By Laurel Sterling Prisco, MA, RD, CN
I have read that stress-related issues account for 90% of doctor’s visits per year. Oh my! Now…is anyone TRULY stress-free?? I highly doubt it, but how we choose to manage it plays a huge part. Some people release it in healthy and constructive ways and others do not. Some individuals may internalize their stress, and in these individuals it will eventually manifest in one way or another in their body. For instance, have you ever noticed when you’re stressed out and you suddenly feel an ache (headache, backache, stomach ache, etc.) somewhere in your body?
Stress is not only emotional, but also, it has many physical and chemical effects.
How does the cascade happen?? Well, in the brain, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland, which then increases its production of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The ACTH signals the adrenals to release the stress hormone cortisol and cortisone; these tend to inhibit white blood cells and suppress the immune system. This entire process initiates a pro- inflammatory cascade of events. This response triggers the body to excrete amino acids, and many minerals/electrolytes. The body ends up becoming deficient in many nutrients and it cannot replace them quick enough!
How do you prevent this cascade from causing such brutal effects?
- First of all, a high-quality, well-absorbed multi-vitamin should be the basis of your supplemental regime.
- B-vitamins are crucial in these higher times of stress. They replete the adrenals which use them up at a fast rate. All B vitamins are necessary in the proper functioning of the nervous system. A well-absorbed B-complex like Nature-Tyme’s B-Healthy would be a great recommendation. Take one in the mid –afternoon with a meal.
- Magnesium regulates more than 325 enzymes in the body. This mineral is actively involved in enzymes’ energy production, helps synthesize protein, aids in the transmission of nerve signals, and helps relax muscles. It helps to keep adrenal stress hormones under control. Our soil is severely depleted in this mineral, and thus our foods are as well. That is unless the food is organic (Rutgers University study). Start with 300 mg of a citrate or glycinate form at bedtime, and then gradually add 300 mg more in at another point in the day as bowels tolerate.
- Vitamin C with bioflavonoids is essential to the adrenal gland functioning. Try anywhere from 2-4 g/day in divided doses. Too much of this can cause the bowls to loosen similar to the magnesium; therefore, start with 1 g and then work your way up.
- Try adaptogenic herbs, which help the body to adapt to various stresses. Ashwaganda assists the adrenals in normalizing stress levels and acts as a sedative and nerve tonic. Holy Basil helps lower cortisol levels and regulates blood sugar. Rhodiola rosea supports the functioning of the adrenal glands and also helps normalize cortisol levels and other stress-related hormones.
- Relora is a blend of Phellodendron and Magnolia extracts. Researchers discovered a synergistic anti-anxiety effect, as well as, improvement in sleep, and a decrease in sweet cravings.
- L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that exerts a relaxing, yet non-drowsy effect.
- PS phosphatidylserine is a natural phospholipid that is an essential component of our cell membranes. It protects against stress and decreases cortisol levels.
There are combination formulas as well like: Stress Assist by Futurebiotics, Adrenal Health by Gaia Herbs, MegaFood’s Adrenal Strength, and others. These formulas coordinate many of these elements into a single formula making the effort to relieve stress a bit easier.