MENTAL WELLNESS: MIND FOOD
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
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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 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.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
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
- L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine may help reduce
stress-induced high blood pressure
- L-tryptophan can be used for relaxation and sleep.
Minerals are needed for immune and enzyme support:
- Superoxide dismutase
- Zinc - seafood such as oysters, whole wheat, nuts,
seeds, eggs and lean meats.
- 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 spread out throughout the day in four or five
mini-meals. Vegetarian Soy products
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 is a well known nerve food.
Sources: dark-green leafy vegetables, tomatoes,
grapefruit, figs, sweet corn, raisins, carrots, seeds
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 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
- 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
- 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
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