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Eating to reduce stress

We have probably all been guilty at some time of succumbing to comfort eating or eating in an attempt to reduce our stress levels.

Stress is caused by different times for different people so it’s important that you understand your own body and the stress triggers that can or will affect you. Simply put, stress occurs when an increasing pressure leads to a surging of hormones such as noradrenalin, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are released into the body so that it can cope with the pressure. Once the pressure reduces then the hormone levels normalise. If the pressure is present for an extended period of time the hormones will accumulate, leading to stress symptoms which again are different for each individual.

Your diet can affect your stress levels. Foods that are high in fat will cause stress in your body since foods containing high levels of fat act as a chemical stressor on your body by increasing the production of stress hormones called glucocorticoids. Caffeine and other stimulants can cause an overstimulation of the central nervous system. Your body can become stressed by trying to break down any residual pesticides, chemicals and preservatives that you ingest so it is wise to avoid too much of these types of things. Finally, while moderate alcohol consumption has health benefits, consuming too much alcohol will open up your body to additional stress by interrupting sleep patterns and causes damage to the liver in the longer term.
Once you begin to exhibit signs of stress we sometimes then make poor choices which will not actually make us feel better or reduce stress but will just exacerbate the stress symptoms such as:

• Drinking too much coffee;
• Choosing comfort foods which tend to be high in fat, sugar and salt;
• Snacking and eating more than usual or is required;
• Forgetting to drink enough water;
• Missing meals entirely;
• Extreme diets
Making these choices while stressed can lead to blood sugar level imbalances, lowered immunity, caffeine side effects, weight gain or unhealthy sudden weight loss, dehydration and a whole host of other issues that are not good for you or your stress levels. Feeling unwell or getting sick will just add to your stress.
You can lower your stress levels by implementing activities into your life such as exercise, meditation, yoga, and of course, better nutrition. Adding foods such as tea, brazil nuts, pink salmon, bananas, pistachios, cinnamon, beetroot and chocolate have all shown to help lower stress.

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