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How nutrition can help you beat stress

The festive season is upon us once again and with it comes the busyness of social events, present buying, shopping lists and so on.  Although it’s the season to be jolly, it can also be a time of added stress and pressure but eating the right foods can be key to a calm, peaceful Christmas.

When you feel stressed, the adrenal glands produce the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol which both help the body respond to stress.  It’s a totally natural response and when the stress is over, the body returns to normal.  But when stress is ongoing, the adrenals have to work extra hard to keep producing these hormones and can easily become exhausted.

How do I know if my adrenals need support?

Common signs can be:

  • Difficulty getting up in the morning.
  • High levels of fatigue each day
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Cravings for salty foods
  • Higher energy levels in the evenings.
  • Overuse of stimulants like caffeine.
  • A weak immune system

Remember, the adrenal glands are there to help you with stress, but just like a car, they need fuel to keep going.  Here’s the top 3 nutrients to support your adrenal glands:

Magnesium

Magnesium is needed for energy within every single cell in our body.  And even more so for glands such as the adrenals which are metabolically active.  As well as being a muscle relaxant, magnesium helps prevent excessive cortisol production.  Great food sources of magnesium are in green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach.  If you can’t always fit them into your meals, you can always add them into smoothies.  Just keep them in the freezer then pop them straight in from frozen.  Nuts and seeds are also a good source of magnesium, especially pumpkin seeds.  Keep a bag handy to snack on or sprinkle them over porridge or muesli at breakfast.

Vitamin C

The adrenals glands contain the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body and it needs to be replenished rapidly during stress.  Vitamin C is essential to the production of stress hormones, in particular cortisol.  Make sure you get a good intake by eating foods high in vitamin C – fruits and vegetables, especially brightly coloured vegetables such as red and yellow peppers.

Vitamin B

There are eight B vitamins and each play an important role in adrenal hormone production and energy creation as well as helping the body absorb magnesium.   Good sources of B vitamins can be found in wholegrains, sunflower seeds and almonds and dark green leafy vegetables.  The only exception to this is vitamin B12 which is primarily found meat, eggs and dairy which means if you’re vegan, you may well need to take a B12 in supplement form.

It’s not always easy to get all the nutrients we need from our diet and sometimes and if you are already experiencing some of the symptoms above, supplementation may be required.  Before embarking on any supplements though, you should always seek advice from a qualified professional.

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