Stress Management Done Naturally: Food Is Medicine

These days, most of us are under a lot of stress. A lot. Whether our stress is driven by health issues, our job, finances, family issues, or concerns about politics—or all of the above—times can get tough. In 2018, avoiding stress is pretty much impossible unless you live in a cave, but there is a way out. A combination of eating the right foods, exercising, meditating, acupuncture, and massage can do wonders for creating optimal health.

In Chinese medicine, there are very clear guidelines about which foods to eat when we’re in need of emotional support. While many people cope with anxiety and stress by popping pills, drinking, emotionally eating or stuffing the stress down, this can come with detrimental side effects. And guess what? Ingesting pills rarely, if ever, fixes the problem, especially in the long-term.

So why not help ourselves naturally?

According to the Chinese, it’s important to nourish your liver with the best nutrition possible, as the liver becomes taxed when we are under stress. Not only does the liver filter out toxins, it is also responsible for filtering out anger and stress. Each organ has an emotion that affects it, and if you don’t release or process what you’re feeling, imbalances begin to occur. So when we’re angry, resentful, frustrated, or stressed, this is all held in our liver. How does this manifest in every day life? Headaches, high blood pressure, hair loss, blurry vision, poor digestion, muscle spasms, red eyes, fatigue, and low libido are all symptoms of an imbalance in the liver caused by stress.

While Western nutrition focuses on nutrients and what they do in the body, Chinese nutrition views food energetically. Thousands of years ago, no one knew what iron, protein or B12 were, but the Chinese figured out the healing properties of every grain, vegetable, fruit, and seed. Now with the knowledge of vitamins and minerals and their role in mental health, we can see the overlap of how certain foods can help from a Western perspective, but have been recommended already for millennia. What we eat can calm us down, energize, detoxify, boost immunity, and/or be cooling or warming in nature.

Here are 10 foods which both strengthen the liver and reduce our stress levels.

1. Dark Leafy Greens

Dark greens are high in chlorophyll, which removes toxins from the liver and promotes formation of red blood cells. Chinese medicine says that healthy blood leads to a healthy mind.

Add greens like chard, kale, spinach, arugula, and watercress to salads, juice, and stir-frys.

2. Parsley

With its large amounts of chlorophyll, parsley supports liver function. It usually gets ignored when used as garnish, but don’t be afraid to dig in! To ingest it easily, add it to tabouli and juices.

4. Sea Vegetables

The high levels of copper in sea veggies regulate blood pressure. They also contain vitamin B2, which aids in the absorption of other B vitamins that are key to reducing stress. Sprinkle nori, kelp, wakame, dulse, or kombu on your steamed grains or add to a miso broth.

5. Root Vegetables

Root vegetables nourish yin, which calms the mind and relaxes you. From beets and radishes to yams and potatoes, there are myriad ways to incorporate root vegetables into your daily diet. Roasting is my method of choices, but I also juice carrots and beets and make a parsnip soup with lentils and leeks.

6. Black Beans

Black beans are high in tryptophan and magnesium. This mineral relaxes the nervous system and balances stress hormones. Once you’ve made a chili with black beans, you’ll forever be a convert. Also, sprouted black are a wonderful addition to any salad.

7. Black Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds contain a lot of B1, which supports your nervous system and brain function. Sprinkle these liver-enhancing seeds on steamed vegetables or salads.

8. Blackberries

High in iron to make strong blood, blackberries also lead to a healthy mind. Indulge in the summer’s bounty to your smoothies or mix in with coconut or almond yogurt.

9. Tofu

Yes, organic tofu is great for the liver. Soybeans reduce blood pressure and are high in tryptophan, which is a natural sedative. Add to vegetable curries or over quinoa, another stress-reducing food.

10. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Raw apple cider vinegar has dozens of health benefits, bid you know that it regulates blood pressure? Put some in your salad dressing or mix with water in a morning elixir.

In addition to adding these foods to your health regimen, be sure to drink ample water, get daily exercise, avoid sugar and caffeine, and, if it all possible, simplify your life. Your body will thank you.

Worried about stress making you eat? Click here to find out how to stop.

Who is the author?

Heather Lounsbury, L.Ac., one of Los Angeles’ best-known acupuncturists and author of Fix Your Mood With Food, is the powerhouse behind the Live Natural Live Well brand, embracing a popular blog, YouTube videos, and monthly radio show. She is passionate about spreading the message of holistic living, veganism, and empowering her patients to heal themselves.

Want to know how to be sure if you’re having a panic or anxiety attack? Click on the link to find out.