Stress is an everyday part of modern life. Although some types of stress can be beneficial, pushing us towards achieving and excelling in our goals, other types of stress can be negative. When you experience negative or toxic stress, the body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered, flooding the body with adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones. This prepares you to fight or flee the perceived danger.
The hormones released in response to stress boost your heart rate and blood pressure, increase your breathing rate, and send nutrients and oxygen throughout your body. In an emergency, this prepares your body to move faster, stay alert, and maintain a high level of energy until the threat passes.
Chronic stress, or stress that occurs over a long period, keeps your body in a state of heightened preparedness at all times. You might not need superhuman speed to pay the bills, juggle childcare and work responsibilities, or meet that deadline, but your body does not know that. It sends jolts of stress hormones out to meet the perceived threats to your well-being, but your body does not return to its calm, relaxed state. The stressful state with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and anxious feelings become your “new normal.” Whereas short bursts of high blood pressure can help you jump out of the way of a speeding car, long periods of high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of serious cardiovascular disease.
Chronic stress can take a heavy toll on your physical and emotional health, but these seven supplements can help you regain a sense of control.
How Stress Impacts Our Mental and Physical Health
Many people experience acute stress when confronted with a looming deadline or a traffic jam. This kind of stress is often temporary, but at the moment, you might still experience some unpleasant physical effects, such as trembling hands or a queasy stomach. As your hormones return to normal, so will your body as your symptoms should subside.
Chronic stress is different. When the body’s stress response is constantly activated, the body is flooded with stress hormones nearly all the time, which disrupts virtually every major bodily process and increases the risk of both minor ailments and serious health issues, including:
- Muscle tension and pain
- Digestive problems
- Anxiety and depression
- Sleep disruptions
- Poor focus and memory
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Heart attack and stroke
The symptoms associated with chronic stress are not merely physical. In the immediate aftermath of acute stress, you might struggle with difficulty concentrating or thinking, memory problems, and feelings of worry. Chronic stress can trigger more serious mental health issues, including:
- Low confidence
- Poor decision making
- Moodiness or irritability
- Poor sleep quality
- Agitation or an inability to relax
- Mental stress
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
Over time, your risk of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders can also increase, further affecting your physical health.
Sometimes people struggling with high levels of acute or chronic stress turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as excessive alcohol use or drugs. These can lead to further problems, including substance use disorders, and can affect other aspects of their life, causing more stress and triggering a potentially dangerous cycle.
Successfully addressing stress typically requires a multi-pronged approach, beginning with identifying your stressors. Finding out what is causing your stress and learning new ways to address those issues can be helpful, especially if you can eliminate non-essential tasks or responsibilities. Healthy sleep hygiene habits are also beneficial along with relaxation techniques designed to stimulate the “rest and digest” response and counteract the effects of the fight-or-flight response.
A healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet can also help you combat stress.
Can Supplements Help to Reduce Feelings of Stress?
A healthy diet plays a big role in combating many common health issues, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Antioxidants are a good example of using diet to transform health. These substances counteract oxidative damage, which is caused by environmental stress. Good sources of antioxidants include brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, pomegranates, squash, melons, dark leafy greens, broccoli, kiwi, blueberries, and citrus fruits.
The nutrients in the foods you eat can play a critical role in your health, but if you are stressed and overwhelmed by day-to-day responsibilities, you might not have much mental energy left to devote to a balanced diet. Even if your diet is rich in mood boosting foods, dietary supplements can help bridge the gap between what you need and what you are getting.
When it comes to physical and mental stress, bridging the gap could be the key to getting your feelings of anxiety under control. The constant “switched on” state associated with chronic stress depletes your body of vital nutrients. Those soaring stress hormones can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb specific nutrients.
Unfortunately for many, diet and lifestyle might still not be enough to manage the symptoms of stress. Supplements can be a great addition to your routine, nourishing your body, replenishing nutrients, and giving you new resilience against stress. Some supplements can even help you feel calmer, more relaxed, and even boost your mood!
Each supplement has its uses and benefits, so it’s important to understand your goals before deciding on the best supplement to manage your stress.
For the best results, talk to a healthcare professional before using any new supplement and be sure to provide them with information about any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are already taking.
The 7 Best Supplements for Reducing Stress
About half of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Your whole body uses magnesium, and it is vital for heart, brain, and bone health. Magnesium can also help you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm for better sleep quality. It might just be one of the best supplements for reducing stress and counteracting feelings of anxiety.
You can get more magnesium in your diet by eating more leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and fish. A supplement can help ensure you meet your recommended daily intake and can be a good idea for those who are struggling with stress. Several forms of magnesium are available, but magnesium glycinate is generally considered more easily absorbed by the body.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another one of the top supplements that can reduce stress. Insufficient levels of vitamin D have been linked to anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. Also called the “sunshine vitamin,” many people are lacking vitamin D, which you might recognize as the nutrient that helps bones absorb calcium. Vitamin D works hand in hand with magnesium and helps counteract inflammation and promote healthy immune function.
For those with a vitamin D deficiency, the sunshine vitamin could also be beneficial in stress management. It triggers your body to produce dopamine and serotonin, feel-good chemicals, and supports cardiovascular health and cognitive performance. Studies of women taking vitamin D supplements showed that vitamin D could help improve symptoms of anxiety and stress while promoting healthier sleep.
Your body makes vitamin D in response to sunlight but is also found in foods such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, and fortified milk. Reaching the recommended daily intake of vitamin D through foods alone can be hard because this essential vitamin is not found naturally in many foods. Using D supplements for stress can be a great alternative to help you counteract feelings of anxiety, manage worry, and address the physical effects of stress.
3. B Vitamins
B vitamins support a healthy nervous system, which is essential for overcoming symptoms of stress. There are eight B vitamins in total, including B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12. Each has a specific job from energy production to modulating adrenal gland activity to keep your nervous system functioning optimally even when under attack by environmental stressors. Higher doses of B vitamins may also help lower homocysteine levels. High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, can inflame arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders.
Unlike vitamin D, B vitamins can be found naturally in many foods, including whole grain cereals, milk, fresh vegetables, legumes, nuts, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Because your body cannot store B vitamins, you need to be sure you are getting ample supplies of these nutrients every day, and supplementation can help you reach your intake goals.
While all B vitamins can play a role in counteracting the effects of stress, B5 and B6 are especially important. The stress response depletes B5 rapidly, but proper levels of B5 can support adrenal function and energy production, which can help you feel happier and healthier. Similarly, B6 levels can also be affected by stress. Since this vitamin helps modulate both adrenal function and the fight-or-flight response, you might need to supplement especially when you are struggling with either acute or chronic stress.
L-theanine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in tea and mushrooms. It can help counteract anxious feelings and stress by boosting levels of neurotransmitters, such as GABA. Essentially brain-calming chemicals, these neurotransmitters play a role in concentration, mental alertness, mood and emotional regulation, and cognitive performance.
Not only does L-theanine increase the level of calming chemicals in the brain, but it also lowers levels of excitatory chemicals, which are linked to anxiety and stress. L-theanine promotes relaxation without sedation with measurable results that include reduced heart rate and blood pressure.
Although you can drink more tea to benefit from L-theanine, the caffeine naturally present in tea might counteract the relaxing effects of the L-theanine, making supplementation a good alternative. With an L-theanine supplement, you can take control of your stress and promote healthy relaxaRosea
5. Valerian Root
Valerian root is a natural supplement that has been used for centuries to help reduce stress and improve sleep. It is derived from the valerian plant, which is native to Europe and Asia.
Valerian root works by increasing the amount of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the brain. GABA is a chemical that helps to calm the nervous system, and increasing its levels can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Valerian root also has sedative properties, which can help to promote relaxation and improve sleep.
In addition to reducing stress and improving sleep, valerian root may also have other health benefits. Some studies have shown that it can help to reduce muscle spasms and cramps, and it may also have anti-inflammatory effects.
6. Lemon Balm
Like Rhodiola Rosea, lemon balm has been used as a natural remedy and in herbal supplements for centuries. This humble herb, which belongs to the mint family, is native to Europe and smells much like fresh lemons: bright, sweet, and tart. It works by blocking the breakdown of GABA. Insufficient levels of GABA have been linked to anxiety and mood disorders.
When taken as a supplement or in a tea, lemon balm goes to work quickly, calming your body and mind and promoting healthy sleep and relaxation.
Chamomile is a natural herb that has been frequently used to help reduce stress and promote relaxation. It is commonly consumed as a tea, and it is known for its soothing and calming effects.
Chamomile contains compounds called flavonoids, which are thought to be responsible for its relaxing effects. These compounds are believed to work by binding to specific receptors in the brain, which can help to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. In addition to its calming effects, chamomile may also have other health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and aiding in digestion.
In addition to drinking chamomile tea, the herb can also be taken in supplement form. Chamomile supplements are available in a variety of forms, including capsules, tinctures, and extracts.
High stress levels can affect every part of your body, and even short periods of acute stress can rapidly deplete critical nutrient stores. A balanced diet can go a long way toward protecting against the ravages of stress, but it might not be enough. Some dietary supplements offer additional benefits by actively counteracting stress hormones and promoting feelings of calm and relaxation. Adding one or more to your daily routine can be a great way to take control of your anxious feelings and manage your stress more effectively.