In my previous blog I explained how the adrenal glands produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to help the body manage every kind of stress.
It makes sense then to provide the adrenal glands with all the nutrients required for them to function optimally - so the answer is a big loud “YES!” Good Nutrition can help reduce the symptoms of stress; in fact it’s vital for anyone suffering chronic relentless stress.
Stress can manifest in a myriad of ways in the body; symptoms you may experience include: difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, irritability, constant worrying, irrational fear, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, constant fatigue, difficulty sleeping, craving salty or sugary foods, eating more, or less, drinking more alcohol or caffeine, high or low blood sugar, weight changes, nausea, IBS-type symptoms, muscle pain and stiffness, headaches, high/low blood sugar, fast or erratic heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness, frequent viral infections, skin conditions and low libido to name but a few.
The effect of stress on blood sugar
When adrenaline responds to acute stress it will increase blood sugar; promote glucose (sugar) formation; decrease insulin that manages blood sugar and prevent glucose being taken up by peripheral tissues.
Cortisol is continually responding to all stress in the body. It increases glucose formation and will break down protein to make more glucose; it increases glucose use by the nervous system and decreases insulin that manages blood sugar.
So you can see that all stress affects our blood sugar, therefore, the very best dietary intervention to help the body manage stress is one that will sustain stable blood sugar levels.
All carbohydrate foods are released into the blood as glucose (sugar). If we eat a meal or snack high in refined carbohydrate, such as white bread, cakes, biscuits, crisps and sweets, and sweet drinks like fruit juice, cordials and soft drinks, blood sugar levels will rise very rapidly. This causes the body to panic and over-compensate by releasing too much insulin. In turn, this causes blood sugar levels to drop too low again. So regular consumption of these types of foods causes a kind of blood sugar roller-coaster that can cause stress and result in reduced energy production and fatigue.
Vegetables, nuts and seeds, pulses and whole grains contain complex carbohydrates that release sugars into the blood much more slowly; the very best carbs to choose are non-starchy vegetables in a rainbow of colours. They will not only provide slow-releasing sugar for continued energy but are rich in those vital vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients essential for your adrenal glands, and the rest of the body to function optimally.
Adding quality protein (essential for all growth and repair) and some healthy fats to your vegetables will further stabilise blood sugar, increase and sustain stamina and energy levels and help reduce all those symptoms of stress.
Avoid sugars, fast and processed foods, too much alcohol, coffee and cola, and drink plenty of fresh water.