Stress and Nutrition - Who´s In Control?

The relationship between stress and nutrition is well documented with many cravings one experiences as the body seeks stress relief to actually be promoting additional stress.

When under stress the body reacts by revving up the fight or flight mechanisms. This depletes energy levels (leading to the craving of sweets for quick power) and many vitamins and minerals that are important to proper body functions. 

Modern lifestyle choices and the need to save time often create situations where people make bad nutrition choices.  This can range from skipping meals to consuming unhealthy quantities of substances like caffeine, refined sugar, unhealthy fats, and so on.

Appetite For A Treat

Another link between stress and nutrition is appetite.  People deal with stress in different ways. 

Sometimes when seeking stress relief a person might eat more comfort foods in hopes of soothing emotional distress.  Other times appetite flees, and it becomes difficult to eat anything, meaning the body becomes ever more depleted of the vitamins and minerals it needs.

Alarmingly, the links between stress and nutrition indicate that while stress causes people to make bad food choices, those same food choices cause additional stress on the body. Sadly, indulging the craving for sugar as a form of stress relief tends to only boost stress later. 

This is both in a biological sense (the blood sugar spike and fall causes stress to the body's systems) and psychological one. Future weight gain, health crisis, and additional cravings are all part of the overall problem.

The Origin Of the Problem

What is the root of the relationship between stress and nutrition?  Research indicates that stress raises the metabolism and causes the body to require more energy and more vitamins, minerals, and basic building blocks.

This means that without some form of stress relief the body begins to crave things in order to deal with what is being depleted.  Modern society's reliance on packaged foods often means that what is craved does not really have the mineral or vitamin in it that is needed to the degree that would be beneficial. 

Instead of eating nutrient rich foods like our ancestors might have done, reaching for fruit when the craving for something sweet struck, modern man often grabs candy.  There is a vast difference between the nutritional payback between the two food choices.

A Repeating Story of Habits

The cycle of stress creating more stress through the stress and nutrition relationship may be a main cause of poor health.

Not only does stress cause overeating, under-eating, and general poor choices to be made, but that stress can make biological stresses due to underlying deficiencies worse. 

Even those people who eat right most of the time react to stress by seeking stress relief through food and in doing so make poor choices. These choices can undo any careful diet planning by reducing the nutrients the body needs in the blood which may impair brain performance.

Change For The Better

There are some easy things one can do to break this cycle and restore the balance between stress and nutrition to a positive healthy alternative.

Some of these are simple, like drinking enough water every day.  Others may take more foresight, as there are addictive elements at play. 

When stress relief is desired, substitution of decaffeinated green tea for coffee is a great option.  The antioxidants in the tea and the lack of much caffeine make it the ideal way to have something healthy and warm at your desk to sip on while you work. The tea is also soothing in its own right.

Another thing that one can do is to choose more healthy fare when eating out. This can be in the form of salads, Asian food (which is often quick to get but still healthy), or selecting grilled meats over fried ones.

Making better food choices can also extend to bringing your own lunch over going to a fast food place.  But even if you must have fast food, it is better to eat then to skip a meal.

Binge Eating Tackled

Related to this is the habit of stress and nutrition pitfalls that lead to eating when there is no hunger, or just for stress relief in general.

When this happens you do not need to deny yourself the habit, just replace what you are munching on with healthier alternatives, like veggies and fruits.

Making small changes now can save you from having to make radical and stressful changes later. Instead of needing to do a crash diet you can focus on maintaining a healthy diet and body weight before you gain any.

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