Quest Vitamins LTD,
When many people think of stress they immediately assume it means the stereotpical response to an increased pressure at work which may result in anxirty, fatigue and depression and ultimately a disturbance in our eating habits.
However, although this situation, whcih is worryingly on the increase, is incorporated under the umbrella term of stress, there are many other situations which cause the body stress and lead to altered eating patterns.
Such situations include the death of a loved one, the break up of a relationship, moving house, studying for exams and even exercise. Therefore, this definition of stress incorporates any mental or physical state, which causes extra stress to be exerted on the body, and ultimately results in increased dietary demands.
The STRESS Hormone
During the evolutionary process, mother nature decided that the human body needed a mechnianism by which it could call upon an immediate energy supply, which could probably give us enough power to lift many times our own body weightand all of which could happen in a split second and even before our conscious brain realises what is going on!
This is the classic fight or flightresponse initiated by the release of the stress hormone, adrenalin which happens in milliseconds. Everyone has at least once experienced a situation where initially they have been shocked or scared by something and then soon adterwards realised that teh shocking or scary stimulus is in fact completely harmless.
This process is a highly evolved defense mechanism which enables the body to detect danger subconsciously. The subconscious detection allows a much speedier response as in a potentially life threatening situation there is simply no time to think. Heres how it works. The stimulus is detected, for example a fake spider in the bath, by a section of our lower brain called the amygdala and in a split second the adrenal glands pump out adrenalin.
This causes a rapid increase in heart rate and mobilisation of glucose stores that will provide enough energy for a quick getaway if needed. Along with this, certain blood vessels in unimportant areas of the body such as the skin and stomach, constrict and blood vessels in the muscles of the legs and arms dilate in case rapid movement is required.
The immune system also activates itself in order to be ready if an injury occurs. hen the conscious part of the brain takes control. It detects that the spider is indeed made of rubber, realises that there is no danger and the adrenalin production almost immediately stops, which reduced the heart rate back to normal. This complete reaction could happen many times in the time that it takes you to read this sentence.
Stress and Nutrition
The fight or flight reaction mentioned above is usually all over in a matter of seconds, but many types of stress can last for a long time which has a detrimental effect on our health and well-being. One of the principle effects is the way that an individuals appetite responds to stressful situations.
Some people find themselves eating more, whereas others find that they cannot eat at all. Either way, minor nutrient deficiencies can occur. People who overeat during stressful situations usually find themselves reaching for the high calorie/low nutrient foods, such as biscuits, chocolate bars and cakes instead of healthier options such as fruit. Not only will this result in an increase in weight but will also cause such complications even though many people find that their appetite is mostly strong but physically cannot eat once food is placed in front of them.
This coupled with the fact that many nutrients, such as vitamin B and C are used up radiply during stress thus resulting to an increased requirement. The increasingly hectic and stressful lifestyle which is part of todays society also takes its toll on health as more time is taken on work andless on good nutrition. As mentioned above, there are different situations which can led to stress including physical activity. Many top athletes experience difficult forms of stress especially during competitions, which is one of the reasons for their increased dietary demands. Not only do they endure the physical stress of the performance, but also high profile competitions can cause anxiety and nervousness.
Magnesium in the body is depleted by stress, therefore supplements may be required. However, good food sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts, wholegrains, fish, meat and dairy. Low levels of zinc are also common in people suffering stress and foods rich in zinc are shellfish, pumpkin seeds, wholegrains and dairy. Lactobacillus acidophilus provides a source of friendlylactic bacteria that maintain healthy intestinal flora, balancing the pH that becomes disturbed in times of stress.
In stressful situations where the diet has been neglected, an antioxidant formula may be prudent, especially where the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables has decreased. B vitamins are vital for the release of energy from food. Energy is a basic need of all body processes and requirements typically increase during periods of stress. B vitamins are needed for the optimal functioning of the nervous system and a combination of B complex vitamins with vitamin C often suggested for people under stress. These vitamins together with certain minerals are involved in the production of hormones (adrenalin etc) released during stress.
The antioxidant nature of vitamin C may also be particularly helpful in reducing the harmful effects of the stress hormones, and to improve the bodys ability to deal with the stress response. Those with a poor tolerance to ascorbic acid may prefer a buffered version of vitamin C. If hair, nails and skin are in poor condition affected because of stress, a standard release multinutrient may be considered. The essential fatty acids omega 6 (evening primrose and/or borage) and omega 3 (as fish oil) could be of great benefit for those with skin conditions such as acne, eczema or psoriasis.
There are a number of certain herbs on the market which have been shown to possess the ability to reduce the effects of stress and therefore may help to normalise eating habits. These herbs include Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola and Valerian. Siberian Ginseng is described as an adaptogenic herb. The use of Siberian Ginseng dates back more than 4,000 years when it was used in China. The Chinese beleive that regular use of this herb will increase longevity, improve general health, improve the appetite and restore memory.
Siberian Ginseng is reported to improve the bodys ability to deal with stress thus helping the body to metabolise harmful lactic and pyruvic acids released during the stress reaction plus more efficient production of energy. Its support of adrenal gland function also helps the body deal with stress.
Rhodiola was first scientifically studied in 1931 by a Russian botanist. It has been categorised as an adaptation by researchers due to its observed ability to increase resistance to a variety of chemical, biological and physical stressors. The adaptogenic activities of Rhodiola have been atributed to its ability to influence levels and activity monamines (include adrenaline, noradrenaline and serotonin) and opiod peptides such as beta endorphins. A large proportion of diseases occur because of stress levels are too high, and /or too long term. A unique class of herbal products called "adaptogens" have shown that the broadest spectrum of healing properties of any herbal medicine. Not only does it affect our eating habits, it also affects our sleep as well which can cause further problems to our health and well-being.
Valerian is a perennial plant that is native to North America and Europe and can produce a flowering stem which can reach upto four feet high. Its flowers are rose coloured and are in bloom from June to September. It has a rootstock, which is yellow-brown in colour, and it is this part of the plant which is most commonly used medicinally. This plant has been used traditionally as a sedative and for the relief of stress, anxiety and pain. The use of Valerian for the treatment of stress induced insomnia was investigated in this recent study. Nineteen patients with sleep difficulties received Valerian supplements for six weeks and insomna was measured in three areeas including time to fall asleep, hours slept and waking moods.
The results showed that valerian was useful for the treatment of insmnia without side effects. In conclusion stress can occur in many different guises, which can all have a detrimental affect on health if the stress is prolonged. Therefore it is vitally important that supplements are considered during these times to prevent deficiencies occuring.