Hungarian scientist Hans Selye once said, “It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it”, and he could not have been more correct.
Stress is not necessarily a bad thing, it is our body’s natural response to ensuring survival. From the beginning of time stress is what has kept us alive.
The Central Nervous System is divided out into various sections, and two very important sub-divisions are the Parasympathetic Nervous System and the Sympathetic Nervous System. These two systems are where all stress is dealt with. The Sympathetic Nervous System is also known as ‘fight or flight’ response. We usually revert to this state when in danger. However in modern times we seem to be in this state more often than not. Stressors such as impending bill payments, high pressure jobs and familial demands all lead to us living in this unfavourable state. There are more and more physical stressors on the body now than ever before. These are pollution, increased toxins, poor diet and lack of proper nutrition and lack of sleep.
What the Sympathetic Nervous System is doing in reality is preparing us for high energy activity which is why it is referred to as ‘fight or flight’. This causes a range of changes in the body, for example;
- Release of cortisol, the stress hormone
- Release of glucose from the liver into the blood
- Increase in heart rate
- Increase in blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- The disruption of normal bodily functions such as digestion and excretion.
Stress manifests itself in many different ways, and usually targets our weakest points. Examples of this would-be people getting flare ups of eczema, IBS, migraines or even bouts of low mood.
Here are some tried and tested supplements that we recommend in order to reduce stress and promote our ‘rest and digest’ Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Not only does it alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress but it also improves mental clarity and performance. L-Theanine is derived from green tea and is an amino acid which helps support a sense of calm, possesses anti-stress properties and all the while maintaining the ability to think clearly and even boost mental performance. It is rapidly absorbed and easily crosses the blood brain barrier allowing it to quickly reach brain cells. Lemon balm, a nervine herb, specifically helps support the nervous system. It improves brain levels of the neurotransmitter GABA which has anti-anxiety and calming effects without being a sedative.
This particular product is ideal for customers who have very stressful jobs but need to remain focused. Or students with looming exams who are suffering with anxiety and also need help boosting mental clarity.
This product is a beautiful blend of herbs and essential vitamins and minerals known to relieve symptoms of stress. Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb which means it works in a bidirectional fashion. Rather than working on one bodily function specifically, it has a normalising effect meaning things that need to be increased will be brought up and things that are too high will be decreased. For example, if the stress hormone cortisol is increased in the body, it will be decreased with the help of Rhodiola. If the body is tired and you are suffering with fatigue, the adaptogenic nature of this herb will increase energy levels. Rhodiola also stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin, the ‘happy hormones’.
Rhodiola is ideal for combining with other stress reducing supplements. This is why it works so well in this particular Solgar product. With the help of fellow adaptogen Siberian ginseng, and the lovely relaxing chamomile, magnesium and pantothenic acid this truly is a perfect product for those of us who need extra support through stressful times.
This is another adaptogenic herb which is incredibly synergistic alongside Rhodiola. Apart from improving all wellbeing its main function is nourishment of the nervous system, reduction of stress symptoms and improvement of stress responses. It is a more calming herb than Rhodiola which is why they work perfectly alongside each other, again ideal for students who need help keeping calm but need to stay razor sharp for exams. By helping calm the system it sways us in the direction of the Parasympathetic Nervous System, therefore allowing us to rest, recover and become stronger within.
Although supplementation is often necessary, there is no better way to nourish our bodies and control our stress levels than starting with what we choose to eat daily.
The modern world in which we now live in is a fast-paced, high-energy, grab and go kind of world. We are so preoccupied by the mental and emotional stressors in our lives that we forget the fact that we are causing the most stress to ourselves by making all the incorrect nutritional choices.
Here is a list of what foods and diet changes I would recommend to customers who fall into this fast-paced category.
Swap that sugary croissant for something more nutritious yet equally as easy to grab and go. Sugar blasts energy levels through the roof. At first you may feel on top of the world waltzing into work greeting everyone with a chirpy “Good morning!”, you won’t be long falling into that well known slump wishing you could roll back into bed.
Avocado toast is an excellent alternative. Avocados are high in potassium, good fatty acids which are extremely beneficial for the heart, and full of fibre which reduce blood sugar spikes. When mashed onto a slice of wholegrain toast you are providing yourself with good, wholesome energy which will get you through until lunch time. While you’re standing there toasting your bread, boil the kettle, and make yourself a cup of green tea. Initially the swap over from coffee to green tea will be difficult but it will be well worth it. Green tea contains L-Theanine which relaxes you whilst keeping you focused, energised and ready for your busy day at work.
Dust off your lunchbox the night before and prepare lunch. This will avoid that rushed morning frenzy which certainly does not help with stress levels. Homemade burrito bowls are delicious and nutritious if you make all the right choices. Throw in some brown wholegrain rice as your base, providing your digestive system with some more fibre. Add some beans which contain yet more fibre, protein, B vitamins and magnesium. Next add some tomatoes, spinach, onion, peppers and a serving of cooked chicken and you are ready to go.
Forget about calling your local Asian takeaway and make your own stirfry at home from scratch in under half an hour. You will feel better after eating it and your pocket will too.
Fry up all the vegetables you like, onions, peppers, garlic, mushrooms, beansprouts, broccoli, the more the better. Cook your meat of choice, or simply keep it vegetarian. Make your wholegrain noodles and add your soy sauce. A lovely guilt-free, stress-free alternative to a greasy overpriced takeaway dinner.
These are just simple, quick ideas for people on the go. The main thing to remember is to include;
- Fruits and vegetables: They contain antioxidants needed to fight off disease and boost our immune system.
- High fibre and carbohydrate-rich foods: Nutritious foods such as sweet potatoes and wholegrains are known to produce more serotonin and are more filling. This can then prevent late night binging as it provides us with the slow release energy.
- Take things like sugar, caffeine and alcohol in moderation. All these things put extra stress on the body therefore excessive consumption is not advised.
- Avoid processed, fatty, ready-made meals. These contain very little nutrients and do contain high amounts of artificial ingredients and preservatives.