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Stress and your body

A buzzword for the strains of modern life, stress can actually cause real health problems. The good news is that you can do something about it.

How does stress affect the body?

“When our bodies are stressed we release stress hormones into our bodies and over time we can feel snappy, restless, have low moods, crave sugar and have difficulty falling asleep,” says Elise Sheehan of health store Natural Choice in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan.

“Stress can drain the body and affect the absorption of nutrients,” says Angela McGlanaghey at health store Simple Simon in Donegal town.

“So many systems in your body are affected by stress,” according to Lynae Morningstar, magnesium specialist at MAG365. “One of the first processes your body goes through is that your hypothalamus tells your adrenal glands to release hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Once the threat is gone, your hypothalamus should tell your systems to go back to normal, but if the stressor continues, so will the influx of hormones. This can cause anxiety, depression, sleep issues, irritability, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, heart disease, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system.”

What help is available out there?

“Our bodies are complex and amazing machines, and just like cars need the proper fuel to run,” says Lynae Morningstar. “Our bodies run optimally on a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Probiotics are very important. If your body doesn’t have enough good bacteria, the vitamins and minerals you get through food or supplementation may not be properly absorbed. Probiotics also play a large role in your body’s immune function and mental health.”

“A fish oil supplement can help lift our mood and top our omega-3 levels, especially if you don’t like eating oily fish or nuts and seeds,” says Elise Sheehan. “A vitamin B complex with vitamin C can support our adrenal glands and help our bodies cope better as we use up more of these nutrients at stressful times.”

Can magnesium help me?

“Vitamins and minerals can help the body reduce stress, particularly magnesium as it is great for nerve balance,” says Angela McGlanaghey.

“Due to modern farming practices and soil depletion, some studies have cited that as much as 95% of the population is magnesium deficient,” says Lynae Morningstar. “Some of the more common ailments associated with magnesium deficiency are depression, anxiety, sleep issues, irregular heart beat, muscle cramps, mood swings, irritability, chronic pain, infrequent bowel movements, increased PMS and menopause symptoms, water retention and high blood pressure.

“You’ll notice that a lot of magnesium symptoms overlap with chronic stress symptoms. That’s because magnesium plays a huge role in how our body deals with stress. When under mental or physical stress, magnesium is released from your body. The problem is that the lower your initial magnesium level is, the more you will react to stress. It’s a vicious cycle, but supplementing with magnesium is easy and inexpensive. A magnesium powder is the most bioavailable form of this mineral, but if you want to take a pill, magnesium bisglycinate would be your best bet.”

7 of the best foods for combatting stress

Berries – packed with antioxidants which combat damaging free-radicals released by stress in the body.

Cashew nuts – a great source of zinc which can help reduce anxiety. Other good sources of zinc are chicken and beef.

Green leafy vegetables – contain folate, which produces dopamine, a chemical that helps to keep you calm. Try eating more spinach, cabbage and broccoli.

Salmon – packed with omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties which in turn can help your body cope with stress hormones.

Seeds such as flax, pumpkin and sunflower all contain magnesium, the stress-fighting mineral.

Turkey – contains the amino acid tryptophan that makes you sleepy on Christmas Day and helps produce the feelgood hormone serotonin. Other good sources are nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, oats, lentils, eggs and beans.

Yogurt – a good probiotic yogurt gives you the benefit of live native bacteria to settle your digestive system as well as calcium and protein.

Will stress ruin my hair?

“Increased levels of the hormone cortisol can disrupt the natural rhythm of our Hair Growth Cycle leading hair follicles to enter the shedding phase of their cycle prematurely, while simultaneously prolonging the resting phase,” says trichologist Dr David Kingsley, a specialist in hair loss research. “This results in an increase in shedding and weaker regrowth, which can lead to thinning hair. While the detrimental effects of stress can show in our hair very quickly, it can take around four to six months for the effect of any treatment to be realised.

“Enjoying a healthy and active lifestyle and taking time to minimise the effects of stress can go a long way to protecting the health of the Hair Growth Cycle. Taking a supplement designed to support and regulate the natural Hair Growth Cycle, through anagen induction, can also be beneficial. These can be used as both a preventative measure as well as a treatment.

“Although many products claim to support hair growth they are often nothing more than a simple multivitamin. This is why it is always important to look for products in health stores that have a long history in the marketplace, are safe, drug-free and have clinically proven efficacy. I recommend Nourkrin® WOMAN, a proven supplement for hair growth.”

What if I can’t sleep?

“Many people have trouble sleeping and find it difficult to switch off at night during times of stress,” says Elise Sheehan. “Herbal supplements like passion flower and lemon balm gently work with the body to help us wind down.”

“Magnesium can really help with insomnia as it calms the body down before bedtime and can stop muscle spasms and restless legs,” says Angela McGlanaghey.

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