Stress is often known as a silent killer. While most people just brush it off and go on with their lives, it’s not something that you should lightly dismiss when it starts messing with your health.
According to a survey conducted by Computer World, more than 70% of employees in Malaysia are experiencing an increased level of stress-related diseases, & 42% of Malaysian employees struggled to get a nice sleep.
Gobbling comfort foods may make you feel better for a minute, but they are nothing but a short term remedy, and soon you will have to deal with more health issues than just stress alone. Luckily, with just a few tweaks in your nutrition habit, you will be able to lessen the effects of stress on your body.
The Stress Response
Stress triggers chain reactions in the human body: When stress is detected, the brain will secrete a substance called corticotropin-releasing hormone to let the pituitary gland, a pea-sized structure of the brain located at the bottom of the brain, to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). It then travels to the adrenal glands, prompting the release of “stress hormones” — causing elevated heart rate & laboured breathing.
A little stress is inevitable in our life. However, feeling overwhelmed frequently or for a prolonged period is definitely not normal. Stress is signalling the body to turn on its “fight-or-flight” response, leading to the release of catabolic hormones such as cortisol & noradrenaline to help gearing up for a physical bout. Such response is great if you’re living in a place where you have to fight or flee, but it wreaks havoc for modern-day stress. Repeatedly prompting the stress response will cause health problems such as high blood pressure, anxiety, obesity, and chronic pain.
Several studies have been conducted in the past to help alleviating stress off the sufferers. These efforts include reducing stressors in our everyday lives, practicing meditation, and fostering relationships with family & friends. Sadly to say, these actions require plenty of efforts, and most people would rather take shortcuts – indulging in sugary foods – to cope with their stress, leaving them sluggish and depressed about their lives. As time goes by, it will only result in obesity and other heart-related problems.
Most people recognize what’s going on, but they often lack the necessary knowledge and support needed to escape from this vicious cycle. With that being said, foods can also be used in a beneficial way to prevent stress-related problems. A strategically-planned nutritional strategy can not only minimize the level of stress, but also keeping your body healthy notwithstanding.
• Seeds, fish, legumes, cheese, and eggs contain high amounts of tryptophan, the amino acid which is responsible for boosting the production of “happiness hormone” called serotonin, which in turn may reduce symptoms of low mood.
• Citrus fruits, okra, and avocado are packed with folic acid, which can also aid in the production of serotonin production.
• Fish, milk, sunshine, and other sources of Vitamin D can increase the enzyme that converts tryptophan to serotonin.
• Whole wheat breads & brown rice are just some of the examples of complex carbohydrates that can stimulate the brain to produce serotonin. A slower rate of absorption will result in a constant supply of serotonin.
• Citrus fruits and dark leafy veggies contain Vitamin C, which helps in lowering levels of stress hormones, making you feeling better.
Promoting Our Happiness Hormone
Chronic stress can lower the amount of serotonin, the hormone that’s responsible for making you feel happy. It is known as the key regulator of mood & appetite.
As previously mentioned, foods that will increase the production of serotonin are normally high in tryptophan, an amino acid that acts as the fuel to produce serotonin. Including tryptophan-rich foods into your diet plan is often recommended to help battle stress and depression. Increasing vitamin D intake is also encouraged to help the body in the process of converting tryptophan to serotonin in a smooth manner.
There are other amino acids such as tyrosine and phenylalanine that serve as precursors to important neurotransmitters that influence our mental health. Nevertheless, scientists have yet to conclude the effectiveness of these amino acids in affecting our mental health.
Even though there’s no shortcut in dealing with stress, the severity can be greatly limited with a balance nutritional approach. As stress robs you of the many essential nutrients your body requires, it’s of utmost priority that you ‘refill’ it as soon as possible. Failure to act immediately may result in deterioration of the mind and body.