5 Foods That Can Relax Your Stress

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

The heart rate and breathing are the primary homeostasis processes affected by stress. These two processes indicate when the energy levels in the body are high or low. Under stress, the human body will release hormones that regulate these two processes.

The body prepares itself for a flight or fight response; therefore, the hormones released will stimulate processes that will energize the body instantly for defense purposes.

The endocrine system in the body is responsible for releasing, suppressing and regulating the hormones depending on the stimulus. The endocrine system consists of glands that play the role of releasing hormones. The hypothalamus and the adrenal glands are parts of the endocrine system which helps the body handle stress. They are located in the pituitary and adrenal glands respectively.

Epinephrine, norepinephrine as well as cortisol are the flight/flea hormones released when the body is under stress. The release of these hormones results in changes of some body processes such as an increase in heart rate and increase in breathing rate. At this point, you may experience a headache, cold hands, difficulty in sleeping and eating because the body is concentrating on giving the heart and muscles strength.

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Once the body detects a high level of these hormones in the bloodstream, the hypothalamus and the adrenal gland shut down the release of these hormones. We don’t want to wait until the body eases stress levels by its own; we want to aid the body in shutting down the release of the stress hormones as fast as possible. So what do we do to bring about a calming body effect?

Are you also aware that the body does not differentiate between good and bad stress? An example of a good stress is over excitation, and an example of a bad stress is heartbreak. Whether the body is stressed for right or wrong reasons, the effects will be the same. Below is a list of foods to ingest to help your body relax.

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1.Foods with potassium

Avocados, bananas, sun-dried tomatoes and potatoes are examples of foods with high potassium content. Reports indicate that people who took potassium supplements reduced their levels of anxiety and blood pressure instantly.

A deficiency in potassium is a leading cause of hypertension. How does this mineral lower stress? Potassium is a natural beta blocker. A beta blocker is a drug prescribed for anxiety and stress. Beta blocker works by blocking epinephrine from binding to the receptor site. Once epinephrine is blocked from its docking site, then the effects it had brought such high blood pressure, and high heart rate is reversed.

Potassium stimulates the release of sodium in the bloodstream which results in decreased blood volume, therefore, decreasing blood pressure as well. The effects of potassium are felt almost instantly. If you are expecting good/bad news eat foods rich in potassium.

2.Foods rich in magnesium

Foods rich in magnesium include bananas, dark leafy greens, seeds, whole grains and fish. Magnesium blocks the signaling of the pituitary gland to produce stress hormone. To understand this better, for the endocrine system to produce hormones, a signal in the form of the hormone has to be sent to its glands to stimulate the production of a particular hormone needed by the body at that moment. Magnesium works by inhibiting the release of the ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone) by the pituitary gland which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol and adrenaline. Magnesium also reduces the receptivity of ACTH in the adrenal glands. Magnesium blocks the passageway of stress hormones to the brain.

As mentioned above, the body concentrates on energizing the heart and muscles as a defense mechanism.  In the process, a person may experience muscle twitches or spasms. Magnesium relieves muscle spasms and relaxes them. Other effects of anxiety like a headache are cured instantly with magnesium. Not only does magnesium block the production of stress hormones, but it also reverses physical changes brought by anxiety like a headache and spasms.

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Overall magnesium will result in relaxation effects and improve the functioning of the neurons. Studies indicate that depression and anxiety are caused by a deficiency in magnesium. It should be noted that too much magnesium in the bloodstream may cause diarrhea.

3.Foods rich in tryptophan

Eggs, cheese, pineapples, and salmon are examples of foods rich in tryptophan. What is the role of tryptophan in stress suppression? Tryptophan is responsible for the creation of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood, appetite and suppresses anxiety. This hormone is associated with ‘feeling good.’  Serotonin effects are felt after it binds to its receptors 5-HT1A receptors. This process inhibits the action of the enzyme adenylyl cyclase which is linked to anxiety and stress. A study conducted in patients with panic disorder showed that they had impaired functions of the 5-HT1A receptors. Another study carried out on people with untreated panic disorder showed a decrease in 5-HT1A receptor binding.

In the process of serotonin synthesis via the tryptophan, melatonin is also produced. Melatonin is a sleep hormone, and it brings a general relaxation of the body in times of stress. Niacin is also manufactured in the serotonin/tryptophan synthesis pathway. A deficiency of niacin in the neurological health brings about mental conditions such as depression and loss of memory.

Tryptophan, therefore, is necessary for the functioning of the neurological system.

4.Foods rich in vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B complex consists of eight B vitamins. They include B1 or thiamine, B2 or riboflavin, B3 or niacin, B5 or pantothenic acid, B6 or pyridoxine, B7 or biotin, B9 or folic and lastly vitamin B12 also known as cobalamin. Foods rich in the vitamin B complex include meat, leafy greens, fortified grains, and peas.

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Loss of concentration and memory are among the signs of anxiety. Thiamine stabilizes mood and promotes concentration and memory. Niacin promotes neurological health and studies have confirmed that a deficiency of niacin is linked to panic attacks. Niacin stimulates conversion of carbohydrates to energy aiding in the regulation of sugar in the blood. Vitamin B6 is linked to the manufacture of serotonin which has calming and relaxation effects.  Vitamin B9 is essential in energy provision, and a deficiency of this vitamin contributes to depression and fatigue which alleviate levels of stress. Vitamin B12 is important in the manufacture of the sleep hormone melatonin and serotonin the mood hormone.

Vitamin B complex is essential for optimal mental health. People who experience digestive disorders caused by stress have found great relief in vitamin B complex.

5.Foods which lower blood pressure and heart rate

One of the symptoms of anxiety is high blood pressure. Remember that this article is about body relaxation after stress. If you experience high blood pressure, lowering or normalizing it has a calming effect. Foods that lower blood pressure includes flaxseed, chocolate, beets, and pomegranate. Blood pressure and the heart rate have a converse relationship such that if blood pressure goes down, the heart rate goes down as well. Blood pressure influences how our body relaxes. This is evidenced by the fact that blood pressure drops at night in the process known as night dip. Without night dip, it would be impossible to experience deep restorative sleep.

It is almost impossible to live without stress. Many chronic disorders are linked to stress and depression. The important thing of coping with stress is indulging in activities that promote general body wellness and body relaxation. Incorporating foods discussed in this article in your lifestyle, will impact your mental health positively.