Updated: Sep 27
Reduce Stress! Reduce Stress! We hear this advice over and over. It's excellent advice for anyone with Fibromyalgia, BUT achieving this can be more than a little challenging.
When we start looking at ways to reduce our stress levels, we often look at how much we're working and try to cut back if possible; we prioritize what's essential in our home life and daily responsibilities. We try to figure out how to add in self-care practices. These are all very important, but sometimes it's just the most straightforward choices we make every day that can be impacting our stress.
A common one is our diet, where some foods can increase stress, while others help reduce it. Our diet has a much more significant impact on our stress levels than we might expect, and our stress can also determine what our food choices end up being. We can correct this vicious cycle by starting with a focus on proper nutrition to fuel our bodies.
The first thing that can happen if we have an inadequate diet is that we have nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can affect not just our physical health but our emotional health as well. For example, did you know that folate can affect your mood and lead to more depression? Find folate in foods like eggs, asparagus, spinach, and avocado.
Some other nutrients we need to help balance our mood and fight stress naturally are:
Omega 3 fatty acids – Healthy fats are essential! Get fatty acids from healthy sources of fats like salmon, tuna, walnuts, and olive oil.
Vitamin D – It's not unusual to be low in vitamin D if you have Fibromyalgia; most likely, your doctor will test your levels and, if you are deficient, prescribe you a vitamin D supplement. You can also boost your vitamin D from the sun's UV rays through foods like fatty fish, eggs, dairy, and fortified cereal.
Fiber – According to research published in The Journal of Physiology, eating high-fiber foods may reduce the effects of stress on our gut and behavior. To eat more fiber, eating more fruit, avocados, and whole grains is usually a good place to start.
Calcium – While many people get calcium from dairy, you might not be someone who can eat a lot of dairy due to lactose intolerance. In this case, you can get it from foods like almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, asparagus, oranges, blackberries, and green leafy vegetables.
Iron – You also want to make sure you have enough iron. Iron can help with your mental health, as well as balancing your energy levels. Get iron from lean red meat, turkey, broccoli, dark chocolate, nuts, and seeds, like pumpkin seeds and almonds.
Protein – You get protein from many of these same foods, including lean meat, poultry, fish, dairy, cheese, eggs, and nuts.
Dealing with emotions with unhealthy food
Another link between stress and nutrition is that we can often try to "help" the stress and emotions with the wrong kinds of food, unhealthy food. Of course, emotional eating isn't detrimental when only an occasional occurrence, but ultimately we should try to find something healthy to deal with stressful situations.
However, if you deal with chronic stress and get into the habit of only using food to comfort yourself, it can become a problem. You might make it a habit to overeat, eat too many unhealthy foods, and even become malnourished because you aren't getting enough vitamins and minerals.
This is a vicious cycle that is very hard to stop. Once you start going to unhealthy habits to deal with your stress, you feel that temporarily it is helping, but it is hurting your mental health in the long term. The best thing you can do is stop this cycle now, start eating right and look for healthier ways to manage your stress.
Don't feel like you can never emotionally eat, and it's just best that you don't rely only on that. Instead, we need to find healthier habits, such as starting a self-care Sunday routine, using distraction techniques, like coloring, meditation, listening to an ebook, visiting with friends, playing with your cat, or going for a walk.
Read Next: 5 Ways to Overcome Fibro Fog.