You Can Manage Stress With Good Nutrition!
Many of us have been in a situation where we’ve had to face something that we have been dreading, be it an exam, an interview or a work presentation. Our hands go clammy, we start sweating, get a dry mouth, have an upset stomach or abdominal pains. We may have trouble sleeping and even start to feel anxious or tense in our shoulders or get heart palpitations. These are some of the symptoms of “acute stress”.
According to the American Psychological Association, acute stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future, so it’s relatively short term and immediate. It’s thrilling in small doses, but too much is exhausting. (1)
The symptoms we see with acute stress are caused by stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol being released into the bloodstream. They may also be caused by over activity of nervous impulses to various parts of the body.
As a mother, I have seen firsthand the pressure put on our children and young adults to perform well in exams and tests. Children from as young as 6 years old are taking tests during primary school, right through to University level and beyond and it is the responsibility of all of us involved in growing and educating our children (parents, carers, teachers, lecturers) to recognise the symptoms of acute stress and help manage it.
There are many ways to help manage acute stress in children, regrettably healthy eating isn’t always seen as a priority as children reach for sugary foods and drinks to get through busy times and combat their slumps in energy, purchase medication from onlinepharmacytabs, however, good nutrition is vital and unfortunately many people don’t realise the impact stress has on depleting vitamins and minerals in our bodies, most notably;
- B Vitamins, during periods of stress they are required to help improve mood by producing the hormone serotonin and reducing fatigue. B6 helps to produce GABA, an amino acid which acts as a neurotransmitter in calming the nervous system.
Studies by Abdou AM et al, (2) suggest that GABA could work effectively as a natural aid to induce relaxation and diminish anxiety, GABA could also enhance immunity under stressful conditions.
- Zinc also helps produce hormones to help balance mood. A trial conducted by DiGirolamo, A et al, (3) concluded that increases in zinc levels were associated with decreases in depression and anxiety in a community-based sample of children at risk of zinc deficiency.
- Magnesium plays an important role in many biological functions within the body. During stressful periods magnesium is released into the blood stream to help calm nerves, relax muscles, and help in the production of energy.
- Vitamin C may help combat the weakening effect that stress has on our immune systems (this is why we get run down and are more likely to pick up colds when we are stressed). It may also support the adrenal glands to help produce the energy and stress hormones we need. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C also helps to combat free radicals in our bodies which are promoted by stress. Free radicals cause damage to our cells, protein and DNA which can trigger a number of diseases in the body. (4)
Smart tips to manage acute stress:
- Ensure that meals and snacks are regular, with a good source of protein included to help regulate blood sugar levels and balance energy.
- Eat a rainbow of fruit and veg to increase antioxidants, Vitamins B & C and Magnesium.
- Increase Omega 3 foods to help promote the hormone serotonin, whose job it is to help control mood, sleep and memory. A study conducted by Bourre JM, (5) concluded that Omega-3’s appear effective in the prevention of stress.
- Ensure that there is someone to talk to during exam time, a quiet place to study and the ability to take time out to relax and exercise.
- Practice deep breathing and yoga to promote relaxation.
- Instil good sleep hygiene – 8 hours sleep, switch off all technology at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Take baths with 1 cup of Epsom salts twice a week to help replace diminishing magnesium.
Here are 15 Smart foods to help replenish depleted vitamins and minerals:
- citrus fruits
- raw cacao powder
- dark green leafy vegetables
- wild Alaskan salmon
- brown rice
- chick peas
(1). American Psychological Association; Stress: The different kinds of stress; http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-kinds.aspx accessed 06.02.2017 (2). Abdou AM1, Higashiguchi S, Horie K, Kim M, Hatta H, Yokogoshi H Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. Biofactors. 2006;26:201-8. (3).DiGirolamo AM, Ramirez-Zea M, Wang M, Flores-Ayala R, Martorell R, Neufeld LM, Ramakrishnan U, Sellen D, Black MM, Stein AD. Randomized trial of the effect of zinc supplementation on the mental health of school-age children in Guatemala. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92:1241-50. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29686. (4). V. Lobo, A. Patil, A. Phatak, and N. Chandra Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health Pharmacogn Rev. 2010 Jul-Dec; 4: 118–126 (5). Bourre JM Omega-3 fatty acids in psychiatry Med Sci (Paris). 2005 Feb;21:216-21