How To Develop an Anti-Stress Nutrition Strategy

What to eat to fight stress and stay healthy

Stress, the body's response to certain outside stimuli, can have a very damaging effect on our nutritional intake. For example, stress can overload our adrenal system, causing nutrients to be diverted to that system instead of allowing them to nourish the rest of our body. It's important to develop an anti-stress strategy that makes up for these deficiencies.

Mineral deficiencies

According to Elson Haas, MD, author of Staying Healthy With Nutrition, minerals in our diet assist the nervous system in sending electrical impulses through the brain. They also support immunological function and cell respiration, the process through which cells nourish themselves and release toxins. A stressful body uses minerals quickly to process all the stimuli associated with the stress.

According to Dr. Haas, an anti-stress nutrition strategy should involve eating foods high in minerals — especially zinc, magnesium, potassium and selenium. Zinc supports the immune system, which can be severely weakened by stress. Magnesium promotes restful sleep, and potassium is important in the electrolyte balance of the body. Selenium helps the body process vitamin E, an anti-oxidant that fights free radicals. A diet high in these minerals, or a mineral-rich supplement, is the first step in an anti-stress nutritional strategy.

Digestive system

Stress increases the acid levels of the stomach, which can cause indigestion, heartburn and even ulcers. According to Dr. Haas, these high acid levels can also cause an overactive pancreas and an alkaline stomach. These digestive issues may lead to food allergies, vitamin deficiencies, unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition.

If stress is upsetting your digestive system, Dr. Haas recommends trying to relax 10 minutes before eating to allow the body to fully absorb the food that you do eat. Another strategy is to eat smaller meals throughout the day. Try to avoid foods that are highly acidic, and focus on soothing soups and salads. Avoid alcohol and caffeine while consuming large amounts of water. Calcium supplements will also ease high acid levels.

Vitamins

An anti-stress nutritional strategy should include getting the vitamins you need to stay healthy. The antioxidant vitamins C, E and A will fight the free radicals, which are linked to cancer, produced in the body during times of stress. The B vitamin family and vitamin C also support adrenal function, which can be weakend by stress over time. According to Dr. Haas, it's a good idea to take minerals at night because they can support rest, and B vitamins in the morning because they can cause a noticeable boost in energy. Vitamin C also supports immune function. While a vitamin supplement is an excellent way to get all these vitamins, a healthy diet is also essential.

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