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Imagine two men, both working a highly stressful job. Both go to their health practitioner for a prevention check up. One doesn't come back to work. His doctor tells him his markers are so bad, he forbids him to work for the next three weeks. The other continues to work, although stressed sometimes, he thrives perfectly.
The above is a real story about my husband and his colleague. So what does my husband do differently?
When you go to a health practitioner for a yearly check up, he should ask you for the level of stress you are experiencing on a daily basis. Think for a while. What would be your response? As a matter of fact, the majority of people report extreme stress levels (8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). And the most frightening thing is that nowadays teenagers and kids experience high stress levels as well.
Although our bodies are designed to handle a one time, occasional stress, chronic stress plays a major role in the health of our immune system, and can impact our blood pressure, cholesterol levels, brain chemistry, blood sugar levels, and hormonal balance. The suggestions below are inspired by daily habits of my husband.
Plant-based food - half of your plate should consist of veggies, mostly greens. If you don't eat at least 8 portions of fruits and veggies per day, here's a quick fix
Exercise - no need to pay for a fitness club membership - playing with you kids, walking your dog, working in the garden, walking to the canteen (or renovating a house in my husband's case) all count as exercise. Caution: Overexercising is stress for the body so if you're achy and very tired after exercise, you're overdoing it. You should have more energy and feel joyful after exercise.
Sleep - aim for 8 hours of sleep, no excuses! Switch off your electronics at least one hour before bedtime
Sun exposure - spend 15 minutes per day in the sun, unprotected (no sunscreen)
Spending time in nature - hikes, walks, gardening
Supplements - see below
Supplements for Stress Reduction
Remember, any supplement is useless, if you continue to eat an inflammatory diet full of processed food, mostly carbs and sugar. Gut health is very important for brain health and therefore, an anti inflammatory diet full of veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats without added sugar is the first step you can take to lower your stress levels. You don't need to get rid of meat, just chose a healthy, grass-fed, high quality meat without hormones and antibiotics. Alas, many vegetarians rely on processed meat substitutes with additives and sugar, which is not the best way to stay healthy.
Which Supplements to Take for Stress Reduction?
Omega 3 Most people don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids (you should get 250–500 milligrams of EPA and DHA combined each day), which can manifest by fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
Vitamin D: New reports say that low vitamin D levels are linked to a risk of cognitive decline in the elderly, weak bones and muscles. Although there are foods containing vitamin D such as wild-caught salmon, sardines, eggs or Shiitake mushrooms, it's difficult to achieve enough vitamin D from dietary sources alone. In addition, it's ideal to get your vitamin D from sunlight.
Magnesium: Magnesium is a crucially important mineral for optimal health, performing an array of biological functions such as activating muscles and nerves, creating energy in body, helping digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and is a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin. The majority of magnesium supplements are unfortunately not well absorbed. Therefore, take regular Epsom salt baths or foot baths. Magnesium oil (from magnesium chloride) can also be used for topical application and absorption. Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium that tends to provide the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency.
Resveratrol: Yes, it is ok to drink red wine (1 glass for women, two glasses for men), and eat dark chocolate (organic and containing at least 70 percent cacao). They both contain resveratrol which is believed to be one of the most potent polyphenols and strongest protectors against symptoms associated with aging and free radical damage. Just be sure to choose an organic wine as grapes are one of the most pesticide treated fruits.
Probiotics: An ideal probiotic supplement should have as many different species of probiotic bacteria as possible and around 25 billion CFU (colony forming units). Taking probiotics is crucial after taking a dose of antibiotics.
Remember, there's no way around eating a plant-based diet, full of fruits and veggies. So first, change your diet and the rest will follow.