The Ideal Diet for Stress Recovery

Given the havoc that stress can wreak on our body, we shouldn’t be surprised that living a stressful lifestyle can leave our body less than nourished. There are several nutrients that are commonly depleted with our busy lifestyle. These nutrients can either be low because our body is not absorbing them properly or because they are being used up at a higher rate in our body’s stress response. Regardless of how it happens, we often see deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, magnesium and Zinc. When it comes to B vitamins there are several forms that can be impacted by stress, including B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) ,B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid, B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12.

When these vitamins are deficient it can make it harder for your body to both manage and recover from the stress in your life. These deficiencies can also lead to a variety of the symptoms we experience when we are stressed including fatigue, headaches, mood issues and sleep issues.

So how do you figure out if you are deficient in these vitamins? You can do a blood test to compare your levels to functional medicine standards, or you can look at common symptoms that come with these deficiencies to determine what nutrient deficiencies might be at play.

Signs of B Vitamins deficiencies (symptoms vary depending on the type B vitamin):

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Confusion, memory issues or concentration issues

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Mood issues (eg. irritability, depression, anxiety)

Signs of Vitamin C deficiencies:

  • Fatigue

  • Mood Issues (eg. irritability, depression)

  • Dry and pale skin

  • Dry and fragile hair

  • Gum bleeding and inflammation

  • Loss of appetite

  • Muscle pain and cramps

  • Getting sick often (weaken immune system)

Signs of Vitamin D deficiencies:

  • Fatigue

  • Mood issues (eg. irritability, depression)

  • Memory Issues

  • High blood pressure

  • Muscle pain and weakness

  • Stress fractures

  • Getting sick often (weaken immune system)

Signs of Iron deficiencies:

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pale Skin

  • Tongue swelling and soreness

  • Dry and fragile hair

  • Brittle nails

  • Cold Hands and Feet

Signs of Magnesium deficiencies:

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Mood issues (eg. irritability, anxiety)

  • Muscle cramps and spasms

  • Blood sugar imbalances

  • High blood pressure

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Constipation

  • Sleep issues

Signs of Zinc deficiencies:

  • Mood issues

  • Cognitions and memory issues

  • Skin issues (eg. acne, rashes, eczema)

  • Thinning hair

  • Loss of appetite

  • Diarrhea

  • Getting sick often (weaken immune system)

Do some of these symptoms sound familiar to you? Does it help you identify some possible nutrient deficiencies you might want to look into addressing?

The great thing is, these nutrients can be easily found in many whole foods. Certain foods are often a source of many of the nutrients all at once. When you are intentional about getting these sources of nutrients in your diet, you can begin your recovery process.

The essential stress recovery diet includes:

  • Leafy greens (eg, spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens dandelion greens)

  • Cruciferous vegetables (eg. brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli)

  • Citrus fruits (eg. oranges, grapefruit, lemon)

  • Berries (eg. strawberries, blackcurrants)

  • Legumes and beans (eg. chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans soya beans, aduki beans)

  • Nuts and seeds (eg. pistachio, cashew, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds hemp hearts, sesame seeds, chia seeds) .pumpkin seeds

  • Grains (eg. brown rice, oats, wheat bran, quinoa)

  • Seafood and shellfish (eg. oysters, scallops, clams, mussels, salmon, tuna, trout)

  • Meats, especially liver and other organ meats (eg. beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey)

  • Eggs

Try to incorporate these tasty options into your diet and see how your body responds. Your nutrient deficiencies won’t be resolved immediately, but as time passes you will find you will slowly feel better and better and the annoying stress symptoms you lived with previously might have been a thing of the past. I am a big fan of taking a food first approach, where you are trying to get the necessary nutrients from your diet, but if you have significant nutrient deficiencies or food restrictions, supplementing might be a good option to support your diet and progress your journey quicker.

Unfortunately, it is not always as simple as eating more of these nourishing foods because our digestive system isn’t always working with us. When our body is in a stressed state, the main focus is survival. Only biological processes that are deemed essential in a “fight or flight” scenario are turned on. Unfortunately our digestive system is not on that list of essential processes. With that, blood gets pulled away from that area of our body, peristalsis (the rhythmic motion in our gut that helps to pass food through our digestive tract) is limited and the digestive enzymes needed to break down our food are not being released. All of these factors combined lead to a sluggish digestive system where food is not broken down or moved through the digestive tract properly. If you have digestive systems or are concerned that you are not properly breaking down and absorbing nutrients, it might be helpful to look at how you can better support your digestive system and get it working optimally again. Check out the blogs below for more tips on that.

If you want to learn more about the ideal stress recovery diet and how to use food, sleep, exercise and self care to support your body with stress recovery, download your Stress Recovery Guide.

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