Due to the unfamiliar situation we have all been living over the past 1.5 year, many of us - if not all - may have noticed some increase in anxiety and stress levels. But I wonder if we can all recognize the symptoms and if there is a way -through diet- that could possibly help reduce stress and improve how we cope with it. Possibly, these questions have already crossed your mind. If so, then this blog post can help you answer some of them!
Shall we see how to recognize some of the symptoms?
According to experts, the most common symptoms are:
- Sudden increase in heart rate and increase in body temperature, e.g. hot flashes.
- Shaking and nervousness.
- Chest tightness or stomach tightness or the feeling of a “heavy chest”. Some people may experience chest or stomach pain e.g. butterflies in the stomach.
- Shortness of breath.
- Intrusive thoughts, i.e. recurring, unwanted bad thoughts you can't control.
- Difficulty concentrating and generally reduced levels of concentration.
- Insomnia or waking up during the night and not being able to fall asleep again. This, of course, results in increased levels of fatigue.
- Difficulty in consuming food or binge eating, i.e. overeating. This can result in a sharp weight loss or gain, respectively.
- Low energy and mood levels.
- Panic attacks: The well-known, or perhaps unknown to some, panic attacks are also the result of increased stress.
The important thing when we have any of the above symptoms is to talk to a specialist and try -as much as possible- to improve some situations in our lives, so that we have a more beautiful daily life and a better quality of life. We should also know that stress is a normal emotion that we may feel under certain circumstances…. the point is to find ways to deal with it properly or as well as we can!
So, let's find out how diet – as well as a balanced lifestyle in general – can play an important part in reducing stress and in improving our health!
1. Learn to consume frequent meals. It is no coincidence that most experts suggest the pattern of 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. One of the main reasons for that is to keep blood sugar levels stable and, in this way, to learn to better control the feelings of hunger and satiety. The only sure thing is that by eating the necessary meals during your day, you will build a healthy relationship with food, which will help to better balance the hormones of your body.
2. Avoid processed or fast food and too many sweets, especially when you feel stressed. This may sound strange, but it is the same as above. In most cases, ready-made meals contain a lot of saturated fats, salt, and sugars, and this results in a sudden spike in blood sugar levels and hormone imbalance. That's why you should prefer these foods when you are out with friends and try to have them as limited as possible in your daily lives.
3. Avoid caffeine: Although caffeine consumption seems to have some positive effects on health, in cases of anxiety and stress it is best to avoid it. This is because it can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Especially if you notice difficulties in sleeping, then you should definitely prefer decaffeinated drinks. You should know that alcohol consumption can have the same effects on the body.
4. Learn to consume lots of vegetables and fruits. Especially foods that contain many antioxidants, vitamins A, B, E, C, and minerals such as manganese, zinc, magnesium are ideal. Firstly because of the fiber they contain, they help in better digestion and bowel function, and these specific vitamins and minerals, in turn, seem to help neutralize harmful molecules produced when the body is in a state of stress.
5. Learn to consume foods with Omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish, walnuts and nuts in general, flaxseed and all seeds are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats seem to help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, as well as depression, as it also seems that they can help reduce stress-related hormones.
I think it is worthwhile to find ways to add the above to our diet and remove what we do not need, if we want to see an improvement in anxiety and stress levels. Certainly, physical activity - and especially yoga and meditation - also seem to have positive effects on stress relief. So, follow a balanced diet routine to see a reduction in stress levels and, generally, to have a better relationship with food and with yourselves!
This article was written in collaboration with the scientific advisor-sports nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr, INDI.
The website akispetretzikis.com offers as a service a variety of articles, based on scientific sources. All the articles are provided as general information and no text should be used as a substitute for advice from a physician or another health scientist, regardless of the date it has been published.