Nutrition and Stress: part two

Tuesday 08 May 2018

As promised I want to continue the theme that I started last week looking at stress and ways in which we can support ourselves. Stress does seem to be a modern day epidemic, everyone talks about being stressed which is naturally compounded by a prognosis of cancer. It may be worth reading last week’s blog as we looked at the different forms that stress comes in, therapies that may help us to cope with our stress and I started to look at some of the main nutrients that have been shown to help support the body during times of stress.

Last week I focussed on magnesium and this week we will look at the role of vitamin C, B vitamins, Maca powder and finely Theanine.

B vitamins:the anti stress vitamins
I talk of B vitamins because there are 12 of them,all with different names, but they do work together as a family.

They are known collectively as the anti stress vitamins because of their concentration in the adrenal glands which are the glands that release hormones to help us cope with stress.

Last week we talked a lot about the hormone cortisol and its important role in the stress response. Low levels of B vitamins result in low levels of cortisol production and release, low energy and therefore a poor response to stress. So you can see their importance.

Sources of B vitamins You find B vitamins in whole foods like whole wheat bread, porridge, quinoa, fortified cereals and brown rice. Also good levels are found in meat, eggs, yeast extracts like marmite, nuts, cod and green leafy vegetables.

It is interesting that green leafy vegetables seem to be the one group of foods that keeps appearing as being important for so many reasons, high in vitamin C for the immune system, rich in calcium and magnesium for strong bones, rich in indole 3 carbinol to support good oestrogen levels, rich in iron to help combat anaemia and fibre to help prevent constipation and I am sure if I did some more digging would find other benefits. So it seems a good idea to eat your greens as granny used to say.

Vitamin C supports the immune system and is reduced by stress
Vitamin C like the B vitamins are what are known as water soluble. That means that we do not store them in our body and so we need a regular daily intake. (This is unlike vitamins A, D and E which are fat soluble and stored in the body).

Vitamin C is involved in hundreds of metabolic reactions including supporting the immune system and as I explained last week when we are stressed our bodies excrete vitamin C. This is one way that stress can deplete the immune system.

Many studies have been published showing that good levels of vitamin C were able to bring cortisol levels back to a normal range in a significantly short period of time compared with a placebo. Other studies have also shown that even marginally low levels of vitamin C will result in elevated levels of cortisol and as we know consistently high levels of cortisol will suppress immune function.

Sources of vitamin C: Wherever possible our intake of vitamin C should come from fresh fruits and vegetables. Particularly citrus fruits, tomatoes, red peppers, kiwi fruits, watercress, parsley and dark green leafy vegetables. There are surprisingly useful sources in new potatoes!! At this time of the year there are wonderful berry fruits coming into season to help boost levels, they are delicious added to cereal in the morning, as a snack or healthy pudding.

This is the compound found in green tea and has been shown to be very anti stress with a cortisol controlling effect. Theanine acts as a non sedating relaxant to help increase the brain's production of alpha waves.

Alpha waves are associated with relaxed alertness and a good balance of brain wave patterns which in turn help control anxiety, increase focus, promote creativity and improve overall mental and physically performance which makes theanine extremely effective for combating tension, stress and anxiety. I am sure that many of us would like a bucket load from time to time.

Clinical trials have shown that 50 – 200mg a day  of theanine to be beneficial. 3-4 cups of green tea a day will contain 100-200mg of theanine.

As a side theanine has been shown to improve learning performance and promoting concentration- quite useful I thought for those who have poor memories or suffer from forgetfulness. I know that this can be a side effect of treatment including those ladies taking tamoxifen or similar drugs to lower oestrogen.

A note about caffeine
It may also be worth considering the level of stimulants that we have in our diet in the form of caffeine.

Any stimulant will kick the adrenal glands into action and as a consequence elevated levels of cortisol. Some people cannot get going in the morning without a cup of coffee or two. This would ring alarm bells to me as it could be a sign that the adrenal glands are getting tired and need a kick start to help them work properly in their ability to produce normal levels of cortisol.

Normal levels  of cortisol are essential to help balance mood and well being, proper immune function, good blood pressure, controlled inflammation and the maintenance of connective tissue such as bones, muscles and skin. Remember it is only elevated cortisol through stress that has negative impacts on our bodies and this comes from prolonged or regular bouts of stress.

What about supplements?
I have purposely not talked about supplements for stress as it is always better to try and address the stress with therapies that help us to relax and through the diet. I know that there is a growing trend for supplementation as a support particularly when stress is sustained and difficult to manage do seek advice and also let your  Dr/nurse know of any you are taking.

Maca powder I have written a previous  blog on Maca powder. which you may like to read. Basically it helps with the function of the adrenal glands by helping them to adapt to stress.

Maca strawberry milkshake
A simple recipe called which makes an ideal breakfast or mid afternoon snack.I am sure that you could use any berry fruits to make this.

60g/2 oz almonds.
400ml of coconut water or water.
2 tsp maca powder
1 tbsp cocao powder
½ tsp cinnamon.
250g/ 9oz strawberries.
Put all the ingredients in to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.

Another recipe that you might like to try is not only packed with vitamin C but also other antioxidants including good levels of beta carotene which is a precursor of vitamin A. The seaweed flakes if you use them are rich in iodine for good metabolism. To add the B vitamins to this it could be served with brown rice or quinoa.

Stress busting vegetable bake
450g /1lb butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes.
1 sweet potato peeled and cut into chunks.
2 red onion peeled and cut into wedges
2 red peppers and 2 yellow peppers deseeded and cut into large chunks
2 courgettes cut into thick rings.
2 cans of cannellini beans drained and rinsed.
1 nori sheet crumbles or sea vegetable flakes.
2 tbsp of fresh mint and pine nuts to serve.

For the marinade
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 garlic cloves crushed
½ tsp cumin
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
2 tsp honey

1.Heat the coconut oil in a small pan and add the remaining marinade ingredients and mix well.
2. Heat the oven 200’C or gas 6. Place the vegetables into a roasting dish and drizzle over the marinade and season.
3.Bake in the oven for 30 min, then stir in the beans and return to the oven for 10min.
4. Remove and stir in  the norii sheet crumbles or  sea vegetable flakes , mint and pine nuts and serve.

Nutrition and stress part 1 june 2013

Maca powder dec 2012

Blog originally written by Caroline June 2013

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