The body’s stress response is genius. When stress happens, the body shuts down all extra “programs” in favor of the “get out of dodge ASAP” one to give us the best chance at survival. Well, like every other genius, our bodies are a little quirky too. You see our bodies don’t really distinguish between good and bad stress, nor does it prioritize what “programs” get shut down – they all do. As such, stress although designed to save us can often be the very thing that’s taking us down – healthwise.
When the body senses stress, one of the key systems to get shut down is digestion. While that could sound promising – if digestion stops then I won’t be hungry so I will lose weight thanks to stress? It’s actually the opposite. The impact of stress on your digestion can be the worst thing for weight loss and overall health. When digestion stops it means that food you’ve eaten stops being broken down (for use) and waste stops being eliminated. This disruption yields gas, bloating, constipation and means that the body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs for energy and other functions and it’s not getting rid of the stuff it’s deemed not useful or even bad for you. And even worse, when stress happens the body goes into (fat) storage mode.
So what’s the answer? Stop stress? Well, yes, reducing stress would be desirable, but as noted above, the body responds to all stress – good and bad – so we don’t want to get rid of the good and some of the “bad” may actually be stress that motivates us to accomplish certain goals. So stress elimination is not the answer. But increasing your magnesium intake is.
Magnesium is Mother Nature’s anti-stress nutrient. This mineral goes inside the body’s cells and helps to downgrade the stress response. What this means is that muscles relax – including your digestive tract muscles – enabling them to continue their work. So whether stress produces headaches, cramps, constipation, muscle aches or all of the above, magnesium will help to address them.
The good news is that many foods are rich sources of magnesium. You will likely be thrilled to learn that cacao, the original ingredient in chocolate, is one of the richest sources of magnesium so a cup of quality hot cocoa may just be your stress antidote. Whole grains are great sources of magnesium too so choosing to eat the actual grain versus a refined flour product can be another great way to reduce your stress. Many foods today that should be good sources of magnesium are less good sources due to food processing and poor quality soil, so magnesium supplementation may make sense (AKA recommendation: Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm).