Maintaining a nutritious diet can be pivotal in how you manage many of the symptoms and associated symptoms of Service-Induced Stress, such as depression, anxiety, tension, irritability, fatigue, migraines and gastrointestinal problems. A diet high in hydrogenated fats, refined sugars and processed foods can cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation within the body can lead to all sorts of illness and disease, including depression, diabetes and chronic pain conditions (as well as cancer, heart disease and dementia). You can enhance any “evidence-based” treatment plan with dietary modifications.
What you eat has a direct influence on your mood. You have the choice every day to improve your health simply by including more plant-based, whole foods into your diet, such as:
- fresh, seasonal vegetables, especially leafy greens
- fresh, seasonal fruits
- legumes, nuts, and seeds
- fresh herbs and spices
- quality healthy fats, such as cold pressed coconut oil and hemp seed oil.
Many nutrients in food work together to ensure the healthy functioning of our bodies. Eating food in its natural state ensures we benefit from these synergies.
There are many foods scientifically proven to lift mood, promote relaxation and help with stress. For example; Cashews, along with other nuts, seeds and legumes are high in the amino acid, tryptophan which is the precursor to the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin. It’s been said that two handfuls of cashews provides 1000-2000mg of tryptophan, which is about the equivalent of a therapeutic dose of Prozac. You can enhance any “evidence-based” treatment plan with dietary modifications.
Dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli, nuts & seeds and raw dark chocolate are high in magnesium. Magnesium nourishes the nervous system and helps prevent anxiety, fear, nervousness, restlessness and irritability.
Supermarkets are full of fake foods that provide little to no nutritional benefit, causing inflammation and chronic illness. Sadly, many of these foods have become a large part of the standard Australian diet.
A low serotonin level in the brain is generally accepted as the cause of of depression and anxiety. However, it has more to do with the amount of serotonin produced in the body’s “second brain”. It is believed that up to 95% of serotonin is created in the gut, which is then sent to the brain along a neurological highway, known as the Vagus Nerve. While many think of our brain as the organ in charge, it is in fact the gut that sends far more information to your brain than your brain sends to your gut. This link is called the gut-brain connection and it is the reason why anxiety and depression can often manifest as intestinal irritability or discomfort. It can also explain why many people who experience service-induced stress also experience symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal conditions.
A constant reminder that to treat the mind, you must first heal the body.
Probiotics are the ‘good’ bacteria, which help to keep a healthy balance in your gut and you will find them in yoghurt and other fermented foods. To improve and maintain a healthy digestion and overall health, try to include a good quality probiotic supplement daily, or fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi, a sugar-free, organic yoghurt or Kombucha, a fizzy fermented tea into your daily diet. These options are easy to make at home, tasty and super effective ways to enhance your gut health, and boost your mood.
Hormone Imbalances / Endocrine Disorders
Hormone imbalances can occur when a gland produces too much or too little of an endocrine hormone, for example cortisol and adrenalin. For combat soldiers and first responders, this is often a result of glands becoming overworked after experiencing high levels of prolonged stress. Symptoms of an endocrine disorder vary widely, however most people with an endocrine disorder complain of fatigue and weakness. Examples of endocrine disorders include adrenal fatigue, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity.
Lifestyle changes are crucial to help rebalance hormones naturally and include eating a healthy diet and avoiding sugars, quitting smoking, eliminating or reducing alcohol consumption, getting plenty of regular exercise and practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
Sugar is addictive! While natural sugar sources like whole fruits and vegetables are generally not very concentrated because the sweetness is buffered by water, fibre and other constituents; modern industrial sugar sources are unnaturally potent and quickly provide a big hit. Similar refinement processes transform other plants like poppies and coca into heroin and cocaine. Sugar is a drug! Refined sugars also affect people’s bodies and brains. Cravings induced by sugar are comparable to those induced by addictive drugs like cocaine and nicotine. Yet, sugar is everywhere and causes a huge strain on the health care system. Health issues associated with excessive consumption of sugar include obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Chronic pain is another area in which diet can assist in recovery. Herbs and spices contain a wide variety of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Turmeric, oregano, cloves and rosemary are great examples as they are all high in anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, every time you flavor your meals with herbs or spices you are super boosting your health and recovery. High powered anti-inflammatory foods include berries, dark-green leafy vegetables and hemp seeds.
Processed foods and sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, alcohol and caffeine exacerbate chronic pain conditions because they trigger inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is the root of many deadly diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
Weeded Warrior recommends:
Educating yourself – you can hardly rely on the Food Pyramid to give you quality nutritional advice. Get your hands on a copy of Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead and Food Matters. Both of these documentaries were a big wake up call, prompting us to change our diet and introduced us to the food is medicine concept. We returned to them many times to help encourage and motivate us to continue on our learning journey.
You want to eat more:
- fresh organic (or spray free) vegetables, especially green leafy types
- fresh organic (or spray free) fruits
- nuts, seeds, beans and legumes
- fresh herbs and spices
- cold pressed oils, such as coconut, hemp seed, flax or avocado
- fresh purified water
You want to reduce the following:
- soft drink and energy drinks
- refined sugar – chocolate, confectionery, cakes, biscuits, ice cream…
- fast food
Disclaimer: We are not claiming nutrition will “cure” your condition. However, in our experience dietary changes can help manage the symptoms and associated symptoms of service related stress.