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Food for Thought

There are so many people these days, struggling with weight loss, fatigue, and mood swings. We can put that under lots of different headings and make excuses for it, but there is a huge connection between the type of food we eat and managing our stress levels.

Before you disagree with that, I would like to add that so many people are also very stressed, anxious, and not coping with life very well. When I am working with clients who come for information on how to manage stress, we always talk about diet and nutrition. It is so important.

“Let medicine be your food and food be your medicine”! That statement was made many thousands of years ago and how relevant it still is today! Hippocrates the father of modern medicine was very holistic in his approach to wellness. First, do not harm, and then his physicians were all trained in the art of rubbing, the medicinal value of the food we consume, the air that we breathe, and the importance of the environment we all live in.

It is not well known, that food directly affects our stress levels—in particular, refined and processed food and indeed those with the dreaded E numbers. In other words, we like to snack on all the lovely stuff when we are tired, feeling low, or worrying about something. That type of food tastes delicious because they are overloaded with calories in the form of sugar and fat to create the most desired outcome, deliciousness! But are you even aware of that, or aware of the effect eating has on your stress levels?

Food can be a medicine as well as a fuel. Low mood or tiredness, can lead us to make a coffee and have an accompanying chocolate bar. They both give us an adrenaline shot, causing all our systems to go on 'high' alert, except our digestive system, which shuts down. This gives us a chemical ‘high’. Twenty minutes later the high plummets back to a low and we make another coffee and have another chocolate bar! Does this sound familiar? Well if it does you are not the only person that repeats this habit. I did plenty of that myself before I realised the effect it had on me, my stress levels, and most definitely my mood. When I was training I documented what I was eating, and noticed the change in mood when I went over to cleaner eating habits.

It is often thought, if we eat, it will give us more energy, but not so. The opposite is the truth, exercise is much more beneficial when we have low energy believe it or not, rather than overloading the digestive system, which has shut down anyway if we are in stress mode.

Hormonal activity operates on a feedback system, so if an adrenaline rush gives us a high, then the body will look for more of that. The relationship between stress levels and diet and nutrition is very underrated. A healthy ‘high’ can be achieved from a brisk walk, a run, a swim, dancing, or any activity that we enjoy.

We all produce adrenaline, for a purpose, but adrenaline left circulating in the body undischarged causes a myriad of illnesses. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are probably the most common.

As we are looking towards summer with brighter days and more available home-grown food, now is the time to change those habits. Raw food where possible builds up the immune system. Sure don’t we all eat salads during summer and lovely berries and fresh fruit? Food grown on the top of the soil, soak in the sun's chlorophyll, then when we eat it, we take in that energy too. All those foods have amazing value in terms of antioxidants, which help to reduce the damage done by free radicals and oxidation, and of course, minerals which build health, and vitamins which maintain it,  and taste delicious too.

Do you think that you could have a look at food being your medicine and medicine being your food, the next time you have a low mood and look for an adrenaline hit? It is a very simple concept when we get to understand the effect that behaviour has on our health.

The fast food industry has had a field day in recent times. Producing food using trans fats, and not-so-good quality ingredients. 

When my son with Down syndrome, comes home with a note to say they are having an outing, and the ‘usual suspect’ fast food chain is listed as a lunch venue, I get very cross. A little imagination would go a long way, for a decent lunch with good food value. But I do get it, the smell and the advertisements that go along with it, have everyone thinking this is the best thing for you.

So there you are a lot to ‘digest’ pardon the pun! A little planning, to reduce your stress levels, build up your immune system, and offer your body wholefood medicine, for the best possible result. Wouldn’t you like to be less stressed?

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