What’s on your plate affects how you cope with stress

We face a constant barrage of stressful events especially in current times where psychological and physiological stressors are in our news feeds. Acute stress, stress that’s caused by one-off events, tends to occur and resolve itself quickly. Stubbing your toe is an acute stress event, you probably won’t experience long-term effects other than having your kids be more mindful about where they leave their toys. 


Chronic stress is constant, and potentially increasing, over time. Some common chronic stressors are stress related to your job or the economy. Since you’re unlikely to be able to control the source of chronic stress, it may remain in your life for years at a time. This chronic stress can lead to a number of disorders and decreased functioning of the body. 


According to the American Psychological Association (APA n.d.), stress can lead to adverse effects on the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. With so many potential downsides due to the mismanagement of stress, it makes sense to take steps to manage it intelligently.


Managing your stress levels


There are numerous ways to manage stress. Many are common knowledge but bear repeating: getting proper sleep; having a strong, available social support system; maintaining appropriate exercise routines; and avoiding unnecessary stressful situations all help you respond effectively to the stress you experience. 


Another way we manage stress is through our diet. The human body is quite resilient and can function on a poor diet. However, like a machine receiving low-quality fuel, it won’t work nearly as well compared to a healthy diet. By improving your diet, you improve your ability to reduce the effects of stress and the incidence of stress-related illnesses (all other things being equal). 


The direct effects of improper nutrition are well-defined in the scientific literature; Evidence suggests that a poor diet contributes to heart disease, the leading cause of death in America (Heron, 2019). The indirect effects of improper nutrition, specifically over-consumption, on the body’s ability to manage stress are less obvious, but not necessarily surprising. Individuals who increase their consumption of alcohol to cope with life stressors, for example, tend to experience lower quality sleep. Lower quality sleep makes stress management more difficult which makes the stress we feel all the more impactful.


Stress is amplified when we’re undernourished 


The average American diet doesn’t include enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, or plant proteins (Mancino et al., 2018). The nutrients these foods provide directly impact how well your body performs its typical functions. Undernourishment, the situation where you don’t receive all the nutrients you need, also contributes to a reduced ability to respond to stress events. 


A micronutrient often underrepresented in the American diet is magnesium (USDA 2018). There is evidence that magnesium counteracts the effects of stress and a failure to replenish magnesium (through diet and/or supplements) makes it more and more difficult to handle stress (Cuciureanu & Vink 2011). 


What makes this lack of magnesium particularly insidious is the fact that most of the magnesium in your body is intracellular, or found in your cells. Since it’s difficult to determine exactly how much magnesium is in your cells, blood tests are used as an alternative. The amount of magnesium found in your blood provides an indication of how much magnesium is present in your body. 


If your blood test shows less than adequate concentrations of magnesium, then it's clear that a change in diet and potential supplementation would be wise. Since the test isn't perfect, a result showing a normal range of magnesium doesn’t conclusively prove that you have enough magnesium in your body. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t have enough, though, it simply provides one more clue about the current state of affairs. 


In the situation where the blood test shows a normal range, but you're actually lacking magnesium in your body, you’d have what's known as a subclinical deficiency. The effects of any deficiency, including subclinical deficiencies, must be addressed to have a long, healthy life (DiNicolantonio et al., 2018). 


This is why it's important to look holistically at your health. If you're experiencing good health and high energy, then a normal reading would suggest that you're getting plenty of magnesium from your diet. Alternatively, if you have signs of deficiency, like a constant feeling of stress and an inability to manage it, then you may be experiencing nutritional deficiencies which should be resolved before they become major health issues.


Dr. Inman looks to data to get you feeling your best 


As a holistic practitioner, Dr. Inman wants to get to the root of the lifestyle problems you're facing. As is the case with a magnesium deficiency, the test results don't always tell the whole story. If you're taking the steps to improve your health, then you deserve to get the best results possible for you and your family. 


Dr. Inman's approach, through functional medicine and nutritional testing, gives you a way to see progress based on your real data. For the cost of a trip to the grocery store, you can start moving from feeling just okay to continually improving your health, something that will serve you for the rest of your life. Contact Dr. Inman and begin the process of feeling better today!


References

  • American Psychological Association. (n.d.) Stress Effects on the Body. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress/ 

  • Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507250/

  • DiNicolantonio, J. J., O'Keefe, J. H., & Wilson, W. (2018). Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open heart, 5(1), e000668. https://doi.org/10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668

  • Heron, M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2017. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 68 no 6. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2019.

  • Mancino, L., Guthrie J., Ver Ploeg, M., & Lin, B. Nutritional Quality of Foods Acquired by Americans: Findings from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, EIB-188, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2018.

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. (2018). Nutrient Intakes from Food and Beverages: Mean Amounts Consumed per Individual, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-2016. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/1516/Table_1_NIN_GEN_15.pdf

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