In today’s modern environment many of us use words like “stressed” or “busy” to describe how we feel.
Stress affects our time management and food cravings. This is why when we feel stressed we often make less-than-ideal choices for nutrition and movement.
Too much stress actually begins to impact our ability to absorb nutrients and dictates the rate at which our body uses - and therefore requires - nutrient stores.
Before you can fix an issue you have to understand it. Let’s look at the three key causes of stress in the modern world.
1. What is stress
Stress is a general word thrown around to describe a feeling or hormonal interchange that poses some form of threat to a person's health and wellbeing.
Generally speaking, you won’t hear someone comment about his or her “wonderfully stressful” day. Rather, they will talk about how burdened or overwhelmed their day is because of the stress they are feeling.
We speak of stress in the negative, yet we forget to realise that a certain level of stress is healthy.
The fight or flight response helps mobilise us when stress is imminent. When we have a saber-tooth tiger chasing us - stress is a good thing! Stress can also activate certain hormone responses and cortisol rises to remind us to eat - which is obviously critical for gaining nutrients in the first place.
The problem is in our modern day environment we now experience the hormonal and physiological changes that accompany stress, a lot more regularly than our traditional ancestors. Our ancestors were under threat from predators or food famine several times a year. Today many of us feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired, over stretched or run down weekly, if not daily.
There’s no doubt traditional societies had their fair share of stress. A good friend of mine lived with different traditional tribes around the world for 2 years. He found the tribe would work for around 4 hours in the morning but balanced it out by spending the afternoon under a shady tree. Talk about work/life balance! If you feel that you need more balance, read our article 10 tips to find balance.
Stress initiates coping responses in us. In ancestral times we would simply sleep more. Now, we reach for stimulants to prop up our cortisol or sugar levels - caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar or grains. Consuming these things occasionally is not a problem. But all these things place a load on our liver and affect our ability to store and absorb nutrients from our food.
The harder you push your body and mind, the more stress you are under, the more vitamins and minerals your body uses.
In times of stress, your body uses more B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc - just to name a few.
I believe most of us in the western world are living beyond our nutritional limits. The consumption of stimulants like coffee and refined carbohydrates are good examples of how people are coping with their day to day stressors.
2. Toxic load and stress
Traditional people lived in relatively pristine environments. Let’s face it, “organic food” didn’t exist because that’s all there was.
In this video, I explain why the food we eat can be a huge stress on our bodies.
Environmental toxins block enzyme function and increase the need for antioxidants, minerals and vitamins needed by the liver for detoxification. The modern world is full of environmental toxin exposure! From PCB’s and Dioxins in plastics to heavy metals mobilised in the soil by acidic fertilisers. They are simply everywhere and we cannot escape them!
All we can do is support our body’s systems for dealing with them. Which means we all need to consume more minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
3. Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
A small amount of stress can be helpful. Exercise at the right intensity level for your lifestyle is a great example of exposing your body to the right amount of stress for positive adaptation and changes to occur. If the exercise intensity is applied correctly the resulting endorphins and hormones from the activity can help promote sleep, stress management and can activate your parasympathetic - or rest and digest - nervous system.
However, when your stress levels fall out of balance we see conditions like Adrenal Fatigue. This happens when your adrenal glands are unable to sufficiently meet the demands of stress. Things like traffic, increased demands at work, the unrelenting expectation to be available through email and social media, the marked rise in both parents working and increases in the cost of living are all factors creating additional stress every day. If you think this sounds like you, see our blog post, 5 signs you might have adrenal fatigue.
Your adrenal glands mobilise your body’s response to every kind of stress.
It doesn’t matter if stress is real or perceived, your body responds the in the same way.
Your adrenals produce hormones that regulate energy production and storage, immune function, blood sugar responses, your nervous system and other processes that enable you to cope with stress. When we are constantly relying on these hormones - because we are in a constant state of stress - your adrenals become over taxed and overtime stop working effectively. This leaves you in a compromised state of health and your body simply doesn’t have access to the nutrients it needs for repair.
Here at the clinic we are seeing a marked increase in the number of adrenal fatigue cases.
So what can we do?
In our BePure clinics we make several key recommendations for dealing with stress.
First, we recommend checking to see if you have Adrenal Fatigue with our Adrenal Fatigue Questionnaire. If you do have some degree of adrenal depletion how you go about restoring your health will be different from general recommendations for supporting your body with everyday stress.
B Vitamins are crucial for helping your body cope with the physiological and hormonal changes that accompany stress. The best dietary sources of B Vitamins are dark, leafy green vegetables. Other key nutrients to support stress are magnesium, zinc, selenium, iron and potassium. Foods like cacao, brazil nuts, cinnamon, coconut water and anti-oxidant rich foods such as blueberries are all wonderful additions to your diet.
When it comes to diet and lifestyle there are a few key things to consider;
- Try to maintain balanced blood sugar levels by eating a diet that is right for you and your unique body.
- Set yourself up with a calming morning routine to ground you for the day.
- Activate your rest and digestive nervous system before bed. You can do this with diaphragmatic breathing or putting your legs up the wall.
- Reduce your intake of coffee. Aim for 1 cup per day before midday.
- In times of chronic stress, we recommend taking vitamin C to help support recovery.
- Use calming essential oils and herbal teas such as lavender, chamomile, passionflower and oatstraw. These all help to promote sleep.
Your health is personal to you
We are all unique. Our genetics, our environments, our lifestyles, our emotional wellbeing. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness or a single solution to your health concerns.