Stressful times can make fear and anxiety more likely as our body’s instincts expect to either run from danger or to freeze in position, possibly in the hopes of not being noticed by a predator.
Who’s more at risk to experience negative stress?
Who is more at risk to experience a challenge with a negative fight, flight, or freeze stress response? (G.10) Instead of having their body or mind perceive a stressor as a positive challenge and an exciting reason to get up each morning ready to say “Carpe diem”?
Who is more at risk to experience stress as a negative stress response instead of seeing it as a positive challenge and reason to get up and get busy?
- Answer: many groups are more at risk for having their bodies respond to an event with more of a negative stress response than the average person.
People more vulnerable to the negative health effects of stress include:
- older adults;
- mothers and especially working mothers;
- less educated individuals;
- divorced or widowed individuals;
- people with financial concerns or lack of health insurance;
- isolated or lonely people;
- people who are targets of racial or sexual discrimination;
- people who live in cities,
- and people with a history of childhood trauma can be more risk to feeling stress.
- Summarized from “Stress“: (G3.5), University of Maryland Medical Center.
Antioxidant foods can help protect against negative effects from stress.
Eating antioxidant rich foods can help protect the body from negative effects that can occur due the waste chemicals produced during normal metabolism and increased during situations that cause more oxidative stress from either emotional or physical reasons. Angry and tense due to having to hold in your temper at work, or angry and tense because the traffic was so physically dangerous to navigate simply to get to work in the first place; – both can increase the amount of oxidative stress occurring throughout the body.
The stress response produces chemicals which can cause other inflammatory reactions throughout the body. Having extra antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables and assuring adequate omega 3 fatty acids was shown to help reduce inflammation in autoimmune Celiac sprue. (G3.6)
Dark chocolate has also been shown to be beneficial antioxidant source. Forty grams (1.3 ounces approximately) per day of chocolate was found beneficial with a college student population. (G3.7) That is quite a bit of chocolate for someone with limited room for the empty calories from sugar. Sesame seeds would provide antioxidants with no added sugar.
Eating sesame seeds as part of the daily diet has been shown in sports research to help reduce oxidative stress. The trial subjects ate 2 tablespoons per day of the seeds. See: Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. (G3.8)
Using tahini in the diet regularly would have similar health benefits. Raw oil or seed butter products may have the most antioxidant content. Look for the phrase “unroasted” on a seed or nut butter product or “cold pressed” on the label of an oil or coconut oil product. Tahini is a sesame paste similar to peanut butter except it has different flavor. The flavor is stronger and to my taste does not go well with sweet jams or jellies like peanut butter or sunflower seed butter. I have found daily use of tahini to be more beneficial to my health then sunflower butter as a substitute for peanut butter – which I have to avoid. I have many dietary restrictions because I feel better without the foods, due to intestinal sensitivities and the autoimmune inflammatory reactions that can occur when I have even very small amounts of some things.
My easy answer to fueling my body so I can get back to what I like doing – reading and writing – is simply tahini spread on rice cakes. I’m used to it now and eat it plain but when I first started eating it I would drizzle a small amount of blackstrap molasses on as a sweetener with a stronger flavor and a good supply of iron and trace nutrients. Or more often I would sprinkle ginger powder on for a zingy accent that provides pain killing anti-inflammatory chemicals. Later in this section on oxidative stress TRP channels will be discussed and their unfortunate sensitivity to many common foods – including ginger. Sadly for my diet and inflammatory condition, I no longer can use ginger due to the intestinal overactivity of TRP channels – presumably, more on that in a later section – however it may take a while, note the abrupt change in the next footnote number, there is some stuff in between the beginning and the end of the footnote list:
Chocolate and antioxidant foods and herbs found helpful for stress are discussed in more detail with references on a UCLA webpage providing information about integrating Eastern medical philosophies and treatments with Western medical methods. (G3.112)
To provide sustenance for the journey and a way to add chocolate to your diet for anyone who can’t think of any, see my antioxidant rich recipe for chocolate chip cookies. See the third version on this page of recipes and information about gluten free food sensitivity and autoimmune sensitivity for an egg free, butter free, gluten free cookie recipe. It is still a treat with calories and fat, but with fewer ingredients that contain inflammatory chemicals and more ingredients that are very good sources of antioxidants or healthy types of fats: G8.Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Regarding TRP channels – cinnamon is a spice that can activate a type of the membrane gates to allow nerve signals or other actions to occur. The spice has been to help reduce blood glucose levels for patients with diabetes. About one quarter to one half teaspoon per day was found helpful. (G3.124) A half teaspoon of cinnamon powder is a large amount. Some people enjoy it stirred into a bowl of hot cereal in the morning. It could also be added in smaller amounts to a few cups of hot tea throughout the day, or an evening cup of hot cocoa. Cinnamon is a spice that I avoid due to migraines, it may be causative as a TRPA1 channel agonist. More is included in later sections on TRP channels and the foods that may cause problems for some people such as those with a tendency towards migraines or Irritable Bowel Syndrome or concerns with chronic itch or skin problems such as psoriasis or eczema.
The science regarding cinnamon and blood glucose is complex, some of these terms and chemicals will be discussed in more detail later, this is an introduction to the topic of oxidative stress and TRP channels:
Cinnamaldehyde is a phytonutrient found in cinnamon. It activates ion channels (TRPA1) found in membranes of nerve cells in the tongue and throughout the body. Activating the TRPA1 ion channels causes a release of proteins called peptides from the nerve cells. The nerve cells carry pain sensations and also supply nerve signals to blood vessels. Blood vessel and cardiovascular functions can be beneficially affected by the peptides (including “calcitonin gene-related peptide, (CGRP), and Substance P, (SP)”) and activation of the TRPA1 channels within nerve cells of the gastrointestinal tract can also signal satiety centers in the brain (satiety is the sense of fullness, and hunger signals stop). Cinnamon use by patients with Type 2 diabetes has been found to help decrease blood glucose levels. Release of insulin promoting hormones (“glucose-dependent insulinotropic hormone (GIP) and GLP-1“) by the TRPA1 ion channels may be the reason for the decrease in insulin levels with the use of cinnamon. (page 1118, G3.113)
How much cinnamon, what type? Cinnamon that included another phytonutrient called linolool was found to be helpful to lower blood glucose levels in an animal-based study at doses of 12.5 or 25 mg/kg of body weight, and more was not better. Doses of 50 mg/kg no longer had the beneficial effect. (G3.124) For a human who weighs 150 pounds/68 kilograms, that might be a serving size of 850-1700 milligrams, which might be roughly ¼ to ½ teaspoon per day – and one teaspoon, 50 mg/kg, would not be more helpful. Many nutrients and other activities in life are good in moderation but may be not helpful or even harmful in larger amounts
See a healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
- Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)
- 5. Stress, University of Maryland Medical Center, http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/stress (G.5)
- 6. Ferretti G1, Bacchetti T, Masciangelo S, Saturni L., Celiac disease, inflammation and oxidative damage: a nutrigenetic approach. Nutrients. 2012 Apr;4(4):243-57, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, .https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22606367 (G.6)
- 7. Ahmed Al Sunni and Rabia Latif, Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study, Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2014 Oct; 8(4): 393–401., ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350893/ (G.7)
- 8. Barbosa CV, Silva AS, de Oliveira CV, et al., Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. Front Physiol. 2017 Mar 31;8:196. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28408889 (G.8)
- 10. Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, (New Harbinger Pub., Inc., 2015, Oakland, CA), harbinger.com, https://www.newharbinger.com/adult-children-emotionally-immature-parents (G.10)
- 112. Shannon Wongvibulsin, Eat Right, Drink Well, Stress Less: Stress-Reducing Foods, Herbal Supplements, and Teas, UCLA Center East-West Medicine, exploreim.UCLA.edu, 2014, http://exploreim.ucla.edu/nutrition/eat-right-drink-well-stress-less-stress-reducing-foods-herbal-supplements-and-teas/ (G.112)
- 113. Louis S. Premkumar, Transient Receptor Potential Channels as Targets for Phytochemicals., ACS Chem. Neurosci. 2014, 5, 1117−1130, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/cn500094a (page 1118, G.113)