the stress that life holds can benefit our lives in the most positive of ways.
When we manage our stress effectively, we keep our levels of cortisol low which is essential for maintaining a calm mind, a healthy weight, and our bodies’ main functions. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and while some is helpful, too much is not. Extra stress means extra cortisol which means extra demand on nutrient stores and when we have extra nutrient demand but neglect to keep them topped up, it leads to exhaustion!
With mother's day around the corner, we want to shout out specifically to parents. For parents and caregivers, stress can be unrelenting - like any job that's 24 hours a day! So while it might be hard to find long stretches of time in which to relax, there are things we can do every day that will help our body's natural stress-reducing systems to work better - starting with our diet.
Nutrients are utilised in thousands of pathways in our bodies.
When it comes to stress, there are three particular aspects that nutrients are essential for supporting.
1. Production of neurotransmitters and hormones
2. Energy production
3. Ease of return to homeostasis post-stress
The production of neurotransmitters and hormones such as cortisol—the hormone that regulates our stress response—are dependent on a wide range of micronutrients.
Cortisol in particular is essential of our short-term survival, and so the production of it is always top priority over other functions such as digestion and reproduction. We can't do anything else if we're not alive, can we?
If we are constantly for often in a state of stress, our body is burning through our nutrient stores just to keep on top of cortisol production. When we're not topping the stores up each day, energy production becomes a taller ask, too.
When we're stressed and deficient in some or many nutrients, our bodies also struggle to make energy efficiently. That leaves us tired and stressed! And naturally when we're stressed, tired and nutrient depleted, life feels hard.
Even when stressors pass or are dealt with, our bodies require nutrients to function well, and for us to feel healthy and happy. Nutrients support us in coming back to a place of homeostasis—a state of balance in our autonomic nervous system.
So, that's a very brief overview of how stress and nutrients interact with each other. All nutrients are important, but here are five that are extra special during times of increased stress:
Top 5 Key Nutrients for Dealing with Stress
Magnesium is a super power in the body. It regulates stress, supports the enzymatic pathways and neurotransmitters required for mood regulation. Best taken in the form of magnesium biglycinate because it's bioavailable - meaning it is easily absorbed by the body.
B group vitamins are essential for a healthy immune system and a healthy immune system is better prepared to deal with stress. These vitamins are taken in methylated forms for B12, B9 and B6 because in this form, they more easily available for detoxification, neutrotransmitter production, and cellular energy.
Best taken in the form of sodium chloride (salt). Salt, in the right amounts, is known to reduce stress with studies showing that it reduces cortisol. This is especially true for women. So, if you're stressed, a healthy snack with a little salt sprinkled on top is tasty and good for your mood!
Zinc promotes healthy connective tissue, a healthy immune system, and the making of proteins and DNA found in all of our cells. When it comes to stress, it helps make our neurotransmitters seratonin and dopamine. Zinc is best taken in the form of zinc picolinate which is its most easily absorbable form.
Vitamin C helps to lower levels of cortisol in the blood. It also boosts immunity which means stress can't take as big a toll on the body as it might if our immune defences are weakened. It's taken in the form of buffered ascorbic acid which is gentler on the gut and more readily absorbed.