Eating to Manage Stress

Although stress is a part of everyday life, left unmanaged it can overtax our systems and affect our emotional and physical health. According to a 2011 study by the American Psychological Association, 22% of Americans report experiencing  stress on a regular basis. Even though most people believe that stress contributes to a host of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and weight gain, very few people believe they are managing it very well. So how does stress impact our overall health and what steps can you take to reduce its effects? Scroll down for an explanation of what’s happening in your body and how to fight back!

Stress and the Immune System

Have you ever ended up very sick after a stressful event or a period of “burning the candle at both ends”.  The first line of defense against invading organisms is an immune globulin called IgA, Stress can cause a significant decrease in IgA.  One stressful episode of anger lasting five minutes can cause a decrease in secretory IgA that can last for up to five hours. It’s easy to see how regular periods of stress can leave you open to illness and infection.


White blood cells also play a vital role in a healthy immune system. A severe life stress can result in a 50% reduction in the effectiveness of white blood cells, decreasing the body’s ability to fight infections.


Additionally, our body releases Cortisol, a hormone excreted by the adrenal glands, during stressful situations. Our immune system is compromised when too much of this hormone is present in the body for an extended period of time.


Stress, Anxiety, and Mood

B vitamins play a key role in maintaining the health of your nervous system. When you’re under stress, your body uses up B vitamins to cope with the pressure, according to nutritionist/pharmacist James B. LaValle, author of “Cracking the Metabolic Code.” Anger and anxiety create adverse physiological conditions and can start a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. A stressed out mind creates a stressed out body, leading to an even more stressed mind.


What to Eat and What to Avoid


B vitamins are available in a wide variety of plant and animal food, however they are water soluble and our bodies do not store them. You must renew your supply every day with a healthy and varied diet. If you have high levels of stress in your life, you may need a B complex supplement as well.


Foods rich in minerals and B vitamins

Green leafy vegetables like romaine lettuce, kale, collard greens, and spinach
Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats
Raw nuts and raw seeds such as almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds
Beans and lentils
Cruciferous vegetables like kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage

Foods to Reduce or Eliminate

Coffee, tea, refined sugar and refined carbohydrates, gluten, and dairy can trigger an immune response in your digestive track, leading to an increase in stress hormones. Cutting these triggers out of your diet can lead to a healthier and more efficient digestive track.

The good news is we can eat to beat back stress, before it beats us! Try incorporating these simple suggestions into your daily habits, and help your body and mind stay ahead of the every day stressors of life!

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