The typical reaction to stress, known as “fight or flight” is a built-in response that has ensured our survival for centuries. When faced with danger, humans experience a complex chain of biological changes that instantly put us on “alert.” But when this stress response happens too frequently, your body never has the time it needs to rebuild its defenses. As a result, stress not only makes you crazy, it can make you sick. In fact, it’s estimated that 80 percent of all visits to the doctor are for stress-induced illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal, skin and neurological disorders, and immune system disorders. Fortunately, eating right, learning to relax, and taking targeted supplements can help us keep this day-to-day stress under control.
When things get stressful, a healthy diet is often the first casualty. Yet this is the time when you need nutritional support the most. Instead of relying on the drive-through or grabbing whatever is handy, make it a priority to eat a whole foods diet that is loaded with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for a strong immune system. Round out your meals with high quality lean protein and healthy fats to support your adrenal glands and tamp down inflammation.
Stress is not just an outside factor. It is also our reaction to the events around us. Working with a therapist can help you understand and change how you process things going on around you. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique, and hypnotherapy are some ways to change your reaction to the world around you.
Learning to meditate may be one of the most effective strategies to reduce the health effects of chronic stress. One reason for this, say researchers at Reina Sofia Hospital in Cordoba, Spain, is that regular meditation has a significant impact on the sympathetic nervous system. In their study, 19 meditators were compared with 16 volunteers who had never used any type of relaxation therapy. Throughout the study, the researchers measured the amounts of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the participant’s blood and found that those practicing meditation had consistently lower plasma levels of these stress hormones. If meditation isn’t your cup of tea, try yoga or massage. Even exercising on a regular basis can help control stress; Experiment to see what works best for you.
Ashwaganda: is an immune-boosting adaptogen that also helps the body cope with stress. A recent randomized trial of 81 Canadians suffering from anxiety found that those taking ashwaganda over a 12 week period had less anxiety than those who didn’t take the herb. What’s more, they reported better concentration, mood, and vitality while experiencing less fatigue. Typical dosage: 500 mg several times a week. Just don’t take it at bedtime since it can have a stimulatory effect on some people.
L-theanine: which is found in green and black tea, helps promote a relaxed state without drowsiness. It’s also been found to enhance cognition and mood. Studies suggest that L-theanine works by increasing two neurotransmitters, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine, in the brain. GABA is also available as a stand-alone supplement. Typical L-theanine dosage: 200 mg daily.
Magnesium: supports our adrenals, which can be overworked by stress. A magnesium deficiency in the body is significant because of the many vitally important enzyme systems that require magnesium, some of which are responsible for energy production and storage in the body. A strain on the adrenal glands puts a strain on the magnesium dependent energy system of the body. Thus, a low magnesium level during stressful times can cause energy depletion that leads to listlessness and fatigue, weakening your ability to manage stress. Typical dosage: 400 mg daily.
Rhodiola: is a well-known adaptogenic herb for times of stress. Russian research indicates that rhodiola reduces stress and fatigue, improves memory, enhances concentration and physical fitness, and increases overall well-being. Better yet, rhodiola stimulates the immune system, enabling the body’s own defenses to ward off the effects of stress. Typical dosage: 327 mg daily, standardized to 0.8 percent rosavin.