The damage of stress cannot be measured with any medical certainty, so with that, it continues to challenge medical research. The truth is, chronic stress is highly damaging to overall health and it is badly misunderstood by most. Why? Because we think it’s normal. There is nothing normal or potentially more damaging to health, than chronic stress.
We don’t stop long enough to even realize how stress is affecting us. We are a society out of time, running late and needing it yesterday! It seems we may even want more time as much as we want more money. Sensationalism and pressure to be and to do and to have more has created a hyper-society, exhausted – yet running for more.
So, what do we do with all this stress? We feed it, entertain it, suppress it and plain ignore it. When that seems to fail, we medicate it. Stress often requires a “cocktail” of prescriptions in order to relieve the pain, reduce the inflammation, increase the energy and improve the sleep – all while aiming to improve the psychological functioning.
While some stress is normal and our bodies are equipped to deal with it with an ample supply of “stress hormones”, we are not equipped to have these hormones turned “on” all the time. If they are, specifically cortisol and adrenaline, then you’re headed for trouble. Stress hormones have a direct effect on other hormones and can suppress your immune system. If you’re immune system is down, then so is the guard at the gate of your health.
The crunch of salty snacks or the smooth comfort of ice cream is “medicine” in itself for the stressed out, but unfortunately, these foods will only make the stress and your body’s ability to adapt to stress worse! Stress hormones directly affect hunger hormones, signaling us to satisfy and pacify – sending us straight to the cookie aisle. However, what the body is really craving – is good, healthy food, filled with natural ingredients that combat stress and build immunity.
Antioxidants - found in fresh, colored fruits and vegetables help mop up free-radical damage and boost immunity.
Adequate protein - found in lean portions of meat, fish, beans, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy products supply long-term energy for muscles, and assist the body to build and repair. Sufficient protein also helps us feel fuller, longer.
Complex carbohydrates – the primary source of energy for the body - found in whole grains, vegetables, beans and lentils provide fiber, energy and slow down the release of blood sugar and insulin in the body.
And good fats – such as those found in avocados, nuts and seeds and oils such as olive oil and fish oil provide fuel for the brain and immune system.
Incorporating these foods, as well as an age-specific multi-vitamin/mineral supplement that is formulated for stressful or active lives can mean all the difference to our health during stressful times. And while half a pint of chocolate marshmallow swirl can be comforting, it certainly won’t give you any advantage for dealing with stress.
We may not be able to remove all the things that stress us, but we certainly can give our bodies the fuel for the fight.