Stress & Nutrition

Stress is becoming more and more common in the western world, and it is usually a result of external factors such as financial difficulties, relationships or work. As it...
Stressed

Stress is becoming more and more common in the western world, and it is usually a result of external factors such as financial difficulties, relationships or work. As it is not commonly associated with nutrition, the effect of stress on our bodies nutritional profile is often not considered when people take steps to cope with stress. Although nutritional deficiencies are not a common cause for the symptoms of stress there is a strong relationship with nutrients and stress. This article will investigate the nutrients which are primarily affected by stress, and the effect stress has on the levels of these nutrients.

 

Magnesium, Calcium & Stress

Calcium and magnesium have a very close relationship in the body, and one cannot work properly without the other. When we experience stress the body releases calcium into the blood, which stimulates nerves, making you more alert. This regular release of calcium can quickly deplete stores in the body resulting in a deficiency. Among other symptoms, calcium deficiency emphasizes symptoms of stress, and often associated with anxiety in cases of sever deficiency.

Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and plays a vital role in in a number of biological functions, including the conversion of sugar into ATP (usable energy), and counteracting the effects of calcium on nerves. When a person experiences stress their body releases magnesium into the blood stream; This soothes the nerves (which were excited by calcium) and stimulates the production of ATP to provide you with energy; the overall effect is increased energy and a calming effect. This however, does cause magnesium stores to deplete, and if you are regularly stressed you can become deficient in magnesium, which can emphasize the symptoms of stress, resulting in further depletion of magnesium and an inability to ‘soothe’ your nerves.

If you are experiencing regular stress it is important to ensure you are getting enough magnesium and calcium to reduce the negative symptoms and ensure your body can cope with stress. Many people who are regularly stressed have magnesium baths, as magnesium can be absorbed through the skin which can help replenish cells faster. The majority of calcium and magnesium in the body is stored in bones, and contribute to their strength and density. Regular stress will cause the body to leach these minerals out of the bones. This will reduce bone density, which increases the risk of breaking bones and other diseases.

 

B Vitamins, Zinc & Stress

B vitamins play a vital and complex biological role in the body. Together, they play a role in the natural production of all hormones in our body, including hormones such as serotonin which help regulate our mood. A deficiency of B vitamins can cause an imbalance in the normal hormone production, and is often characterized by stress and an imbalance in mood. This stress will then put more demand on the B vitamins in the body to produce stress relieving hormones, which will emphasize the deficiency (and symptoms) further.

As with the B vitamins, zinc is essential for the function of a number of enzymes which synthesize hormones. Stress depletes zinc in the same way it does B vitamins.

 

Caffeine & Stress

When taken in moderation, caffeine can stimulate the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine to a small degree. Dopamine is responsible for feeling happy, relaxed and satisfied, and so caffeine can help improve your mood if you are feeling stressed. However, large amounts of caffeine is associated with causing anxiety and difficulty sleeping which is are symptoms of stress, and so large amounts of caffeine can actually emphasize stress. The amount of caffeine required for these effects will vary from person to person based on their tolerance.

 

Summary

Although stress is commonly caused by external factors, these factors deplete a number of essential nutrients which help us cope with stress. As these nutrients are lost they are unable to help protect us from the symptoms of stress which emphasizes stress and makes symptoms such as depression and anxiety more sever. Therefore, if you are experiencing stress, as well as addressing the source of the stress, it is important to ensure that you are getting enough of the nutrients discussed in this article. This will not only ensure you are healthy, but will also help you to cope with the symptoms of stress.

A deficiency of one or more of the nutrients which have been discussed in this article can also cause symptoms of stress to manifest if the deficiency is not addressed. It is relativity common for people to experience anxiety or depression as a result of nutritional deficiency as opposed to external factors.

I hope you enjoy the site, and like what we have worked hard to create, any feedback is very much welcome, after all this site is for you! Graduate of Nutrition & Food Science (Bsc) at Reading Uni.
  • ade

    It’s funny, when I’ve been stressed and i’ve looked at my diet, it’s always been poor. When i’m happy and relaxed my diet is always pretty good. It’s definitely true that nutrition plays a large part in stress!

  • Craig

    Interesting observation ade!

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The Health Cloud was created in December 2011 by Craig and Morg who have been friends since high school. Our focus is to educate our readers with unbiased health articles and on the side we run our own online health shop. This website is for you, so drop us a comment or send us a tweet, we always take the time to reply!