Are you stressed?

Stress can mean many things, and it can be different things to different people. It generally means any situation or event that challenges or exceeds your ability to cope or adjust.

Many hormones and other chemicals are released in the body during times of stress. Typically your body does what it’s meant to do to deal with stress, then returns to a state of normality. In some cases though, the stress response becomes chronic and your body cannot cope any longer. Even happy events may cause stress, such as marriage, pregnancy, a new job, a lot of exercise, or a holiday. Internal conditions can also cause stress, such as digestive problems, infections, autoimmune disease or hormonal imbalances.

How do I know if I’m stressed?

Common symptoms seen in stress include: insomnia, depression, anxiety, fatigue or tiredness, headache, upset stomach, digestive disturbances, irritability, palpitations, worrying, poor concentration, clammy palms, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, muscular tension.

Why sleep is crucial

You need at least seven to eight hours sleep each night to allow your body to cope with stress. Avoid caffeine in the afternoons, and turn off the TV, computers or phones half an hour before bedtime to ensure good, restful sleep.

Exercise and stress

Exercise reduces both stress and inflammation. Simply walking can help relieve stress. Yoga is also a great exercise for stress reduction.

Be wary of exercising too much though. If you are stressed, too much exercise is just another factor that your body must deal with.

Reducing stress

It is important to reduce stress however you can. Include a daily walk, meditation, listening to music, reading, exercise, dancing, and spending time with family or friends.

Supplements that help with stress and thus PMS symptoms include magnesium and B vitamins. B vitamins, in particular vitamin B6, reduces stress and inflammation, helps raise progesterone levels and lower oestrogen levels, helps reduce bloating and swelling, and helps your body produce feel good chemicals. It addresses all the aspects of PMS.

Magnesium and stress

Magnesium is a crucial supplement to treat stress. It improves your hormonal balance, soothes and calms your nervous system, helps you sleep, provides energy, and reduces both inflammation and stress.

Food sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, and dark leafy vegetables. Include these in your diet every day, however you will likely need a magnesium supplement to raise your levels in the short term. Speak to a practitioner about this – not all magnesium supplements are made equally and a practitioner can prescribe a supplement that will have the best effect for you.

Diet changes to reduce stress

  • Eat fresh, unprocessed foods including fresh vegetables and fruits, meat, poultry, fish, nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid processed and packaged foods.In particular, avoid sugar, foods containing sugar, and ‘white foods’, such as white flour, white pasta, and other refined grains.
  • Stabilise your blood sugar – eat small, frequent meals with morning and afternoon snacks. Limit sugar as much as possible, and if you are eating sugary foods, eat only with meals.
  • Include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. You may also need a probiotic supplement to help balance your good intestinal bacteria.
  • Include a palm sized portion of protein with every meal, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans.
  • Eat good fats. These fats won’t make you fat, but instead will help to reduce stress and allow you to lose weight. Good fats include olive oil, butter, coconut oil, avocado, flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Decrease inflammation by including flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, olive oil, oily fish such as sardines, salmon, herring or mackerel. Avoid inflammatory foods including sugar, wheat, dairy foods. and vegetable oil.
  • Don’t skip meals, and when you do eat, remember to chew slowly. This means eat breakfast! This is very important to start your metabolism working properly for the day.
  • Limit caffeine, as it aggravates stress. Replace coffee with herbal teas, water, or other caffeine and sugar free drinks.
  • Limit alcohol and avoid tobacco.
  • Food sensitivities cause stress. Speak to your practitioner about food intolerance testing to determine which foods you should be avoiding.

How are stress and obesity linked?

Cortisol is one of the hormones released in the body when you experience stress. Cortisol has a typical rhythm of release over the course of the day. During periods of stress, this cortisol rhythm can become disrupted. High or chronic levels of cortisol lead to weight gain, sugar or carbohydrate cravings, increased belly fat, reduced fat burning, insulin resistance, and inflammation. It increases the rate at which you store fat and makes it more difficult to lose weight, no matter how much you exercise or how good your diet is.