Stress is a physiological condition associated with human health. In modern life, daily challenges inevitably require extraordinary performance to survive. Physical and psychological conditions collectively trigger emotions that can lead to various levels of stress 1. Stress can be metabolic, physical, and psychological, and can have a negative impact on health, affecting overall performance2. No matter the type of stress, the brain is the most affected human organ when experiencing stress. In such a scenario, your entire physiology becomes involved and triggers several human diseases. It is complicated to diagnose the state of stress due to its various inputs3. In medical terminology, efforts have been made to categorize stress based on its severity as acute and chronic stress.
Stress is a normal part of our life, but it is pivotal to understand the impact of stress on health to get timely relief. Mild acute stress might not incur serious complications to your health, but chronic stress affects the physiology of several vital organs such as the brain and heart2,4. Consequently, the long-term impact of stress can cause early signs of aging, changes in blood pressure, weakened immune responses, depression, insomnia, and fertility complications in women3,5,6.
The level of several hormones increases significantly while experiencing stress, such as catecholamines (e.g. adrenaline) and cortisol (stress hormone). These hormones alter physiology and prepare the body to cope with stress. The physiological changes in response to the increases in catecholamines and cortisol are increased glucose consumption, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and increased systemic blood flow, primarily to the brain and muscles. When experiencing chronic stress, these physiological changes may lead to chronic changes in your health7. Considering all these facts, stress management is essential in order to avoid health issues.
In modern life, stress is inevitable, and most of us often encounter a state of stress triggered by several factors. Stress management is crucial to avoid health complications and to maintain optimal performance. The effective means of stress management are comprised of several approaches, including diet and exercise 8,9. Additionally, yoga, meditation, and living mindfully are beneficial approaches to stress management. In severe cases, psychological counseling is recommended to manage stress10. Clinical research shows that a balanced diet, exercise, and an improved routine collectively offer huge benefits in controlling stress.
Researchers have concluded that diet plays a vital role in stress management. It has been reported that stress alters eating patterns and changes food needs as well11. Stress and nutrition are interlinked, so good nutrition is an important tool for stress management12. It`s not only diet/nutrition, but also eating habits, which include frequency and time, that are important in understanding the nature of stress and stress management13.
An effective approach to controlling stress is the elimination of nutrition-related risk factors. Reducing diet-related risk factors provides long-term benefits by minimizing overactivity of the brain caused by stress.
Having antioxidants or food products rich in antioxidants is the first choice in stress management. These active ingredients reduce the free radical load in the body and minimize their negative impact on vital organs (18,19). Researchers have identified several food items that have an excellent capacity to help with stress management, such as:
Overactivity of neurons that synthesize a neurotransmitter called serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) is the clinical manifestation of stress. However, the overactivity of these neurons also offers an adaptation to cope with stress and stress-related diseases. It is reported that a carbohydrate-rich and low-protein diet prevents the deterioration of mood and cognitive performance28.
Various clinical and non-clinical studies have demonstrated that nutritional supplements are beneficial in combating stress and anxiety disorders. The key nutritional supplements for stress management are:
Stress is a pervasive factor in daily life, and the human brain is centrally involved in all kinds of stress directly and indirectly.
A diet rich in antioxidants and immune boosters serves as a protective measure to fight stress and stress-associated human diseases.
Both prebiotics and probiotics nourish the gut microbiota and improve stress-related disorders.
Supplementing your diet with vitamins B, D, and C, magnesium, essential and omega-3 fatty acids, ashwagandha, and/or shankhpushpi may help combat stress.