Sunday, February 11, 2018

6 Nutrients That Counteract the Negative Effects of Stress

Family, work, traffic, politics, sports, holidays, your to-do list, etc. - just about everything can and will stress you out (if you let it).

People who are stressed out, sick or just plain exhausted (physically and/or mentally) are more likely to be drinking too much coffee, soda, energy drinks or alcohol.  Their diet can be affected too, such as skipping meals (even forgetting to eat) or overeating “comfort” foods.  Lack of sleep, or poor sleep, is way up there at the top, too.

But these common reactions to stress only tend to make things worse by setting you up for nutritional deficiencies that can further affect your mental and physical well-being.  It can become a snowball effect.

Stress hormones sap the body of important nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin C and the mineral magnesium. They also increase blood pressure and heart rate, make your blood clot easier, destabilize blood sugar levels and can cause body-wide inflammation, setting the stage for chronic disease.  A healthy diet is important to warding off the negative effects of stress.  But if your normally-healthy eating habits are hitting the skids, nutritional supplements are important because they can help protect you by providing essential nutrients.

Here is a rundown of a of the six nutrients that I think can help buoy your health status when stress, illness or fatigue get you down.

1. Vitamin C Tames Cortisol Levels

This antioxidant reduces the secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone that impairs learning and memory, makes people depressed and suppresses immunity.  Research shows that people who get extra vitamin C don't show the expected mental and physical signs of stress when subjected to a stress challenge. People who got 1,000 mg of vitamin C had lower levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure than those who didn't get it.  They also said they felt less stressed.

1,000 mg a day of vitamin C in two or three divided doses works well.  If stress makes you get sick (such as GI tract problems), take vitamin C along with these other nutrients: vitamin D, zinc, quercetin and green tea extract.

2. CoQ10 Fights Fatigue

If muscle weakness and fatigue are part of the picture - and especially if you have a weak heart or take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, start taking CoQ10.  CoQ10 boosts energy efficiency in muscle cells’ tiny power plants, called mitochondria.  It improves exercise performance and reduces muscle soreness and feelings of fatigue.

100-400 mg a day of CoQ10 is good.

3. B Vitamins Banish Stress

B deficiency can cause symptoms of depression, anxiety, irritability, tiredness, loss of appetite, weight loss and mental confusion.  It's very similar to your blood sugar being off, so you can see how their depletion can compound stress.  Alcohol abuse especially depletes B vitamins.  Supplementing your diet with B vitamins can have a direct effect on important neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine and GABA.  Two of the Bs, pantothenic acid and folic acid, also play a role in normal adrenal gland function.

The cadillac is a balanced formula with all eight Bs: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folic acid, B12, biotin and pantothenic acid.  That formula costs more and can only be found at vitamin shops, but it's worth it.

4. Magnesium Induces Relaxation

Some consider this essential mineral the most important nutrient when it comes to stress.  Stress depletes magnesium, and magnesium depletion magnifies your stress response.  It becomes a vicious cycle.  (Magnesium-deficient laboratory animals literally “jump” in their cages in response to loud noise!)  Taking magnesium as a nutritional supplement breaks this horrible cycle by raising blood magnesium levels and buffering the response to stress.

Muscle tension, spasm and twitching are the most characteristic symptoms of magnesium deficiency - followed by palpitation and breathlessness.  Irritability, fatigue, trouble falling asleep and hypersensitivity to loud noises are also common.  Get at least 350 mg a day of magnesium, and up to 400 mg a day if you have symptoms of deficiency.

5. Sleep Hormone Helps Recover From Stress

Too much cortisol lowers blood levels of melatonin, a light-sensitive hormone that regulates wake and sleep cycles.  Taking extra melatonin can reduce the excess production of cortisol.  It also helps you sleep better, and that in itself will also lower stress hormone levels.  Melatonin has also been used for withdrawal from Xanax or nicotine.

If stress, pain, anxiety or withdrawal symptoms are interfering with your sleep, try taking melatonin about a half hour before bedtime.  You may need to take it for two weeks or more before you see an effect, though.  The effect should be deeper, longer and more restful sleep.

6. Fish Oil Regulates Stress Hormones

A study showed that after taking fish oil (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids) for three weeks, people’s response to stress was blunted.  They had lower levels of adrenaline and cortisol than before, translating into less anxiety.  The DHA in fish oil helps to regulate serotonin, an important neurotransmitter also targeted by most antidepressants.  Research shows that fish oil can play a role in regulating mood and may help antidepressants work better.  In one interesting study, Japanese researchers found that people were less likely to express stress-induced aggression when they took 1.5 to 1.8 g daily of DHA for three months.

Taking 1,400-2,800 mg a day of fish oil during stressful times is a great idea.

The bottom line
is that research has shown time and again that stress is hazardous your health and can significantly diminish your longevity.  Make sure that you are getting the nutrients you need to keep stress hormones levels under control and to support your body during stressful times.  You'll be a lot happier and you'll live longer!

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