Stress, we all have it. The fact is, life is stressful and it’s almost impossible to avoid certain stressful situations. Work deadlines, misplacing keys, financial woes, traffic jams, relationship problems, running late for an appointment… the list goes on and on. A little bit of stress can be helpful at times, such as in an emergency, causing a surge of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to be released triggering the “fight-or-flight” response. But long-term, or “chronic stress,” can have detrimental effects on health. Common symptoms of stress can include headache, muscle tension, pounding heart, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, sleep problems, changes in appetite, anxiety, irritability, and sadness. Even worse, long term stress actually can cause changes in the body’s chemistry and depletion of key nutrients that can lower our resistance to disease, making us more susceptible to colds and flus, and other types of illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure and depression.
Managing the stress in your life is essential to maintaining optimal health and preventing disease. The same principles that are essential to good health can also be helpful in managing stress. These include eating a well-balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol, and exercise and relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga.
In addition, there are also a variety of dietary supplements which may also prove helpful in both managing stress and its associated symptoms:
B vitamins: The B vitamins generally get depleted in stressful situations, and they are essential for keeping many of the biological processes in the body running smoothly. They also may support the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is also very sensitive to stress and easily gets depleted under stressful situations. Additionally, when your body is under stress free radical production increases and vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize these free radicals. In one study, large doses of vitamin C reduced physical and mental responses to stress.
Calcium/ Magnesium: When you are chronically stressed, you can become deficient in calcium and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium naturally calm the nervous system and the muscles; whereas, a deficiency can lead to tension and anxiety.
L-Theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea that may help to promote a calm, relaxed mood. Studies have shown l-theanine to have a direct influence on brain activity, such as reducing stress.
L-Tyrosine: L-tyrosine is an amino acid that is involved in the production of the neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine. Research suggests that tyrosine supplements may help support memory and performance under psychological stress.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng,Panax quinquefolius): Ginseng is known as an “adaptogen,” a substance that helps increase the body’s natural resistance to stress and supports the immune system. It may help the body to increase tolerance to various stressors (mental, physical, environmental) and is also is thought to have a calming effect.
Rhodiola: Rhodiola, sometimes called arctic root or golden root, is also considered an adaptogenic herb, and may help increase the body’s resistance to stressors (mental, physical and environmental). Rhodiola may also help to support the nervous system and immunity.
Ashwaghanda: Ashwaghanda may help the body to adapt to stress and is a common Ayurvedic remedy for stress.
Overall, although it is almost impossible to avoid stress, it is important to identify the stress in your life and take action before it begins to affect your health and well-being. There are many ways to deal with and manage stress, but it is important to find what works best for you!
(1) Fact Sheet: Health Disparities and Stress (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2015 from http://www.apa.org/topics/health-disparities/fact-sheet-stress.aspx
(2) Dallman, M. (2004). Cardiovascular consequences of chronic stress, National Institute of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, August 9.
(3) Segerstrom, S. C. and Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, 130, No. 4.