Guest post by Jessica Curl, Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist / Strength Coach, Project Better

Question: is what you’re putting in your body causing you pain? No, I do not mean acute physical pain, although that can totally happen – you go out for some questionable sushi and within hours may be clenching at your stomach which is in knots!

The pain I’m talking about is from chronically choosing foods lacking nutrients or in other terms you eating a lot of processed and packaged food. You may be completely unaware of how food can really fuel or deplete your body so let me start with a simple analogy; if you put unleaded petrol into a giant truck that runs on diesel that truck is not going to run very well or even at all.

Similarly with your body what you put into it is going to impact how well it runs. If you think about food and drink it’s something we all do, every single day, generally multiple times a day so if you’re putting something into your body 10x a day and those things are highly processed, full of crap and high in excess sugar and you do that every day that begins to add up!

More specifically foods that can be damaging to our systems are things like gluten, wheat, dairy, coffee, sugar, soda or anything highly processed. These foods tend to cause an inflammatory reaction in our bodies which causes us to have to work quite hard to process them out.

It’s quite ok, if you have the occasional chocolate brownie, that’s something your body can overcome and rid of quickly if it’s functioning at a high level, its when the inflammatory process is repeated more and more often that starts to produce wear and tear on the body.

In order to fire up these inflammatory compounds, the body needs to initiate a response with certain stress hormones, such as cortisol. Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone, we need it and would literally die without it. Its main role is to get ramped up when we are in times of danger, ie getting chased by a lion.

Today, in the modern world we don’t have that issue so much but we do have things like traffic jams, mortgages, relationship stress, etc, etc which still fires up this cortisol system the same as a lion in the savanna would to us. Obviously, there are things out of our control but food (and drink) are something we have complete power over and can be our greatest asset or biggest detriment in terms of health. Getting back to eating inflammatory foods, this creates a cortisol increase or stress response in the body.

In order for the body to fire this up it takes nutrients, vitamins and minerals to produce this biochemical response which comes at a cost to you and your body. You only have so much built up stores of good nutrients and if you are constantly depleting them and not topping them up your body begins to break down. This is where things like niggles, soreness, pain and disease come in.

Your body is focusing SO hard on producing cortisol and getting you “out of danger” it will do it at any cost even if that means you are inching towards disease. One of the big nutrients I want to specifically talk about is magnesium. Magnesium is an amazing nutrient, it aids in over 500 different chemical reactions in the body, it helps with everything from nerve function to muscle building to heart health and blood sugar management.

The main reason I love it and think it’s so important is it’s role with stress management. Magnesium helps to downregulate cortisol, so for those of us living that high paced lifestyle, it’s a must! You can supplement magnesium but I always tend to opt for natural food sources as well.

Some of the best foods to increase your magnesium are things like dark chocolate, almonds, cashews, spinach and quinoa! Magnesium isn’t the only nutrient that will keep you pain-free but as long as you avoid processed foods as best you can, eat seasonal and colourful foods and drink plenty of clean water you’ll be on your way to keeping your body topped up with good nutrients and keep you pain free.