April 4, 2009 (WABC) — Dr. Desmond Ebanks, a board certified internist and prevention specialist with Alternity Healthcare, joined WABC-TV to discuss tips on managing life stress through healthy lifestyle choices and proper nutrition.
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found eight out of ten Americans say the economy is now a significant source of stress and that can lead to unhealthy stress eating.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep. Good sleep hygiene: cool, dark room; ritual including prayer, meditation or deep breathing; avoid stimulants or alcohol before bed; consider – melatonin, valerian root and ginseng.
- Engage in regular aerobic, resistance and stretching exercise (but not within an hour of going to bed).
- Avoid highly caffeinated drinks and foods with a high glycemic load.
- Add more plant-based foods to your diet: think deep reds, purples, vibrant greens, rich yellows and oranges; fruits and vegetable that are packed with disease fighting, body strengthening antioxidants.
- Take high quality vitamin supplements: vit. C & D3, magnesium, B-complex, antioxidant berry extracts and bioflavinoids, Ashwangandha, Rhobiola, Siberian ginseng, choline, acetyl-L-carnitine and purified omega-3 fish oils.
- Stop smoking.
- Take a break from the information barrage on your TV, computer, smartphone/PDA.
- Seek professional help for symptoms that interfere with your daily activities.
- What affect can stress have on us? Not all stress is bad, some stress is good for us. Chronic levels of negative stress can disrupt sleep patterns, impair immunity and fertility, cause overeating, irritability, depression, increase the risk of serious health problem and contribute to premature aging.
- Does stress affect people differently? Yes, we all have a hereditary predisposition for our biologic responses, different tolerances to certain environmental conditions and learned behavior from our life experiences. Nearly every organ system can be affected, which can vary among individuals.
- Does someone’s diet affect their response to stress? Yes. An unhealthy diet containing lots of sugars, stimulants (caffeine) and depressants (alcohol) will cause fluctuating blood sugar, erratic moods and exacerbate stress.
- What should people eat to help combat their stress level? There is no magic bullet, but eating a healthy diet containing colorful fruits and vegetables, adequate protein including beef, whole grain carbohydrates, fish and plenty of water can help your body respond better to stress.
- Can you explain glycemic load? Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly the carbohydrate content of a food is absorbed and the accompanying insulin response. Glycemic load is the glycemic index times the actual carbohydrate content in grams.
- Why are high glycemic foods bad for you? Because they are absorbed quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar and provoke an excess release of insulin. Ultimately this increases chronic inflammation and causes the storage of more calories as body fat.
- Are there particular supplements people should take when under stress? Again, there are no magic bullets. People should take high quality supplements regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle: B-complex, vit. C, E & D3, magnesium, antioxidant berry extracts and bioflavinoids, Ashwangandha, Rhobiola, Siberian ginseng, choline, acetyl-L-carnitine, lycopene, lutein and purified omega-3 fish oils.
- I have heard green tea may be better for you than coffee, is that true? Not necessarily, they both have pros and cons. Green tea has soothing qualities while coffee may exacerbate a reved up anxiety state or impair sleep when consumed at night. But green tea can impair iron absorption. Recent studies have demonstrated significant health benefits to drinking coffee.
- Why does stress cause some people to gain weight? It causes some to overeat comfort foods, eat unhealthy choices, or drink alcohol excessively. It also elevates certain hormones that lead to weight gain, obesity and diabetes.
- Is it true that exercise decreases your stress level? Yes, everything from a relaxing walk to vigorous recreational sports to competitive bike or road races and to Tai Chi causes a release of endorphins (brain’s pleasure chemicals), improves mood and reduces stress chemical production. It is meditation in motion.
- There has been a lot of talk about the benefits of red wine and chocolate, are they helpful for managing stress? Red wine? Probably not, due to its depressant effects and the risk of excess drinking when stressed. Dark chocolates, however, contain anti-oxidant polyphenols and flavanols that are mood stabilizing and have been scientifically linked to reduced blood pressure, improved insulin sensitivity and reduced cardiovascular disease.
- Are there snacks you’d recommend during times of stress? Almonds (or dark chocolate covered almonds), pistachios (although not with the current recall), walnuts, avocado, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe with cottage cheese.