Food for Mood

in Food for Mood

Chronic Stress? The answer may be your diet!

Stress can manifest itself in many different ways, including fatigue, irritability, physical tension, lack of focus, restlessness, and sleep disturbance. While stress is an external force that in most cases is out of our control, we do have the ability to minimize the effects of stress on our bodies.

The Relationship Between Food and Stress

When stressed, some of us reach for comfort foods, while others reduce our food intake altogether. Over- or under-eating when stressed may not seem like a big deal, but when adopted long-term, these habits can pose health risks and lead to dramatic changes in mood.

Reaching for unprocessed foods instead of guilty pleasures in times of stress will help set you free from the cycle of cravings and stress. A series of population-based studies analyzed by the psychology departments at the University of Canterbury and the University of Calgary found that dietary patterns emphasizing whole foods were associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, and stress, whereas a typical Western diet was associated with a higher risk of poor mental health.

Mind-Gut Connection

To better understand the connection between food and stress, we need to understand the mind-gut axis. The gut is considered the second brain. It is located throughout the lining of the digestive tract, and about 80% of our neurotransmitters are produced here. These neurotransmitters help us control many bodily functions, from breathing to muscle movements, and including our stress response. 

Gut health has a huge influence on our overall health and wellbeing. When our gut bacteria are out of whack, our brain receives mood-altering messages, leading to negative feelings as severe as depression or anxiety. Alternatively, feelings of stress can lead to gut issues such as IBS, GI infections, and gut bacteria imbalance, so the mind-gut connection works both ways.

Food for Mood

There are many known nutrients that, when consumed, can help reduce the six main stress effects. Foods containing these nutrients can help increase or decrease stress-related hormones, block stress receptors, boost energy, and minimize muscle tension to relax the body and mind into a calmer state.

We can also harness the power of nutrition to manage stress by consuming adaptogens. These are active plant molecules that interact with chemicals in our bodies, including hormones. Adaptogens can counteract the negative effects of stress on the body to help bring the body back to a state of homeostasis by balancing physical and mental stressors.

The Future of Stress Management

Seeing as there is no end in sight to the stress epidemic we are all experiencing and the high demands of our home and work lives, it is up to us to make the changes we need in order to reduce our stress and improve our well being. Sticking to the basics and eating fresh foods will foster a healthy gut microbiome and add active, stress-reducing adaptogens into our diet.

Everyone experiences stress differently, but new technology allows us to offer personalized nutrition solutions. By combining the use of wearable technology that tracks sleep, activity, and stress levels with questionnaires assessing a person’s mental health, we are able to achieve a well-rounded idea of an individual’s stress profile. This unique profile allows us to personalize nutritional needs for better stress management.