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Stress Headaches, High Cortisol and Anxiety: How to Eat To Support Your Body With These.

First off, I want to say I totally feel you with these symptoms. I've been there myself and it can be so frustrating. But now that I know there's a connection between all of these and there are ways to eat to support my body and reduce the symptoms, I want to share them with all of you too.

Let's Start With Anxiety: What Does It Look Like Inside the Body?

You may remember this from high school science classes. That there is a state the body can go into called "fight or flight" when we are presented with stressful situations. The example I remember my teacher giving was that of being confronted with a bear. If you were walking through the forest and you suddenly came face to face with a bear, your body would go into this "fight or flight" state: your body is either going to give you the strength to fight the bear, or give you the energy to run from the bear(this is the flight part of "fight or flight"). Either way, your body is firing off hormones to help with your survival of this situation, your muscles are activated, your pupils are likely dilated, and your blood is really pumping.

There is also a state the body can go into called the "rest and digest" state. This is the exact opposite of "fight or flight". This is when your body is completely relaxed, there is no bear threatening your survival, you're taking deep, calm breaths, your muscles aren't tensed and you're able to fall asleep with ease. These opposite nervous system responses work kind of like a light switch. When the light switch is on, then you're in "on" mode and hypothetically reacting to the bear standing in front of you. When the light switch is off, you're in "off" mode, resting and doing things that don't require as much energy. But here's the issue...

A Light Switch Cannot Be On and Off At The Same Time:

Right? If you imagine your nervous system as being like a light switch, and "on" means you're ready to fight the bear, and "off" means you're resting and relaxing, it's pretty obvious that these two states can't happen at the same time as each other. Unfortunately, in the type of society we've created for ourselves, most of us are on-the-go and low-level stressed all the time, leading to common symptoms such as:

  • Low energy during the day, or "crashes" in energy.

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night or waking up throughout the night.

  • Headaches or migraines frequently

  • Mood swings and feeling like you have low patience.

  • Difficulty focusing during the day

  • Feeling of "brain fog".

  • *Menstruating women: irregular periods, shorter cycles or heavier periods.

  • Chronic feelings of anxiety or depression.

  • Weight gain or weight fluctuations in a short period of time.

These Symptoms Are The "Overflow":

Imagine your body as a barrel, and all the stresses in your life as little cups of water being poured into this barrel every day. Some of the stresses might include: financial, relationships, kids, families, work, traffic, etc. And on top of that, our bodies process medication, chemicals in body care products, air pollution and so much more every day, all of which creates stress and adds to the barrel too. Eventually the barrel will overflow:

The 'overflow" is all the symptoms listed above. The overflow also indicates that we're too often in "on" mode with our light switch and we are too often in stress mode, rather than on the "off" switch or "rest and digest" mode.

How Can We Lower Stress Inside The Body?

I think it's become a running joke in society where we all remind each other, and our doctors tell us at every visit, that we need to "lower stress" for better health. But if we take a look at the barrel above and all the things that are filling it, it's impossible to remove any of those. This is where nutrition plays a big role, and where we can learn how to nourish our bodies in a way that acts as a little mini scooper to remove some of the water off the top. This way, we can better deal with the stresses we can't control(ie. paying bills, traffic, family stuff), and we can actually address some of our health issues and symptoms in a sustainable way.

5 Things To Start Doing ASAP To Support Your Body + Lower Stress:

1. Get your copy of my Blood Sugar Guide: learning how to eat in a way that balances blood sugar levels is key when it comes to lowering stress. When blood sugar levels are imbalanced, the body is forced to produce and release a lot of cortisol(stress hormone). So if we can add the right macro-nutrients to our plates that are going to stabilize blood sugar levels, then we'll start to see less symptoms of stress and "overflow" in the body.

2. Get fresh air and daylight every single day: the indoor air that we breath can contain a lot of chemicals(cleaning products, candles, body care products), plus we're breathing in the same air recycled from anyone else we share the space with. Additionally, a lot of us don't see enough natural daylight in the day and this is a problem because natural light is what regulates our circadian rhythm, energy and hormones. Try making it a routine to go outside for a fresh air walk at least once every day.

3. Starting your day with coffee can raise cortisol levels: I'm a coffee lover/obsessed person, and I enjoy drinking coffee in the mornings too. But I try not to start my day with it. Instead, I start on a hydrating note with a warm water + squeeze of lemon juice. This helps to support an alkaline gut environment which helps with better digestion and absorption of our nutrients.

4. Coffee is not a meal replacement: next time you're grabbing that second(or third) Starbucks, I want you to try doing a quick check-in with yourself: when was the last time you ate a solid meal? Was it more than 5 hours ago? Are you actually feeling hungry and that's why you're reaching for a coffee? Are you maybe needing to rest or prioritize sleep at night time because your coffee is your energy source? If you answered "yes" to any of these, I would try getting yourself a meal instead, something with enough protein and healthy fat sources to support your blood sugar balance. Skip the coffee or have it a little bit later in the day after you've had a proper meal instead.

5. Ditch the snacks and eat more well-balanced meals: snacks are fun to have around, and there are a lot of healthy options out there. But keep in mind that every time we eat food, there is potential for a blood sugar spike, and the crash that follows is when the body releases tons of cortisol. Instead of having 17 snacks in the day, we want to try to have more meals that are going to satiate us(hint: my Blood Sugar Guide will tell you how to build your plate so that you can start to feel full for longer).


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