Stress is known as the leading cause of doctor's visits and is associated with many physical imbalances and diseases (1).
It can feel like stress is inescapable as the long list of to do's, responsibilities, and never ending messages that we are bombarded with continue to expand.
The fast paced world that we now live in can feel overwhelming at times and activate the stress response over and over again.
This in turn can have a significant impact on our physical and mental wellbeing, behaviors, and overall health.
Our bodies were designed to handle acute stressors however when we are continually activating this stress state, then problems can arise.
The effects of chronic stress on the mind and body are far reaching and can show up as digestive issues, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, poor immune function, menstrual issues, infertility, high blood pressure, and skin troubles while increasing the risk of chronic disease (2).
Though our society is experiencing greater levels of daily stress than ever before, we don't have to remain a victim to the stressors in our lives.
Most stress is perceived stress, which describes the meaning that we attach to our external stimuli. The problem is that the body cannot tell the difference between a real external threat or an internal stressor and will increase cortisol and activate the fight or flight response regardless. This can be taxing over time to the body and drain its resources.
As it's not realistic to completely eliminate all stressors from our lives, it's up to us to take control of what we can and support our bodies in the best way possible so they can become more resilient in the face of the inevitable stressors that arise as part of the human experience.
A self care practice is essential part of managing stress and supporting mental and physical wellbeing while reducing the toll that it can take on our bodies.
What's more, when the body is under increased mental and physical stress it requires more nutritional support to keep up its efforts at responding to the greater demand placed on the body.
It's important that we each take care of ourselves with good nutrition, rest, movement, and self care on a daily basis to ensure our bodies are well taken care of no matter what is happening in the world. There are also supplements that we can take to provide that added support when the body needs it. Today we will be sharing some of our favourite natural supplements that can help to provide mental and physical relief from high stress, support resiliency, and decrease stress levels.
Our top 4 natural supplements to combat stress
A adaptogenic herb rising in popularity, ashwagandha is often referred to for its ability to reduce the effects of stress. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine.
As an adaptogen, ashwagandha helps the body better cope with stressors while regulating the stress response.
Research shows that ashwagandha possesses stress and anxiety relieving effects (3)(4). As an adrenal tonic, this herb supports the adrenal glands which are responsible for producing stress hormones and responding to physical and mental stress.
In an 8 week study, it was observed that the participants who had received the ashwagandha supplementation experienced significant improvements in sleep quality as well as reduced cortisol levels compared to placebo (5).
Ashwagandha can also help to improve energy and strength, which can both be negatively impacted by the effects of chronic stress.
Ashwagandha is available in liquid, capsule, or powder form depending on your preference.
Keep in mind that with adaptogens such as ashwagandha, it usually can take some time to reap the full benefits as the effects are not often immediate. It may take a few days to weeks before you really start to notice its effects, so don't feel discouraged if you don't see results right away!
Also referred to as the "anti-stress" mineral, magnesium is a must have in any supplement cabinet!
Magnesium can help to reduce stress and ease symptoms of anxiety via various mechanisms such as increasing GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can help you to relax), restricting the release of stress hormones, decreasing inflammation, and supporting balanced blood sugar levels (6)(7)(8).
Increased stress is known to deplete magnesium thus the need for this mineral rises as stressful conditions persist (9).
What's more, low magnesium has also been associated with disrupted sleep patterns, which only adds more stress to the body (10).
It can be tricky to obtain enough magnesium from your diet alone, especially if you are experiencing high stress, thus supplementation can help to boost levels and correct a deficiency.
Magnesium glycinate is the most commonly recommended form of magnesium to treat anxiety and ease stress. This is because the mineral magnesium is attached to glycine, a calming amino acid that can help to improve sleep and reduce symptoms of anxiety (11).
A B complex formula contains a blend of the eight B vitamins in one supplement. These vitamins play a variety of important roles in the body, including supporting cognitive function, mood regulation, and other processes that affect the stress response.
B vitamins may help to relieve stress, increase cognitive performance, and improve mental wellbeing.
The B vitamins, and more particularly vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folate, also play a role in the production of brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, that affect our mood.
In addition, vitamin B5 is often called the "anti-stress vitamin" as it is required for the production of stress hormones and supports the proper functioning of the adrenal glands.
Research has shown that those supplementing with B vitamins experienced improve symptoms of anxiety and depression (12).
As most B vitamins are not stored in the body, except vitamin B12, we do require a steady and regular supply of them to maintain optimal health.
Another stress busting vitamin, vitamin C can help to reduce both physical and psychological effects of stress on people.
Research has linked vitamin C deficiency to adverse mood and cognitive effects such as depression and cognitive impairment (13).
Vitamin C is considered as a natural treatment option for low mood and anxiety that displays low toxicity and high tolerance among individuals (14)(15).
Individuals with higher levels of vitamin C have been shown to bounce back more quickly from stressful life events than those with low levels of vitamin C who may exhibit greater levels of stress hormones and its negative effects.
All the more reason to add vitamin C to your health regimen!
The adrenal glands contain high concentrations of vitamin C and rely on it in order to produce the hormones required to respond to stress (16).
Increased cortisol levels can deplete vitamin C, which means when you experience higher levels of stress you also experience lower levels of vitamin C.
Since humans cannot make their own vitamin C we do need to get sufficient amounts from our daily diet or supplementation.
A vitamin C supplement can help to boost your vitamin C levels which are quickly depleted under stressful conditions.
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