The Brain/Body Connection: Stress

How are your New Year health resolutions going?  Are you staying focused?  A healthy body requires a healthy brain.  Chronic stress can interfere with both.

Chronic stress constricts blood flow to the brain, which can lower brain function.  A Canadian study showed that stress hormones decreased activity in the brain that controls cognitive function and emotional balance.  This makes it harder to stay focused and make healthy decisions.

Stress increases cortisol levels.  One study showed that older adults with chronically high levels of cortisol performed worse on memory tests than those with low to moderate cortisol levels.

Chronic stress and high cortisol levels are linked to an increase in appetite and cravings for carbohydrates and sweets.

Stress can interfere with sleep, and a lack of sleep (less than seven hours per night) can trigger an increase in cortisol and interfere with hormones that control appetite.

Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, digestive disorders, and weaken the immune system.

Stress can make you feel tired and less inclined to exercise.  A lack of exercise can decrease blood flow to the brain.  On the flip side, too much exercise can promote physical stress.

Some ideas for managing chronic stress:

  1.  Prayer has been shown to calm stress and improve brain function.  Studies point out that prayer reduces depression and anxiety, improves focus, and protects the brain from cognitive decline due to aging.  Prayer seems to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex part of the brain, the area involved in planning, making decisions, and self-control.  “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”  Isaiah 26:3.  “Give all your worries to God, for He cares about you.”  1 Peter 5:7
  2. Uplifting music can calm the mind and body.
  3. Lavender has been researched and shown to reduce cortisol levels and promote relaxation.  Add it to a bath or diffuser.  I like to buy small glass bottles with roller tops to make lavender oil to rub onto wrists or temples to help calm stress.  It may even help to lower blood pressure.
  4. Laughter really is the best medicine!  “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”  Proverbs 17:22.  Laughter releases feel-good hormones and helps reduce dangerous stress hormones.
  5. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps increase serotonin and/or dopamine, which act as natural anti-depressants.  L-theanine can also be found in supplement form but should not be taken by pregnant women or nursing mothers.
  6. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.  Negative thoughts produce stress!  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8.
  7. Eat foods high in B-vitamins to help with mood and stress.  They also help metabolize fats, which are needed for brain health.  Whole grains, nuts, seeds, brown rice, and nutritional yeast are some good sources of B-vitamins.  A healthy balance of good intestinal bacteria helps the body make B-vitamins.

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.

 

 

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Have a cup of tea for your health!

After water, tea is the world’s most popular drink!  The following list of impressive information makes me want to have a cup of tea!

Tea contains flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that help protect the cells in our bodies against damage.  Laboratory research shows that these flavonoids are more potent than vitamins C and E!  Tea contains five times as many flavonoids as red onions!  One cup of brewed black tea contains about 268 milligrams of flavonoids, and a cup of brewed green tea has about 316 milligrams.  Decaffeinated tea contains only about half those amounts.

Tips:

After steeping three to five minutes, squeeze the tea bag to release more of the flavonoids.  Add fresh lemon juice for additional antioxidants.

Drink some tea before you exercise in the morning.  The flavonoids will enter your bloodstream within about 30 minutes and help protect you against free radicals produced during exercise.

Research:

Laboratory studies consistently show that tea inhibits the formation and growth of tumors.

People with the highest intake of flavonoids seem to have the lowest risk for developing dementia.

Tea consumption is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.  One study found that deaths from coronary artery disease were reduced by 40% among males who drank one or more cups of tea daily.  A Harvard study showed a 44% lower risk of heart attack in people who drank at least one cup of tea a day.

Tea may help increase your metabolism.

One study found that tea may reduce cavity formation by up to 75%, due to its natural fluoride content (not the toxic kind).  Tea also inhibits bacteria from adhering to tooth surfaces.

The Nurses’ Health Study found that the risk of developing kidney stones decreased by 8% for every cup of tea consumed.

Studies have found that habitual tea consumption improved bone mineral density.  This seems to be due to the phytoestrogenic activity of the flavonoids.

Tea has anti-allergenic properties.

Tips:

Drink tea earlier in the day to make sure that the caffeine doesn’t interfere with your sleep.

Green tea has less caffeine than black tea, and both have less caffeine than coffee.

If you are sensitive to caffeine, reduce the brewing time to only one minute, and do not squeeze the tea bag.

Buy organic teas so you won’t consume pesticides.

Instant tea has less health benefits than brewed tea.

Drink warm or iced tea soon after brewing, before its flavonoids begin to deteriorate.

Avoid drinking tea that is too hot, as there is some evidence that throat cancer may be linked to consuming extremely hot beverages and foods.

Avoid using refined sugars and artificial sweeteners to sweeten tea.  These contribute to inflammation and work against its health benefits.

When I worked at a health food store several years ago, I learned this recipe from a customer.  Many whom I’ve recommended it to have had good results.

Green Tea Sinus Remedy:

To make one cup:  Pour boiling water over one organic green tea bag (or 1 teaspoon of loose-leaf dried green tea) and 1 teaspoon of raw local honey; steep 3 to 5 minutes; squeeze tea bag with back of spoon to release more flavonoids; stir in a dash or two of cayenne pepper. Drink warm.

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Natural Health Consultant

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

www.learningtobehealthy.com

www.facebook.com/learningtobehealthy

www.pinterest.com/healthywithlisa

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need.. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.