The greatest evil of the century, stress has a harmful effect on our body. Chronic stress causes a real commotion in our body and our brain, disturbing our internal balance.
The result: irritability, mood swings, disturbed sleep, anxiety, metabolic ailments… and sometimes also dietary problems and weight gain!
Stress is actually closely linked to appetite, with tension often being compensated for by the diet: in stressful situations we tend to raid the fridge and select sugary foods.
Fortunately, the diet can also help us to regain calm and serenity.
Stress draws on our resources
Stress is the body's normal coping mechanism to a given situation. These mechanisms originate deep in the brain, which regulates a whole cascade of physiological reactions that enable us to deal with the source of the stress. Two hormones are at the heart of these reactions: adrenaline and cortisol. If the stress persists and becomes chronic, the body is flooded with cortisol, disrupting the internal equilibrium. The body's reserves then become depleted.
• Magnesium loss: The release of stress hormones leads to the permeability of the cell membranes and therefore the exit of magnesium, with increased elimination via the urine. The lack of magnesium then leads to neuronal hyperactivity and amplifies the effects of stress. Also, this molecule is essential for energy production from carbohydrates and fatty acids, its deficit therefore increases fatigue.
• Lower synthesis of the neurotransmitters governing well-being: Excessive release of cortisol during prolonged periods of stress disrupts the synthesis of the neurotransmitters involved in mood and pleasure, such as serotonin and dopamine. The reduction of these molecules that are essential to well-being can therefore lead to a loss of pleasure and motivation, fatigue and appetite disorders.
• Depleted energy reserves: To combat stress, the muscles, heart and brain require energy. Cortisol enables them to obtain energy by increasing the blood sugar level via the glucose stored in the liver. If the situation persists, energy reserves become depleted, causing fatigue, and the body becomes weakened.
Relaxation idea: fruit tea and infusions
Plusieurs plantes sont connues pour leurs vertus calmantes, apaisantes et sédatives. Passiflore, mélisse, camomille, verveine… En infusions, elles sont idéales pour se relaxer er favoriser un bon sommeil.
La rhodiola est également réputée, elle contribue à réduire la fatigue due au stress et à améliorer l’humeur.
Anti-stress strategy via the diet
• To offset losses via the cells and urine, to produce energy, reduce fatigue and regulate cortisol levels
• Dark chocolate, oil seeds (cashews, almonds), pulses, seafood, whole grains and mineral water rich in magnesium.
• Fuel for the muscles and the brain
• Starches at breakfast, fruits as snacks
Proteins and amino acids
• Restore neurotransmitter levels (serotonin and dopamine) via the intake of tyrosine and tryptophan, amino acids that are vital for their synthesis
• Animal proteins (meat, fish and eggs) and plant proteins (pulses and soya), walnuts, cashews, almonds, bananas and squash and sesame seeds
• In the form of phospholipids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, which keep the neurone membranes in good condition and help to maintain the proper functioning of the brain
• First cold press oils (rapeseed, linseed, walnut…), min. 2 soup spoons per day • Oily fish (salmon, sardines, herrings…) 3 times per week
• B6, B9 and B12 participate in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine
• Green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, asparagus), meat and offal, cereals, brewer's yeast
• Helps to reduce fatigue and maintain normal psychological functions
• Guava, peppers, citrus fruit, broccoli, red fruit, kiwi
Stress and food cravings
Stress sometimes gives us the irresistible urge to eat, why?
'Sugar cravings' are due to the deficit of serotonin associated with stress. Production of this stress and mood regulating hormone is supported by ingesting quick-release sugars, such as those found in cakes and sweets. Eating sugar promotes the production of serotonin, so we feel better! But watch out for piling on the pounds…
To avoid weight gain, turn to healthier solutions and select anti-craving foods to ward off compulsive eating: apples, natural yoghurt, plant milk, a square of dark chocolate, a few walnuts and almonds, or simply a large glass of water.
And if you want to treat yourself
Try walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and pecans, all rich in magnesium and a source of good fats for the brain and 'anti-stress' amino acids.