Feeling stressed? We’re all used to pinning it on our jobs, schedules or relationships. But would you have guessed that foods could be the culprits?
We talked to Dr. Mark Pitstick, BS, MA, DC, and author of Radiant Wellness (endorsed by Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and Bernie Siegel, among others). Through 40 years of practice, he’s discovered that certain foods cause his patients stress. The reason: these foods cause the body to work harder, and “that causes us to not handle generalized stress as well,” says Pitstick. “When body and mind are not in balance, that’s when people get stressed out about the little things.” Check out his list of five foods that cause stress:
1. Refined sugars. “Sugar is one of the number-one causes of inflammation,” says Pitstick. “That inflammation is an underlying stressor that can cause both physical and mental symptoms.” Why: sugars pressure the pancreas to spike insulin levels which are then followed by blood sugar crashes, making our moods ricochet. This can make minor annoyances feel like big ones. By minimizing sugars and choosing ones that contain some trace minerals and nutrients (such as coconut sugar, raw honey or maple syrup), we can tax the pancreas less…and make it easier to deal with stress all around.
2. Processed conventional wheat. “Working with tens of thousands of patients, I’ve found a lot of problems with wheat,” says Pitstick. Think: diarrhea, excess gas, abdominal bloating, joint swelling, depression, fatigue and brain fog—all of which make it hard to handle everyday stressors. If you’re gluten-intolerant, you’ll need to avoid wheat entirely, but Pitstick notes that many of his patients discovered it wasn’t gluten, but conventional wheat that caused problems. “Most of it is chemical-laced with pesticides and herbicides,” says Pitstick. “I recommend sprouted wheats such as Ezekiel.” (Sprouting makes these breads easier on the digestive tract.)
3. Unfermented soy. “Years ago, we heard that soy was healthy in Asia…so we supersized it,” says Pitstick, noting that in America, we eat much more soy than is typical abroad—and ours is overly processed. “Here. . .it’s cheap and sprayed with chemicals and GMO. It’s turned into a food that the human body isn’t designed to eat. So it’s moving into one of the number-one food allergies.” Is all soy bad? No, says Pitstick. “In Asia, they usually eat fermented forms such as miso, tempeh and natto. . .which are agreeable to most people. The fermentation process neutralizes the effect of soy’s phytic acid, which can otherwise prevent nutrient absorption.” And by choosing organic, you’ll steer clear of herbicides and pesticides.
4. Factory farmed eggs. “Eggs are a great source of protein. So what I recommend is farm-fresh, pasture-raised eggs, versus commercial eggs raised in chicken factories, fed antibiotics, and subjected to high levels of stress. How can animals raised in those conditions have healthy eggs?” Plus pasture-raised eggs are richer in nutrients, which can help combat elevated cortisol levels—that is, the stress hormone—and inflammation.
5. Factory farmed dairy. “With growth hormones, antibiotics, tiny stalls and horrible feed, how can the milk be good?” asks Pitstick. He recommends certified raw milk if it’s legal in your state. “Raw certified usually has much lower coliform counts than commercial milk; people drinking the commercial milk or commercial milk products tend to have excess mucus, headaches and GI upset, all of which keeps a person from being at their best and dealing with the stresses of life.” If you can’t get raw dairy, look for “pasture-raised” or “grass-fed” (organic can still come from grain-fed cows). “There are people who cannot have dairy at all,” notes Pitstick, “but there are people who react to these products who can tolerate raw or pasture-raised dairy.”
That might just lift your moo-d.
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