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Rude Wonders

Ask Away: Independent health store advice on nutrition for dealing with stress

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Davina Dowling NT, MNTOI, resident nutritional therapist at Evolv in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

Stress is largely unavoidable nowadays due to the many complexities of life including work, family and relationships. Some stress can be motivating or possibly beneficial, but chronic stress is a large contributor to many health problems.

Everyone experiences stress in ways that are unique to them. The key to healthy living is to manage stress before it manages you. With today’s hectic pace of life, multi-tasking can be a way of life for many of us, but research shows that trying to cram more productivity into our already overscheduled days is not a healthy way to live.

Stress can increase our risk of heart disease, lead to immune problems, metabolic disorders and plays a huge role in headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, arthritis and depression. It can also impact on our personal and professional relationships.

Stress and hormones

Chronic stress puts us at increased risk for hormone imbalance because stress and hormones are directly related. Excess cortisol secretion by the adrenal glands can lead to adrenal insufficiency as well as leading to craving high calorie, high fat and high sugar carbohydrates which in turn causes weight gain.

The adrenals are also unable to produce sufficient DHEA, the hormone that our body uses to make the sex hormones androgen and oestrogen, which can cause extreme hormone fluctuations, particularly during the menopause when the ovaries also slow their hormone production. Overstressed women may not ovulate, which leads to lower progesterone levels. In turn this can cause a variety of problems, including a shorter time between periods.

Stress causes the body to become more acidic, which uses up our minerals. Low mineral levels reduce the body’s ability to carry out biochemical reactions effectively and can lead to tiredness and sore joints.

Stress and diet

It’s important to consume a diet that includes plenty of mineral-rich vegetables and herbs to replenish minerals flushed from the body during stressful times. Leafy greens and sea vegetables, unrefined sea salt, fish and seafood are excellent sources of a variety of minerals. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables will provide the potassium necessary for adrenal function. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates which all tax the adrenals.

Stress and lifestyle

Good quality sleep is key in regulating the metabolism of cortisol and essential for energy balance. Sleep deprivation is a chronic stressor that affects the body’s stress response systems. It also contributes to increased leptin levels which is a hormone concerned with making us feel full. Our adrenal glands thrive on predictability, and having a regular sleep routine (even on weekends) is recommended.

The good news is that certain lifestyle factors can considerably minimise stress and reduce circulating cortisol levels. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise are among the best contenders in this regard. Massage therapy reduces physiological stress responses including elevated blood pressure, cortisol and heart rate as well as perceived stress and anxiety. Mindfulness, meditation and yoga counteract rising cortisol levels as well as improving sleep duration, mood and fatigue.

Natural health for stress

  • A multivitamin and mineral supplement containing B vitamins and magnesium is needed to support adrenal function.
  • There is a high turnover of antioxidants during the stress response. An antioxidant formula that includes vitamins A, C, D and E as well as the minerals zinc and selenium can help replace antioxidants.
  • Herbs called adaptogens are plants that have beneficial effects on adrenal function and are used therapeutically to promote an optimal physiological response to stress.
  • Research has shown rhodiola has a positive effect in patients suffering from stress-related fatigue as well as increasing the ability to concentrate.
  • Ashwagandha can be very supportive during times of stress as it is considered to be an adaptogen, which improves our tolerance of stress whilst also increasing energy.

Who's who and what's what at Evolv

Evolv was set up by husband and wife team Nuala and Matt Ronan 23 years ago. “We are in the fourth location in Enniscorthy since we started the store,” says Nuala. “We remodeled a late 1700s building in 2006 and purpose-built the majority of the store to give us terrific size and lots of natural light. We consider ourselves to be a centre of wellbeing, not just a health store, and have a meeting room for classes such as a course in miracles, two types of yoga, meditation and a new class called Reinvent Yourself that is coming soon. Our therapy rooms are host to cranial osteopathy, allergy testing, hypnotherapy, counselling and psychotherapy, an eating disorders clinic, massage, reflexology, bio energy and spiritual healing among others.

“Our customers are very varied and we have lots of regulars such as young mothers, sports and fitness enthusiasts as well as more mature customers and people who have been referred to us because they have not had much luck with the medical side of things.

“I think Evolv is one of the biggest independent health stores in Ireland. In addition to the therapy rooms we have two storeys in the shop.” says Nuala. “Upstairs we stock a wide range of supplements and cosmetics, and downstairs we have a substantial area dedicated to food, particularly raw foods, and a whole zone for loose teas and herbs and spices. We also sell gifts such as crystals on this floor.

“We hold monthly events we call Fab Fridays and Super Saturdays where we encourage customers to come in and enjoy product demonstrations, offers on products, bargain facials, cooking demos, cholesterol testing, allergy testing, iridology and good offers on products. These days have proved to be very popular and we print up a programme for them. We also run a health awareness week once a year in the first week of March.

“A unique element we offer customers at Evolv is our Kids Wishing Wall. This is basically a wall of slate rock we discovered when building the shop. The child or customer makes a wish and then they ring a little bell signifying an angel coming to take the wish. Kids can sit down and draw their wishes while we consult with their parents.”

Visit: Evolv, Castle Hill, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford
speak to: Owners Nuala and Matt Ronan; Deirdre Parle – allergy testing, ear candling; Davina Dowling – nutritional therapist; Michelle Rooney and Jenny Sludds – sales assistants. Carmel Devereux looks after accounts and admin.

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