THE IMPACT OF STRESS ON YOUR HEALTH (AND GUT)
Stress can be motivating and energizing, or it can be debilitating by affecting your sleep, metabolism, food choices, and mood. Additionally, stress negatively impacts the gut by altering the gut-microbiome, weakening the gut-lining, affecting bowel movements, and more.
It is important to recognize that some level of stress is normal and that avoiding stress altogether is likely unrealistic. Instead, the key to stress is learning ways to effectively reduce stress by helping the body manage stress and become more resilient through one’s diet, lifestyle, and environment.
In this post, we focus on the diet where specific foods and nutrients can help support the body and gut during increased times of stress.
HOW FOODS AND NUTRIENTS YOU EAT PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR BODIES ABILITY TO MANAGE STRESS
During times of increased or prolonged stress, the body often feels emotionally and physically depleted. One reason for this may be that the body burns through increased nutrients as part of the stress response. Specifically, nutrients such as Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, and some B-vitamins may become depleted during times of stress.
Not only do we want to help replenish these nutrients (or mitigate them from being lost in the first place), but other nutrients can be helpful in the body managing and responding to stress by helping to decrease inflammation (a hallmark of stress), support the gut-microbiome or lining (both of which are sensitive to stress) and more!
OUR FAVORITE FOODS TO SUPPORT A STRESSED OUT BODY (and gut):
- Dark chocolate (70% or more, go for dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and soy-free) – contains iron and magnesium plus is a natural mood booster
- Wild-caught fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies) – high in omega 3’s which are anti-inflammatory
- Avocado – high in omega 3’s and fiber which is excellent at reducing inflammation and for gut health, and contains some Magnesium, B vitamins, Vitamin C, and folate
- Root veggies (sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, beets) – rich in fiber (good for the gut) and antioxidants to help protect your cells
- Spinach – high in iron and magnesium, which are often depleted during times of stress
- Nuts and seeds (chia, flax, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, etc.) – high in omega 3’s, magnesium, and zinc
- Tea (lemon balm, peppermint, and ginger) – has a calming effect and aids in digestion!
- Bone broth – rich in gut-healing nutrients like collagen and gelatin, plus and contains a handful of minerals to support overall health
- Ginger – helps to stimulate digestion and aids in motility (often thrown off during times of stress and is anti-inflammatory
- Lemon – good source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant
- Fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, thyme, mint, sage) – packed with antioxidants to help protect the body from stressors and excess inflammation
- High-quality protein (pasture-raised eggs, wild-caught fish, organic ground beef, and organic meets) – good source of B-vitamins
- Garlic – high in sulfur compounds which help increase levels of glutathione (a key player in fighting stress)
- Chickpeas – good source of vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and b vitamins plus has L-tryptophan, an amino acid that helps regulate mood
While we always love and recommend getting your nutrients from whole foods first, utilizing supplements can help fill any gaps in the diet or ensure you are getting adequate amounts of these nutrients to support your body optimally.
OUR FAVORITE NUTRIENTS TO GET MORE OF WHEN STRESSED:
- Omega 3’s – anti-inflammatory nutrients that positively affect the gut (and, therefore mood!)
- B vitamins – play an essential role in nervous system function and, therefore, stress response! Deficiencies in B12 specifically have been linked to stress – although we find most people do well on a quality B-complex!
- Magnesium – chronic stress can deplete your body of magnesium, a critical player in your body’s stress-response system and other vital roles, including digestion
- L-theanine – an amino acid that works naturally with your body and has calming effects (if you’re calm, your gut is calm!)
- Turmeric – anti-inflammatory
- Collagen and Glutamine – support the gut lining by helping rebuild it and keep it strong!
- Iron – Excess stress may deplete iron levels resulting in your body feeling extra fatigued, inflamed, and stressed out!
- Vitamin C – High levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) may deplete Vitamin C, which is a critical player in helping protect your body from stressors and helpful in iron absorption
- Zinc – A key player in immune health, mood, and the health of the gut lining where increased stress may deplete zinc levels
- Vitamin D – plays a role in mood support, immune health, and gut health!
- Glutathione – serves as a defense mechanism for cells (like under times of stress) and is good for the gut-lining
A DAY OF EATING TO SUPPORT THE BODY (AND GUT) DURING INCREASED STRESS
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with turmeric with avocado on sweet potato toast and sauteed Spinach
Lunch: Salad with parsley, onions, chickpeas, cucumber, and beets, and sunflower seeds in a lemon, olive oil, and tahini dressing
Snack: Bone Broth
Dinner: Wild-caught salmon with dill and lemon with asparagus and roasted carrots
Dessert: Peppermint tea and Dark Chocolate
THE BOTTOM LINE
We know that you may be tempted to grab a pizza, tub of ice cream, or bag of chips during times of stress. However, while it may feel satisfying, the reality is that you are likely not providing your body with the nourishment it needs and may be inadvertently stressing it out even more. So instead, next time you are stressed and about to grab some food, think about how you can support your body (and gut) by focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods (full of healthy fat, high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, etc.). Trust us; your body will thank you for it!
Want to learn more about how to support your body and gut? Click here to work with us!
Written by Alison Richman MS, RDN