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Stress - Are You Reaching Boiling Point?

A stressed woman

Stress is an increasing burden in our daily lives. Nutritional therapist Irene Ní Fhlannúra offers some tips for tackling the problem naturally.

Nowadays increasing pressures and expectations are placed upon all sectors of society to do it all and have it all. As a result more and more people are struggling to cope with the demands that everyday life throws at them. Much of our stress today is perceived through our thought processes rather than a physical danger to our survival. Yet, as part of the stress response, our adrenal glands pump out stress hormones to prepare the body for a ‘fight or flight’ situation that never really manifests. Increasingly, this is having a devastating effect on our health.

Popping a pill?

One in every four prescriptions written in Ireland and the UK is for anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. However, people are increasingly realising that a pill won’t solve the issue but will instead mask some of the symptoms. The problems still exist underneath and must be dealt with one way or another.

Eating a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, good quality protein, healthy fats as well as vitamins and minerals nourishes the body, providing it with the nutrients needed for health and vitality.

Foods rich in B-vitamins are increasingly important during stressful times to nourish the adrenal glands, for energy and immunity. These are found across a wide range of natural whole grains, pulses and vegetables and also from unprocessed protein-rich foods, such as fresh meat, fish and beans.

The gut factor

Often, with stress, the body will crave fast-releasing carbohydrates such as sugar, refined grains and junk food in an attempt to temporarily boost energy levels. These foods are stripped of the very nutrients the body requires, further exasperating the negative impact of the stress response.

Stress can be devastating to the digestive system and the ability of our body to absorb and utilise nutrients from food. Supporting the digestive system with clean, unadulterated, fresh food will enhance the functioning of the entire gut which is central to our overall health and wellbeing.

Suitable supplements

The stress mechanism depletes the body of vitamins B and C so it is important to replenish our levels of these vital nutrients. Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid is particularly important to the adrenal glands (home of the stress hormones) and should be included in a B-complex formula. Herbal formulas specific to adrenal health include rhodiola and deglycyrrhized liquorice root extract.

Nutritional supplements to optimise digestion such as herbal bitters, digestive enzymes and probiotics can help to restore the digestive problems associated with stress. Immune-boosting formulations including vitamins A, C, E, zinc and selenium can be of particular benefit for chronic stress which often leaves us vulnerable to illness and exhaustion.

The happy hormones

Therapies can help to switch off the mind as well as the stress mechanism. Yoga, meditation, qi gong, buteyko and breathing techniques are essential for successful stress management.

Being physically active is a wonderful and natural way to deal with the excess energy brought about by raging stress hormones. Exercise, sport and physical activity not only liberates us from the effects of stress but also encourages the secretion of endorphins (happy hormones). Rest and good quality sleep is needed for repair and rejuvenation - a well-rested body and mind is always more likely to handle the daily grind than a tired, worn out body.

Try These!

  • Herbal remedies like skullcap, valerian and cowslip are all good natural relaxants.
  • Flower remedies such as impatiens, elm and vervain can help to ease stress.
  • Vitamins A, B complex, C and E plus zinc and magnesium all help the body to cope with stress. Look out for them in supplement form.

You’ll get sound nutritional advice in health shops which are members of the Irish Association of Health Stores. Visit www.irishhealthstores.com for a store near you.

Irene Ní Fhlannura DipNT mNTOI is a nutritional therapist practising from Re Nua Nutrition Clinic & Healing Rooms in Co. Kerry.

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