Stress and Nutrition
Stress and anxiety are normal reactions of our body, during which the human body prepares itself biologically, so that it can act immediately against dangerous situations. This reaction is defined as “flight or fight”. As a point, stress is beneficial, as it helps to ensure our biological survival. However, it is not uncommon for people to be overwhelmed by intense anxiety, without cause for concern or threat.
The correlation between stress and diet
A balanced and nutrient-rich diet is crucial, as almost 95% of the “calm hormone” receptors, namely serotonin, are located in the inner wall of the intestine, as pointed out by Dr. Uma Naidu, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a lecturer at Harvard University School of Medicine.
Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that play an important role in the manifestation or not of stress. In addition, adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine are hormones that play a dominant role in stress. We all know that proper nutrition stimulates the secretion of hormones. Some foods, in fact, are characterized by anxiolytic action, as they increase serotonin levels and can cause a drop in adrenaline and cortisol, the increase of which intensifies stress. Furthermore, the diet provides a variety of nutrients that are associated with improved mood, good blood flow and proper brain function, factors that help better manage stress.
Foods that help reduce stress
Based on the scientific data so far, the consumption of certain foods can reduce stress, thanks to certain ingredients that are contained in them. These ingredients include B-complex vitamins, as they stimulate the secretion of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. Good sources of vitamin B are avocados, almonds and asparagus.
Also, according to studies, vitamin C contributes to the decline of stress hormone levels. Foods with increased levels of vitamin C are green and red peppers, broccoli, spinach, citrus fruits and pineapple.
Cortisol levels are stabilized by magnesium. Studies in mice have shown that lack of it in the diet is associated with increased stressful behaviors. Foods high in magnesium are green leafy vegetables, legumes and nuts. Zinc also contributes to the proper function of neurotransmitters and is included in increased amounts in cashews, beef and egg yolks.
Furthermore, the omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish, stimulate the production of serotonin and possess anti-inflammatory effects, thus stabilizing the levels of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones). A study conducted by Ohio State University suggested that the inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet can reduce stress by 20%.
In addition, a 2011 study in Ireland found that “good” intestinal bacteria, such as probiotics, reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Good sources of probiotics are kefir and yogurt.
Chamomile is also rich in antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and have relaxing properties. Green tea contains an amino acid that is known as L-theanine and it has been shown to help relax our body. In addition, the consumption of foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, has been found to be associated with increased serotonin levels in the brain.
The noticeable difference of Personalized Nutrition
The link between diet and stress is increasingly gaining interest in the scientific community, as it seems to be strong. Although these foods themselves do not fully help with stress, a diet rich in micro- and macronutrients can provide us with an arsenal of nutrients that effectively protect our body and enable it to cope with any difficult condition, such as stress. The key to a successful outcome, however, lies in the medical guidance and personalized diet that will be suggested to us.
Personalized Nutrition is based on how macro and micronutrients affect DNA structure, gene expression and metabolism. In short, we refer to the way in which food or nutrients determine the expression of genetic information in an individual. Personalized Nutrition has emerged from Nutritional Genomic Research, which studies the relationship between genes, diet and health and is a branch of Epigenetic science.
Based on all of this, it is argued that individual metabolic evaluation and a targeted dietary approach are vital in contrast to generalized dietary recommendations for better stress management. Not all people respond in the same way to nutrition, which highlights the need to approach the nutritional needs of individuals, based on their genetic and metabolic characteristics.
Therapeutic (Molecular) Nutrition can serve these purposes. This is a special nutritional platform, which results from accurate Metabolic Profile tests and does not include the same foods for everyone. Instead, a special diet plan is prepared, different for each person that is structured based on the organic specificity of each. It is based on the ideal intake of vitamins, micro and macronutrients and trace elements per person. Its success lies in the fact that for every diet plan it proposes, it contributes to the creation of healthy cells, with consequent beneficial results in achieving good health of the organism and consequently in increasing its ability to adequately cope with stressful situations.
Dr. Nikoleta Koini, M.D.
Doctor of Functional, Preventive, Anti-ageing and Restorative Medicine.
Diplomate and Board Certified in Anti-aging, Preventive, Functional and Regenerative Medicine from A4M (American Academy in Antiaging Medicine).
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