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Updated: Apr 30

We have many different stressors (causes of our stress) but only one biological stress response for good or bad; so, stress, in its many forms, is natural and essential for a healthy life. However, when the stressors are always present, and we feel continually threatened and under attack, it not only compromises our mental health but also our immune response. Long-term secretion of cortisol (known as the stress hormone) can lead to lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (which are needed at the start of infection) and, eventually, a higher risk of infection and inflammatory-based diseases.

Chronic stress is affecting lots of people worldwide and it leads to adverse health risks.

Nutrition is an important ally in improving your ability to cope with stress. What we eat should provide all the raw materials to build our brain’s cell structure and keep it functioning well so we can think, emote, learn and remember. However, we are worldwide eating the most stressful diet ever known and, ironically, the high amount of junk food we consume is usually intended to relieve our emotional stress!

The lack of proper nutrients makes it impossible for the body and the brain to function well and cope with extra nutritional demands. All nutrients are very important as we need all of them to function well but here, I’ll be highlighting some important ones for chronic stress specifically:

• Vitamin C is very important for cortisol production and under stress, there is a considerable increase in its demand.

• Magnesium levels in the body are reduced by stress and its deficiency makes us more susceptible to stress as magnesium acts in many neurotransmitter pathways. It is a vicious cycle.

• Some fats are vital for our mental health. Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory fat, it modulates the HPA axis (that mediates the effects of stressors by regulating numerous physiological processes) and regulates the production of some neurotransmitters.

• B-complex vitamins are essential to the body's stress response. They help to maintain a healthy nervous system that allows the body to effectively fight the symptoms of stress. • Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They are essential in making hormones and neurotransmitters. Amino acid deficiency can lead to depression, apathy and lack of motivation, an inability to relax, and poor memory and concentration. Try to eat a source of protein with every meal.

• The adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables (around 400g/day) brings antioxidant compounds which help the body to fight oxidative stress and inflammation. Eat your rainbow.

Under stress, we tend to eat more food and a more caloric diet and because of it, the practice of mindful eating is very important to avoid compulsion.

A nutritionally balanced diet is essential in helping us to manage stress. Do not neglect your nutrition!

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