Monday, December 10, 2007

Anxiety and Stress At Holidays

With the holidays coming, we are usually running in many directions. We may be planning parties, deciding which gifts to buy, and packing for our holiday vacations to travel to see the families we may see only once or twice each year. Along with the feelings of joy, we often experience feelings of anxiety. Stress hormones trigger anxiety. These hormones rob the body of vitamins and minerals, which can also lead to dehydration.

But did you know, you can counteract many of the physical effects of anxiety with some very simple changes in your diet. Eating foods that you associate with pleasure or safety may ease your mind, but some nutrients can influence chemicals in the brain and body to reduce the intensity of the body's reactions.

Anxiety is a form of fear that is based on anticipation. When our body expects a threat, the endocrine system pumps adrenaline, a hormone that increases the heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol, a steroid hormone, can sustain the feelings of stress for long periods of time. Anxiety also causes the liver to release an over abundance of sugar to provide the body with energy. When you are anxious, your heart beats faster, your muscles tighten, and your breathing becomes irregular. All of these take a toll on the body. It depletes important nutrients such as vitamin C.

Research has also proven that when the body is under constant strain, levels of nutrients in the blood drop as much as a third. Over time, this can lead to exhaustion and lower your immune system.

While foods and herbs can't take away the cause of the anxiety, they can keep your body stocked with the nutrients that influence chemicals in the brain to help you stay calm. So what can you consume to counteract the ill effects of stress and anxiety?

To start, stay away from added sugar, which may leave you feeling more frantic. Cut back on caffeine, which can trigger anxiety symptoms, and increase your heart rate. Carbohydrates help raise levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that promotes feelings of calmness. Try apples, bananas, raisins, and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, and whole grains like breads, cereals, and pastas.

Magnesium is depleted during periods of anxiety, so include spinach, yogurt, nut and soy products.

Vitamin B6 is important to your immunity and also boosts levels of dopamine, a natural relaxant in the brain. Foods rich in B6 include: chicken, nuts, legumes and bananas.

Take Vitamin C tablets, and eat citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and broccoli.

Vitamin E is vital to immune function and can be found in wheat germ, corn, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

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