Words by Jayta Szpitalak, Fermentanicals Founder
With our current high paced lifestyle and ubiquitous use of on-demand technology, stress and anxiety are on the rise. Around 1 in every 3 Aussie women and 1 in every 5 Aussie men will experience some form of anxiety in their lifetime.
When it comes to managing stress, we can often turn to food to cope, but what we often fail to realise is the very same foods can be contributing to a higher level of stress and may exasurbate those anxious vibes.
The relationship between food and stress
When the body and mind are in an anxious state, the craving for simple sugars to use as ‘pick me up’ is increased as these foods initially make us feel better. When the mood drops back down because these simple sugars have metabolised, the cravings then increase, creating a dependent cycle that often end in weight gain. Our highs and lows with mood that are caused by stress horomones are agitated and heightened with the consumption of junk foods and refined grains that are high in sugar and/or low in soluble fibre. This raised hormone stressed out state also contributes to increased inflammation and an increased insulin response which potentially adds to fat storage. Additionally, when eating in a stressed state, our bodies respond to the perceived stress stimuli which slows digestion down and brings less oxygen and blood flow to the Gut and digestive system, so food stays in the body longer leading to GI issues and weight gain. Basically, eating junk or processed foods may be feel good in the short term, but are no good long term for the body or the soul.
Recommended foods to lower stress
The good news is when we are in an anxious state, we can focus on fuelling our bodies with the kind of nourishment that doesn’t only curb hunger, but simultaneously reduces the stress response in the body. Utilise the following foods to help bliss out:
-Vitamin B deficiency is linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression. This is because folate (water soluble B vitamins) plays an important role in the syntheses of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Include foods into your diet that are high in folate such as spinach, other green leafy vegetables, asparagus, or even liver are all great options.
-Omega 3 Fatty acids are known to decrease anxiety as they also assist with reducing inflammation. Foods such as fatty fish (wild salmon), chia seeds, and flax seeds (try and find the sprouted versions of chia or flax as they amp up the nutrients and antioxidants in the seeds) delivery high amounts of this amazing nutrient.
-Inflammation fighting foods also assist in reducing anxiety because they curb your levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Turmeric, a powerful anti-inflammatory has been shown to work better that pharmaceutical medicine to aid in the recovery of both depression and anxiety. If you try the Fermented version of Turmeric, which is the most absorbable, you will also benefit from the additional probiotics for a healthy gut (try the fermented powder version for a more potent serve). Other great anti-inflammatories are ginger, beets, and blueberries.
-Gut healing foods. Our gut is often referred to as our second brain, and this is because 90% of the neurotransmitters created in our gut affect our mood. Aside from gut healing foods such as bone broth, try and eat foods that are diverse in healthy bacteria such as a live sauerkraut (not a sterilized one) or other fermented foods. These diverse bacteria have an effect on the GABA levels in regions of the brain, thus lowering anxiety. You can take probiotics, or incorporate a kefir into your daily routine. All these foods will positively affect the flora in your gut.
Foods to Limit
Unfortunately, sugar is at the top of the avoid list. It’s recommended to follow the World Health protocol and stick to no more than 6 teaspoons a day, however if you are suffering from anxiety, it’s probably best to reduce it further. It’s not worth the repercussions on how it effects your dopamine levels. Caffeine also has known to increase the anxious feelings in people, so you can try replacing the morning cup with an herbal tea. Sticking to a clean diet for a few weeks will help you eliminate the triggers and as you slowly add it back into your diet you can get a clearer understanding of what foods effect you in different ways.
About Jayta, Founder of Fermentanicals
Aimed at combining her two professions of Psychology and Nutritional Health, Jayta created Fermentanicals with a mission to empower and support an individual’s path to achieve physical and mental wellness. Upon keeping up with the research that links Curcumin and Turmeric to aid in depression recovery (research that big pharma companies don’t want everyone to know), Jayta began recommending turmeric to supplement the diets of her patients. Knowing that turmeric is not easily absorbed by the gut, she discovered that fermenting the herb is the best way to increase turmeric’s bioavailability (or absorption level). Since then, she’s made it her mission to improve the digestability and absorption of superfoods by creating an innovative line of functional foods. Most recently she’s launched a complete line of sprouted grains which are more nutritious and more absorbable than non-sprouted grains.