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By Jade Ellis
In our hectic, stressful and busy lifestyles, people seem to have lost the ability to slow down, relax and nourish themselves. Stress is sometimes inevitable. With busy work lives and personal lives, sometimes life can feel overwhelming with the massive number of things we have to remember to do. We always try to please everyone – sometimes to the point that we live in a constant state of agitation and we lose the ability to slow down, relax and enjoy life.
At these times the most natural and easiest thing to do is to reach for comfort food. However, this could actually be causing you further stress. There are some stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, walking and spending time in nature. To try and de-stress an important factor is being able to spend time on yourself. Below are several different ways to combat stress in everyday life and to try and slow down and re-focus on what is important – you.
VITAMINS & MINERALS
Magnesium plays a major role in the body – this deficiency is often overlooked and rarely tested. Magnesium may not be the most present mineral in our body in terms of its quantity, but it’s certainly one of the most crucial to overall health. For many people a magnesium deficiency causes noticeable negative symptoms – including muscle aches or spasms, poor digestion, anxiety and trouble sleeping. Magnesium is vital for a neurotransmitter that produces ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin. Magnesium can also help a racing mind, relax muscles and make it easier to get a good night’s sleep!
Ideally all of our nutritional needs should be met through food. However, with decreasing soil quality and increasing demands of the modern lifestyles, we are failing to meet the requirements of many important nutrients, and Magnesium is one of the most common deficiencies. Even though Magnesium is relatively abundant in food, especially in leafy greens, nuts, seeds and legumes, dietary surveys have shown that Magnesium intake is consistently lower than recommended. Stress, processed food and certain medications further increase the need for this important mineral. Fushi’s Whole Food Magnesium Capsules (60 veg caps) is a highly absorbable Magnesium Citrate formula. Magnesium is incorporated in Cocoa, Date and Pumpkin seed powders to increase the bioavailability of the mineral.
Sources of magnesium contain leafy greens, nuts and seeds. Oily fish is another source as they are high in essential fatty acids which improve cognition. This is important for brain function in times of stress. Other vitamins that are great for stress are Vitamin B which nourishes the nervous system and provides energy, and Vitamin C which strengthens the immune system and the adrenal glands. Cocoa is a great source of magnesium. Research has shown that dark chocolate might have the power to reduce stress hormones, including cortisol. Dark chocolate also contains natural substances that create a euphoric feeling – a very good excuse to indulge!
HERBS & SPICES
Herbs and spices have research behind them suggesting big benefits for your brain, like a sharper memory, less anxiety and even protection from brain tumours.
The yellow coloured Indian Spice Turmeric is powdered rhizomes of the plant, Curcuma longa. Turmeric has a number of healing properties. Ayurveda contains years of documented scientific studies that prove therapeutic properties of Turmeric such as anti-inflammatory, anti – carcinogenic, antifungal, antibacterial, antidepressant and pain reliever. There are certain compounds found in Turmeric which have been known to kick start microphages. Microphages are immune cells that destroy foreign particles. This is beneficial for brain function which means it is great for managing stress. Another reason that Turmeric lowers stress levels, is the recognition that Curcumin lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as a stress hormone. Curcumin is also known to offer neuroprotection. Its anti-inflammatory properties prevent loss of functional neurons. Fushi’s Whole Food Turmeric C3 & Bioperine Extract Capsules (500mg high strength), have increased bioavailability through the added Piperine. When ingested, turmeric gets rapidly metabolized by the liver and is virtually undetectable in the blood. Research has proven that an active ingredient in black pepper, called piperine, can profoundly increase the bioavailability of the curcuminoids in turmeric.
Cinnamon is a powerful spice that has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years. It is used in many cultures because of its widespread health benefits. Cinnamon is very sweet and warming and studies have shown the scent of cinnamon helps your body relax and makes you feel less stressed. This medicinal herb can prevent nervous tension, lift depression and hopelessness. It can give you a mental boost, help you to concentrate and stimulate creativity!
A favourite of late night tea drinkers, Chamomile is a true stress destroyer. There are certain compounds that might bind to receptors for certain brain chemicals, reducing anxiety in the process. Sometimes excessive stress and anxiety may cause sleeplessness. Chamomile tea not only reduces stress and anxiety, but it also helps treat insomnia. Similar to peppermint tea, chamomile tea has great benefits in relaxing the muscles and reducing irritability.
St John’s Wort is a herb with a long history of medicinal use. It is commonly known for its anti-depressant and mood lifting effects. It also shows great results to alleviate night terrors in children and is used to treat anxiety and insomnia. This herb contains hypericin that is responsible for boosting your mood. This also prevents the breakdown of serotonin, a feel good hormone that keeps your brain in balance. The melatonin, on the other hand, enhances a healthy sleep. If you would prefer a quicker effect, we recommend Fushi’s St John’s Wort Organic Tincture (100ml), a liquid herb that is taken internally.
HOW NUTRITION CAN COMBAT STRESS
Carbohydrates can help the brain make serotonin, the same substance regulated by antidepressants. Instead of reaching for white, sugary carbs – go for complex carbs like oats. A complex carb like oatmeal won’t contribute to your already potential spike in blood glucose.
Cashews are a great source of zinc. An essential mineral that may help reduce anxiety. Zinc effects the levels of a nerve chemical that influences mood. Cashews are also rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and protein, so they are a smart snack. The antioxidants and phytonutrients found in Blueberries fight the battle of stress in your defence, helping to improve your body’s response to stress and fight stress-related free radicals. Research has also shown that people who eat more blueberries experience a boost in natural killer cells - a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in immunity, critical for countering stress.
Meditation is a simple technique that, if practiced for as few as 10 minutes each day, can help you control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation. Our bodies respond in a ‘fight or flight’ response, to sudden stress or a threat. The ''adrenaline rush'' we experience is a result of the release of the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. They can cause blood pressure and pulse rate to spike, quicken your breathing and increase blood flow to the muscles.
The relaxation response is a technique designed to elicit a response of a state of deep relaxation, in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure and metabolism are decreased. This can help to reduce daily stresses and through training our bodies we can achieve this state of relaxation. The relaxation response technique consists of the silent repetition of a word, sound, or phrase -- perhaps one that has special meaning to you -- while sitting quietly with a good posture and eyes closed for 10 to 20 minutes. This should be done in a quiet place free of distractions. Sitting is preferred to lying down in order to avoid falling asleep. Relax your muscles starting with the feet and progressing up to your face. Breathe through your nose in a free and natural way.