Nutrition Strategies for Stress & Pain Management

Research shows that certain foods may help our bodies fight the damaging effects of chronic stress and pain. In an article by Natalie Digate Muth in IDEA Fitness Journal for ACE Certified Professionals, we are fighting stress with food.

It is said that a little bit of stress in our lives is beneficial. However, feeling too much stress too often or for too long is harmful. Stress tells the body to release the “fight-or-flight” response that prompts the release of stress hormones to prepare for physical feat. Since this only worked for our hunter-gather ancestors who actually had to fight or flee, it does not work well for the modern-day emotional or psychological stress. Having high stress levels takes a tool in the form of high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, addiction, obesity, chronic pain, and other conditions.

There are many ways to cope with the stresses of the world, but the leading one is eating. This may leave people feeling lazy and sluggish, depressed about their bodies, and disappointed in themselves.

Stress-Fighting Foods:

– Turkey, shrimp, dairy, soy, and pumpkin seeds contain high amounts of the amino acid tryptophan which helps boost the “happy hormones” called serotonin. Which many in turn cause less depression and anxiety.

– Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus are loaded with folic acid, a vitamin associated with serotonin production.

– Dairy products, sunshine, and other sources of vitamin D may boost serotonin levels through an increase in the enzyme that converts tryptophan to serotonin.

– Oatmeal and other complex carbohydrates can stimulate the brain to produce serotonin. Carbs that are absorbed more slowly help to ensure a steadier supply of serotonin.

– Oranges, grapefruit, red peppers, green peppers, and many other fruits and veggies are rich in vitamin C, which can aid in lowering blood levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and ease the feeling of being stressed.

– Crunchy veggies like carrots and celery sticks don’t possess any special nutritional content for fighting stress BUT the crunchy sensation that comes from eating them provides mechanical stress relief.

Foods That May Help Fight Pain:

– Red grapes, peanuts, and cranberries all contain resveratrol, biologic that may fight pain.

– Ginger has been found effective as an anti-inflammatory medication for pain management in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

– Hot peppers contain capsaicin, known to blunt out pain response.

– Green tea and pomegranates are loaded with potent antioxidants associated with decreased inflammation and pain relief.

– Turmeric is a widely used spice, common in curry, that has been associated with anti-inflammatory effects owing to its active ingredient curcumin, which reduces the activity of inflammatory enzymes in the body.


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