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MENTAL WELLNESS: MIND FOOD

 

Introduction

Everything your ingest or inhale – food, pills, drink or cigarette smoke – can either add stress to your body or reduce stress.

The aim of your anti stress nutrition diet is to raise serotonin levels - the feel-good brain chemicals that elevate your mood; and to reduce those known to heighten anxiety responses.

Stress increases cellular activity which leads to increased nutrient usage; which further aggravates the damaging effects of stress. Stress also upsets the digestive tract in many people, meaning less food is consumed, further depeleting nutrient levels.

 

High Performance Diets

There is much debate as to which is the best type of eating plan for high performance. Examples include:

  • Avoiding meals can lead to acid irritation of the digestive organs and ulcers. Then the cycle of antacids starts and further poor digestion and assimilation is the final outcome.
  • The best type of diet for fast-life people that need to maintain high levels of intellectual performance is three to five small but wholesome meals a day.
  • In his book The Warriors Diet [Dragon Door, 2001]; Ori Hofmekler, founder and Editor-In-Chief of the men’s health and fitness magazine Mind & Muscle Power, is convinced we would be better off eating just one meal a day. His goal is to achieve the "functional body" of an ancient warrior; with balance, speed, explosiveness, strength and endurance.

Since we all vary in out daily activity or intellectual performance needs, and all vary in metabolism, my advice is to work out what suits you best, stick with it for at least six months, and then if you don't feel it's working for you, try another method.

Personally, when I was working high intensity corporate consulting programs I found I was much better not having breakfast until at least 10.30am. I started my day with a workout at 6am, was in the office by 8am. With a mid-morning protein shake and some fruit, a light lunch around 2pm, I could work a straight 10-12 hours, without break, without any drop off in performance. Food in the morning made me sluggish all day. Others would suffer afternoon fade with this regime.

Water - Lots of water is important to keep us well hydrated and to help counteract stress by circulating nutrients. Avoiding stress around meals is very important.

Relaxed eating - Try to rest and relax before and after eating, even if just for a minute or two. Best to take 10–15 minutes. Listening to relaxing music also helps.

Detoxification-type diet -may be useful at times of intense stress. Lots of juices, soups, and salads, can nourish us well without creating great demands on our body and digestion. Our energy level and productivity may rise with lighter eating as well.

 

Anti-Stress Nutrition

Because of increased metabolism and use of energy, our stressed body utilizes more carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, especially the fatty acids.

Nutrients that are commonly depleted by stress include the antioxidant vitamins A, E, and C, the B vitamins, and the minerals zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur, and molybdenum.

Minerals

More minerals tend to help in relaxation. Take mineral suppplements in the evening to assist relaxation and sleeping. Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are the key ones here. Potassium is essential for most crucial physiologic activities. Calcium is vital to nerve transmission and regular heartbeat as well as immune function. It aids both relaxation and muscle tone. Magnesium is a tranquilizing mineral that helps balance the nervous system and supports heart function. An Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath (with 1 cup) can be very relaxing. In general, a dosage of 600–1,000 mg. of calcium and 400–800 mg. of magnesium daily, in addition to diet, is recommended, with most of it being taken in the evening before bed.


Foods to Avoid During Stress


Certain foods aggravate stress and are best avoided. These include:

  • Saturated fats - the best fats for an anti stress diet include sunflower or safflower oils, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed walnut, unsalted nuts and sesame seeds.
  • Refined sugar - try eating fruit such as red grapes, raw honey. Bee pollen supplements.
  • Caffeine – reduce coffee and colas to maximum 2 cups per day.
  • Alcohol - Restrict to one serving of alcohol per day. Drink a lot of water with alcohol. Drinking alcohol when under stress makes you drowsy and fuzzes up your thinking. Even one drink may dehydrate you; and as soon as the alcohol enters your body, your brain automatically starts working on ways to get rid of it instead of trying to fight off stress. It's best to avoid alcohol until you've dealt with whatever's stressing you out.
  • Cigarettes – although not a food, the mouth is still involved! Many smokers going through stressful situations increase their smoking. Smoke depletes antioxidants and makes it even harder for the body to deal with the increase in free radicals.

 


Anti-stress Nutrients and Supplements

B Vitamins

  • Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5 - the most important anti stress nutrient of the B complex. Along with folic acid and vitamin C, it is necessary for proper function of the adrenal glands.
  • Niacin - enough to generate the niacin flush, counteracting some of the biochemical effects of stress.
    Vitamins B1, B2, B6, biotin, and PABA are also helpful.

Sources: B vitamins are found in whole grains, yeast extract, yogurt, dates and liver. Brown rice, rye, oatmeal, quinoa and buckwheat.

Dosage: Take in two or three portions consisting of with 25–50 mg of each B vitamin, before dark, since they can be stimulating. For evening work, a good B complex supplement can be taken after dinner. Most B Vitamins will be used and eliminated by the body within a few hours. Time-release B vitamins are useful.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant, offers cellular protection, immune support, and adrenal support to produce more cortisone and epinephrine. Vitamin C helps protect against fat peroxidation, including restoring vitamin E after it is oxidized. Vitamin C is very rapidly utilized and not well stored in the body, so it should be taken four to six times daily. It helps mineral absorption so is good taken with magnesium.

Sources: Fruits and vegetables - [ 5-10 servings] - those high in vitamin C including citrus fruit, cabbage and broccoli, strawberries, blackberries and kiwi.

Dosage: 1–2 grams per day [ up to 8–10 grams for severe stress]. Ensure 1 or 2 doses contain the bioflavonoid C complex, including rutin and hesperidin.


B vitamins and vitamin C are the main constituents of many anti-stress formulas.

Antioxidants

  • Vitamin A
  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium

Supplemental Amino Acids

Supplemental Amino Acids may allow better protein utilization and energy balance, especially when digestion is poor:

  • L-cysteine - L-cysteine to balance out the extra free radicals produced by stress. L-cysteine, promotes liver function and detoxification.
  • L-glutamine is helpful for proper brain function, especially with stress.
  • Methionine may also be protective against stress through its support of fatty acid metabolism and other functions.
  • L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine may help reduce stress-induced high blood pressure
  • L-tryptophan can be used for relaxation and sleep.

Minerals

Minerals are needed for immune and enzyme support:

  • Superoxide dismutase
  • Zinc - seafood such as oysters, whole wheat, nuts, seeds, eggs and lean meats.
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Chromium - may be useful in allaying sugar cravings
  • Potassium - prevent heart irregularities and muscle cramps and to balance the hypertensive effects of sodium when salt is used in excess.

Dosage: Take in several portions for optimum absorption and utilization. Take calcium, magnesium, iron, or zinc by themselves to reduce competitive absorption.

Protein

Protein spread out throughout the day in four or five mini-meals. Vegetarian Soy products

Alkalines

Calcium and magnesium - to balance the stomach acid. For acute or early stress with hyperacidity, these alkaline minerals taken before meals can be a helpful antacid. With chronic stress, when stomach acid is more often low, taking them before bed is better. Pancreatic function is often low as well with chronic stress, and additional pancreatic enzymes after meals may be helpful.

Magensium

Magensium is a well known nerve food.

Sources: dark-green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, grapefruit, figs, sweet corn, raisins, carrots, seeds and nuts.

Blue-Green Algae Pproducts

Blue-green algae products have mild detoxifying and energizing effects. They also seem to reduce some mental stress. Chlorella or spirulina also provide protein and all the essential amino acids.

Herbal Supplements

Herbal Supplements have been used for centuries by eastern asian cultures; who are well versed in the practice of holistic health; treating the mind and body before illness appears.

  • Siberian ginseng - supports adrenal gland functions during stress. As a tea or in capsules ginseng strengthens deeper energies. White Siberian ginsengs tend to be safer for the blood pressure [too much red ginseng can elevate it].
  • Chamomile - used for relaxation, enjoyed as a tea.
  • Licorice root - active extract DGL, has a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Valerian root - tranquilizing effect and a muscle relaxant, either as a tea or in a capsule. Catnip leaf – reduces anxiety
  • Gotu kola leaf - good herb for mental stress.

NOTE: Most vitamin and mineral supplements are best assimilated after a meal.

Adrenal Support Capsules

Many people respond well to this treatment if they feel comfortable taking beef adrenals.

 

Sleep Promoting Nutrients and Supplements


If you are having problems sleeping; try the following nutrient mix.

  • Vitamin C,* 500–1000 mg.
  • Calcium, 500–750 mg.
  • Magnesium, 350–500 mg.
  • Potassium, 300–500 mg.
  • L-Tryptophan, 500–2,000 mg. [if available]
  • Relaxing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, vervain, catnip, hops, or linden flowers

*A mineralized ascorbic acid powder with calcium, magnesium, and potassium can be used in a drink.

Dosage: Begin with just the C, calcium, and magnesium. If that doesn’t work, add 500 mg. of L-tryptophan, increasing the dosage if necessary by 500 mg. every three days, up to 2,000 mg. Also try drinking a warm cup of relaxant tea or whole milk before bed .

Commercial Products: Professional Botanicals: RLX ("relax"), which contains skullcap, passion flower, celery seed, musk root, lupulin, and hops, and RST ("rest") or Sleepeaze, which contains passion flower, valerian root, black cohosh root, German chamomile flowers, lupulin, and lemon balm.


For a Summary of Anti-Stress Nutrients

 

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