A varied, seasonal, whole food diet is one of the best ways to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs for a healthy, vibrant life. While poor nutrition can leave you feeling sluggish, run down, sleeping badly and with a less than enthusiastic attitude to life, a good nutrient dense diet and lifestyle will have the opposite effect:
- Providing you with a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals including B vitamins from fruit and vegies, omega 3s from seafood, selenium, tyrosine, magnesium from nuts, seeds, eggs etc, all which play vital roles in giving you sufficient energy throughout the day
- Feeding your good gut bacteria: a healthy gut means a healthy immune system, which will stop you getting sick and improve your energy
- Stress support and prevention, which will enable your body to cope with daily stressors and carry on with the same energy, as well as getting quality sleep
- Iron, B12 are imperative for energy and best found in lean sources of red meat, eggs, fish and green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli
- Eating a seasonal diet is very important as different fruit and veg contain different amounts of nutrients, and this corresponds with what you require at certain times of the year. For example, citrus in Winter contains Vitamin C, which is required to combat stress and build the immune system;
- Avoiding processed foods, which cause an inflammatory response in the body, increasing your stress reactions and a decreasing your immunity, which in effect will decrease your energy
How to De-Stress
- Work life balance – increase productivity while decreasing hours spent at work
- Sleep: Try increasing to 8-9 hours a night. It’s important that you sleep during regular hours. Aim to be in bed by 9pm as for a good night’s sleep you need 5 cycles of uninterrupted sleep, consisting of 7.5 hours or more.
- Supplements such as magnesium and zinc and a high strength multi-vitamin
- A whole food diet to ensure high nutrient absorption
- Being off The Pill, which can mess with our delicate hormones as well as decrease nutrient absorption, increasing the effects of stress
- Winding down with exercise and yoga, not alcohol
- Stress management – For starters, it’s important to control unhealthy stress levels by identifying and minimising the emotional and physical stressors, and by increasing your psychological and physical ability to tolerate stress. Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, breathing techniques and visualisation are some good examples.
- Saving weekends for relaxation during high states of stress, and save the partying for times of celebration, not suppression
- Stretching and meditating before bed
- Banning emails after 6pm, and before 9am
- Diet – a diet consisting of unprocessed foods, healthy fats, vegetable or fish protein, 7+ brightly coloured vegetables and fruits per day, whole grains, nuts, and pure water, every 2-3 hours, will help manage blood sugar stabilisation and to keep cravings at bay.
- Minimise refined carbohydrates/sugars, animal fats and meats, dairy products and eliminate trans fatty acids (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, shortening).
- Nutriceuticals – There are a number of brilliant supplements on the market that were created to assist with various hormone imbalances and stress management. Work with a health professional to get a nutritional and herbal supplement program together for you. This will help to assist in brain and adrenal gland repair.
- Quit smoking – If you are a smoker, stop immediately. If you need help doing so, contact your GP or the QuitLine to find out how. Also, avoid caffeine, alcohol and recreational drugs as they will heighten your stress and inflammation response.
Are you exercising enough?
Exercise is a very personal thing, and requirements vary from one person to the next depending on goals and current health status. It is suggested that we all exercise for a minimum 30 minutes a day to promote heart health, boost metabolism, improve muscle density, improve mood and improve circulation, but what determines if you are exercising enough or too little?
Goals: what are your goals? Are you looking to improve fitness, lose weight, tone up? Are you sedentary looking to get your 30 minutes in a day or 10,000 steps, or are you a marathon runner looking to improve your PB? All of these factors will determine what type of exercise you should be doing, and and how much.
Then there are is the medical side, or your current health status, which will most certainly influence how you should be exercising. For pregnant women, it depends on your fitness level before pregnancy, but keeping your heart rate below 120 is advised. For those who are obese and wanting to embark on a health overhaul, starting small and building is certainly the safest way to exercise once you have your Drs approval.
Stress can play another big factor in how much you exercise, with those exercising at a high intensity causing MORE damage to their adrenals (stress glands) once they exceed 30-35 minutes of training. Instead of burning fat, their bodies are in distress, causing weight gain or stagnant weight loss. On the flip side, exercise can also counteract the effects of stress, releasing happy hormones called endorphins and suppressing the appetite. So it really depends on your health status, which should be determined by a qualified practitioner so you can ensure you are on an exercise regime that suits you at that particular moment in life.
Of course, for those who do nothing, you are putting yourself at risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, increased symptoms of PCOS and/or endometriosis, inflammation, depression and higher stress levels to name a few.
Could sleep be making you unhealthy?
There are many factors to a good sleep, including not only quantity, but quality too. Getting 6 or less hours of sleep a night for just 10 nights in a row is said to have the same effect on your brain as if you were drunk. So you can imagine just how much productivity declines and inflammation increases from just 10 days of little sleep, let alone a whole month, year, or lifetime!
It is now being said that 9 hours is the required amount of sleep for a healthy, functioning brain. The problem is that we have evolutionised too quickly, thinking that 6-7 hours is normal, and that being wired and tired all the time is just part of living in the 21st century. But there are serious side effects of having poor sleep habits including:
- Weight gain – the more tired you are, the more likely you’ll seek out sugar and carbs to give you a little energy boost. Being tired is conducive to less energy to exercise too, so it’s a double edged sword
- Increased risk of depression: first comes stress, then anxiety, insomnia, and finally depression. We need our sleep to repair our bodies, including replenishing our neurotransmitters for healthy brain function and counteracting stress
Do you have a hormone imbalance?
What happens to our hormones and hormone balance when we are stressed?
- Prolonged stress hormone, cortisol, can cause an imbalance in both sex hormones and thyroid hormones. This imbalance can lead to issues with weight, sex drive, PMS symptoms, fertility, metabolism, fatigue, insomnia, depression,
- When the body is stressed, it produces a fight or flight response, in which many hormones are produced due to a trigger response from the brain. One of the major hormones produced during this response is cortisol, our main stress hormone. While in the short term this can be healthy as it increases alertness, productivity and physical performance, in the long term it’s an entirely different story. In fact long term stress has been associated with biological aging, oxidative stress and inflammation, suppression or abnormal regulation of immune function, impairment of brain structure and function, increased susceptibility to some types of infection and worsening of conditions like depression, heart disease and some types of cancer.
- Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands and while it is needed to maintain normal physiological processes during times of stress, prolonged elevated cortisol levels can lead to hypertension, glucose intolerance, diabetes, fatigue, muscle loss and increased infections. Furthermore, excessively prolonged or severe stress (i.e. trauma, infection) and poor nutrition can lead to abnormal messages from the brain causing dysfunction of the adrenal glands.
- unbalanced hormones leave your body with the duty of trying to perform normal everyday activities at sub-optimal levels, throwing different systems out of balance. For example, when cortisol is high, insulin cannot be processed, so your body therefore stores insulin (glucose – sugars and carbs) as fat around the waist. Adrenal imbalances messes with the function of thyroid hormones, causing dysfunction and causing disease such as hypothyroidism, resulting in weight gain, lethargy, depression etc. The delicate balance of sex hormones is compromised as cortisol increases, directly affecting the gut where most neurotransmitters are made and therefore compromising our bodies ability to produce sex hormones (progesterone, oestrogen, testosterone) in the sufficient quantities to keep us functioning optimally. Eg low progesterone can result in high PMS symptoms, depression, anxiety; high testosterone in women causes insulin resistance and potentially Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS); high oestrogen is a sign of endometriosis.