Stress and Food,
the Links are Endless

Stress and food are a terrible combination, but this is the reality in today’s world.  Dr. Norm Shealy, pain specialist, says, “The intersection of the four main fields of stress – physical stress, chemical stress, electro-magnetic stress and emotional stress – is the cause of all illness, not some, ALL.”  In today’s society, at least three out of four of these factors can be applied to our food.  Corporations ensure we all have emotional eating attachments to our food - emotional eating and sugar addiction are major components of the obesity epidemic; irradiation practices to preserve food longer guarantee that food has electro-magnetic properties; and the proliferation of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides ensures that we get our daily toxic dose of chemicals.  These are two of the many advantages of organic food.  In an indirect way, the fourth factor - physical stress - is also a component, since bad food is a major factor in the obesity epidemic, which then leads to extreme physical stress.

Foods can be a help or a hindrance.  The LiveStrong website points out some obvious connections between stress and food or more specifically, anxiety and food. Some important points are below:

Foods That Help - The amino acid tryptophan can improve mood and encourage a sense of relaxation in people with anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic. Foods containing tryptophan include poultry, cheese, soy, bananas, sesame seeds, milk and oats. An increase in carbohydrates in the diet can also help counter anxiety symptoms. Carbs elevate serotonin levels in the brain, which promotes a feeling of calm. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains are more effective than simple carbohydrates such as sugar. B vitamins are also beneficial and can be found in fish and dark green leafy vegetables, reports Psychology Today.

Foods to Avoid - Certain foods can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety. Because it is a stimulant, caffeine can increase nervousness and should be avoided. Alcohol can also intensify the symptoms of anxiety as it is metabolized by the body. People with anxiety should avoid foods to which they are sensitive, such as wheat, corn, dairy or shellfish. In addition to physical discomfort, food sensitivities can trigger mood shifts, the Mayo Clinic reports.

Strategy - For people with anxiety, how you eat is as important as what you eat. The Mayo Clinic recommends eating small meals throughout the day, which keeps blood sugar stable. People who forget about food when they are stressed should plan meals in advance and stick to a consistent eating schedule. People who binge on junk food to cope with anxiety should purchase healthy snacks to have on hand.

Considerations - According to research reported by the American Psychiatric Association in 2005, there is a strong link between eating disorders and anxiety. In a study of 672 people with eating disorders by the Price Foundation Collaborative Group, more than two-thirds reported experiencing an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. The majority said they experienced the anxiety disorder well before the onset of their eating disorder. This could mean people with anxiety disorders are predisposed toward eating disorders.

Adapted from

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