Which foods can help induce calmness?

The word ‘calmness’ can be defined as ‘the state or quality of being free from agitation or strong emotion’. By that definition, calmness is generally something that we would all ideally aspire, but in the last year with all the challenges we have faced, inner calmness is getting harder and harder to achieve. In fact, for most of us right now, as the pandemic continues most people would agree that we are mostly experiencing anything but inner calm and experiencing more the direct opposite, which is being unsettled, stressed, troubled, restless, anxious and agitated. All these latter adjectives are not a state we want to be in and are certainly not good for either our physical or mental health.

Suffering and experiencing these types of negative feelings such as stress, agitation and restlessness, causes a variety of biological responses in the body. These include increasing blood pressure, raised blood sugar levels, raised stress hormone levels of cortisol and adrenaline as well as a faster heart rate, none of which have a positive effect on our health. However there are foods that can actually help promote calmness, so if you are currently seeking more calm and less chaos in your life, then try adding the following foods, botanicals and herbs to your daily menu.

Rhodiola rosea

This may not be something we can buy at the supermarket in its fresh form, but this perennial flowering plant has a long history of been used for its medicinal properties, in particular its use to help reduce stress and fatigue and improve low mood. Although it is native to the cold and mountainous regions of Europe and Asia, it is commonly found in many over the counter supplements aimed at improving those health areas mentioned above. There is good science backing to support this plants use in these health areas, especially as researchers have shown it to be what is called an adaptogen. An adaptogen is something that helps make you less susceptible to both physical and emotional stressors whatever their origin, for example they could originate from physical, biological or chemical means. Although more research is needed to understand exactly how this little plant elicits such a powerful health benefit, it has been shown in some research to stimulate neurotransmitters (chemical messengers within the body) such as dopamine and serotonin, which have a direct impact on our mood and physical and mental wellbeing.

Milk

Milk contains the amino acid called tryptophan that can help with relaxation, as it helps produce sleep-inducing brain chemicals called melatonin and serotonin. Goats’ milk actually contains more tryptophan than cows’ milk and is a fantastic source of calcium, which has also shown to promote feelings of calmness as well as being an excellent muscle relaxant. Delamere Dairy’s Goats’ milk should therefore definitely be on your calmness menu and consumed whenever you feel those stress levels rising. Foods high in tryptophan can be helpful to consume for dinner at the end of your day to help promote calmness in the evening time before bed. We know people suffering with heightened stress levels can also have problems sleeping and with studies showing that Tryptophan can help decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep as well as improving the mood in healthy people with sleep problems, having that glass of milk before bed may really help stress levels too. Other foods which are a good source of Tryptophan include Eggs, turkey, lentils and oats.

Glycine

Glycine (not to be mistaken for glycerine!!), is an amino acid that or bodies produce naturally. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and glycine plays a key role in the development of our skeleton, muscles and bodily tissues. However studies have also shown that glycine can have a positive impact on our emotional health by promoting feelings of calm and reducing anxiety and stress. The science suggests that glycine decreases the effect of the stress hormone and neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which is released in the body during times of stress, anxiety and agitation. Glycine therefore has a potential powerful place in nutritional medicine to help reduce stress and promote calmness, and with other studies showing glycine could also help in aiding sleep, I would say it’s a pretty good all-rounder when it comes to mental health and promoting calm.

Although our body produces Glycine, it is also present in high protein foods, such as meat, fish and dairy products. In fact glycine is one of the most abundant amino acids found in goats milk powder.

Mushrooms and Broccoli

These two foods are a great source of Vitamin B5, also known as Pantothenic acid. This B vitamin helps to support the action of the adrenal glands as well as contribute to the production of anti-stress hormones and therefore its presence in our diet is vital for managing our stress levels. Stress actually depletes the body of Vitamin B5, so it is important to replace what is lost by consuming foods that are high in this vitamin such as shitake mushrooms, salmon, avocadoes, broccoli sunflower seeds and sundried tomatoes all of which can be easily incorporated into snacks or meals.  Some studies also show that vitamin B5 can ‘down-regulate’ excess production of cortisol so can help control this stress hormone even at times of stress, which of course will help promote feelings of calmness.

Chamomile

This herb is one of the most well-known herbs especially for its calming effects and is also one of the most ancient herbs with its use in medicine dating back thousands of years.  It is the flowers of this herb that are used for eliciting health properties, one of which is its effect as a sedative or relaxing agent. This is why it is often recommended to drink chamomile tea before bedtime or at times of stress and anxiety. One recent study showed that long-term use of chamomile extract significantly reduced symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder. As a slight side line to calmness, if you suffer with skin symptoms or are one of the many people who have started suffering with bad skin on the face caused by mask wearing, then chamomile is also your friend. Several studies have shown that topical use of chamomile creams can have equal or superior effects to topical steroid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications that are often prescribed in eczema and dermatitis cases.  Chamomile has excellent soothing properties so give it a try on your skin if you are suffering.

By introducing some of the suggestions above into your diet, you can help make your own world a little calmer, even if the wider world remains a place of stress, chaos and uncertainty.

References:

  • The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms, 2015. Phytotherapy Research
  • Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review, 2018. International Journal of Psychiatry In Clinical Practice
  • New therapeutic strategy for amino acid medicine: glycine improves the quality of sleep, 2012. Journal of Pharmacological Science
  • Comparative Nutrient Profiling of Retail Goat and Cow Milk, 2019. Nutrients
  • Tryptophan hydroxylase-2: An emerging therapeutic target for stress disorders, 2013. Biochemical Pharmacology
  • The role of adenosine receptors in mood and anxiety disorders, 2019. Journal of Neurochemistry
  • Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future, 2010. Molecular Medicine Report