Question: "Everyone tells me I need to eat but when I'm stressed out (which is often) I don't feel like eating. If I do eat, the food just sits there and I end up with a stomach ache. What should I do?"
Answer: When we are stressed or experiencing anxiety our body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode and this causes changes in the body – which includes a change in how our stomach and digestive system function. The stress response signals our stomach to stop breaking down food so it can focus on getting us out of what we perceive to be danger instead of focusing on other body processes.
That’s why when the body is under stress and/or anxiety, many people experience stomach pains, digestive problems, or a lack of appetite.
When we are stressed it is really important to make sure we are eating to get all of our nutrients (especially those that help us to combat stress and promote healthy brain function). Two really easy and effective techniques you can try are:
#1 Deep breathing before meals. Inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4. Repeat 4-5 times. This helps to bring our body back into a calm state and allows us to be in ‘rest and digest’ mode so not only will it help us to calm down but it will allow our body to turn back on the hunger signals and help us to better digest food and avoid the stomach pains, bloating or nausea you may be experiencing.
#2 Smoothies and soups. A smoothie or soup is a really easily digestible way to pack in a lot of nutrients that doesn’t require chewing or our body to have to work so hard to break down food -especially if you don’t have an appetite and a piece of chicken or heavy meal is looking really unappetizing. You can pack your smoothie with nourishing ingredients like antioxidant rich berries; avocados for delicious creaminess and brain boosting healthy fats, chia seeds or flax seeds for fiber and tons of vitamins & minerals, as well as protein powder for a protein boost and a handful of leafy greens. You can also try adding some super-food powders like a greens powder or Maca powder for a phytogreen and energy boost.
Same for soups, blend up as many vegetables as you can and add a healthy grain like quinoa or rice!
- Stephanie Di Grazia, R.H.N.