I worked as a writer in the health and wellness field for more than ten years. So I know a thing or two about this stuff. (And stress!) But I also know from personal experience that epilepsy is a very unique condition. Between all the different types of seizures, and triggers, and meds…there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
The same goes for de-stressing your diet. What works for one might not work for another. And it certainly doesn’t take the place of meds. However, I do believe that although living a healthy lifestyle won’t cure you…it can certainly help you.
So, here’s some information for sensible stress-busting eating…
Obviously, you should get most of your vitamins from food by eating a balanced diet. But one of the most important vitamins for you to include in your diet is Folic Acid (Folate) which can help deal with vitamin loss caused by medication and also calm your mood.
However, the all-star vitamin is Vitamin B6. This vitamin is involved in critical functions of the nervous system. And it boosts the metabolism of various neurotransmitters which are needed for normal brain function. The good news is that it’s easy to get it in all kinds of different foods…fresh juicy fruits like apples, oranges, grapefruits, grapes, (especially grape juice), pineapples, peaches, pears and lemons…green leafy vegetables, carrots, peanuts, rice, milk, cereals, seeds, nuts and grain.
Now for the stress fighting superstars…
Although many people think of beef as a no-no, it contains high levels of Zinc, Iron, and B Vitamins, which are known to help stabilize your mood. Plus Vitamin E, which when deficient from your diet, can actually encourage seizures. (Choose lean cuts like tenderloin and top sirloin to ease up on saturated fat.)
Turkey is high in Selenium — a calming hormone. And you don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to dig into a good turkey sandwich or make some turkey burgers on the grill. (Try some guacamole and salsa on them!)
Oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, which boost happy brain chemicals like serotonin and regulate stress hormones like cortisol. Most types of fish are also loaded with B6 and B12. (A Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to depression. And Vitamin B12 levels may be reduced by some anticonvulsant drugs!) For lunch, try a tuna salad sandwich (with light mayo). And grilled salmon or mackerel with a side of leafy greens, is perfect for dinner.
Rich in Vitamin B12, clams are terrific on their own. (Did somebody say “Clam Bake?”) Or in soups, spaghetti sauces, and as appetizers when entertaining.
Rich in antioxidants, blueberries offer a high-fiber, low-calorie fruit option that is also high in stress-fighting Vitamin C. Make a berry salad or for a quick snack or just take a handful of blueberries and enjoy.
Loaded with Vitamin C which cuts down on cortisol, the stress hormone in your body. Kiwis, lemons and any other citrus fruits are also contenders. But watch it with the grapefruit, it may not be compatible with your meds.
The Vitamin B6 in bananas is a heavy hitter when it comes to regulating stress. And what could be easier to grab when you’re on the go?
Yum. Papaya contributes more Vitamins A and C, and Folic Acid to your diet. Add it to some berry salad to super-charge your stress control.
Chock full of Calcium and Magnesium, these super vegetables can have relaxing, calming effects on the body. Have a big salad with dinner and you’ll likely sleep better that night!
The Magnesium in spinach helps prevent your blood pressure from sky-rocketing. It’s wonderful sautéed (with a little garlic), in salads, sandwiches and omelets.
Arugula is a good source of Folic Acid and great in salads, soups, or on pizzas and sandwiches.
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers also contribute good amounts of Vitamins A and C and Folic Acid. Try them roasted as a side dish (my favorite), on salads, in sandwiches, soups, and in casseroles.
High in Folic Acid and B Vitamins which help make serotonin, a chemical that directly affects mood in a positive way. Roasted, grilled, steamed or as a soup, it’s a happy winner.
Full of stress-relieving B Vitamins and Folic Acid which help relieve stress, anxiety, panic, and even depression. Try broccoli as a side dish or a stir-fry with a few other vegetables and some beef or shrimp. (And throw some asparagus in.)
My favorite food in the world lowers blood pressure with its high contents of Potassium and healthy fat (monounsaturated). It’s also low in calories and the perfect excuse to eat (or make) guacamole. Great sliced up in salads, too.
Basil calms your nerves by helping your body resist stress and by increasing physical endurance. Use it in any tomato or seafood dish, or on chicken, turkey, in salads, sandwiches or wraps.
Include more lentils — in soups and salads — as a rich source of Folic Acid. And if you have a Trader Joe’s near you, they have lentils vacuum packed and ready to go.
Chickpeas are also a good source of Folic Acid on salads or in hummus, with baby carrots, bell peppers, cucumber spears, or on whole wheat crackers.
Rich in Selenium (which has been found to significantly reduce seizures) this super snack includes Vitamin E and Folic Acid, too. Grab them on the go or toss some in a salad for a rich stress fighting solution. What could be easier? (Just be sure to use dry-roasted seeds without salt, because the added sodium defeats the purpose.)
Try crunching on almonds to get some aggression out. A good source of Vitamin B2 and E, as well as Magnesium and Zinc, almonds are high in fat, but most of the fat is unsaturated. Like Vitamin C, Vitamin E has been shown to fight the free radicals associated with stress and heart disease.
Other varieties of nuts, such as peanuts, pistachios and pecans have been shown to reduce blood pressure, boost energy and lower stress hormones, too.
Phylis Feiner Johnson www.epilepsytalk.com