By: Amelia Hunt, FNTP
It's amazing the amount of stress we are ALL under in this life, sometimes it actually feels very stressful or we could be stressing ourselves without even realizing it. Either way we could all use a little help in this arena. There are a lot of ways to manage stress, but today I'm going to give you some ideas of supplements you could take to actually alter the way your body mechanically manages your stress load. As you read through these options for functional supplementation, choose ones that you think relate most to your stress scenario.
*consult your physician before taking anything*
Adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, anti-depressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and CNS stimulating activity. Adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly intolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention.
Chronic stress from constant overstimulation of cortisol can lead to imbalance of our endocrine system. Adaptogens improve the natural stress response.
Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 188–224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010188
To implement adaptogens into your life you can take it supplements, there are also some really tasty teas and coffee substitutes.
Ashwaganda: reduces stress & anxiety
Ginseng: Boosts memory, reaction time, calmness, & immunity
Tulsi/Holy Basil: Reduces physical and mental health, stress-related anxiety and depression
Reishi: Reduces stress & anxiety. Improves sleep
Lion's mane: Improves cognitive & brain health. Reduces anxiety & depression
Chaga: Immune health, reduce inflammation, blood sugar, & blood pressure
Cordyceps: Boosts stamina & increased energy
Licorice root: Reduces stress (great in tea form, yummy and sweet)
Hemp supplementation tends to support psychometric measures of perceived sleep, stress response, and perceived life pleasure and was well tolerated with no clinically relevant safety concerns. Based on the evidence, CBD may potentially help manage the symptoms of anxiety.
Is an amino acid that supports mental calmness by increasing dopamine and GABA in the brain. Stress, anxiety and depression decrease and cognitive function improves.
Hidese, S., Ogawa, S., Ota, M., Ishida, I., Yasukawa, Z., Ozeki, M., & Kunugi, H. (2019). Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 11(10), 2362. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102362
L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP in the body, then to serotonin and to the hormone melatonin. This is helpful when you want to reduce excessive worry and could improve sleep quality. This also has been shown to make a direct impacts on the gut-brain axis - which means if your gut is unhappy your brain gets the heat, so taking this can actual calm your mind and your gut issues, making it extremely helpful for those with IBS.
Jenkins, T. A., Nguyen, J. C., Polglaze, K. E., & Bertrand, P. P. (2016). Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients, 8(1), 56. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8010056
Can improve over-stimulation in the nervous system. This can lead to irritability, restlessness, and sleepless nights. Using GABA calms the alpha waves in your body, decreasing the beta waves in the brain. Research shows that it may be an option to help reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia. There is not a lot of convincing evidence for this one, but it does seem to help some people. Consult your physician before taking.
NAC is a promising molecule in the management of stress-related disorders. It improves mood disorders, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions associated with stress. NAC is also extremely helpful for most autoimmune conditions as autoimmunity puts the body in a state of stress, NAC can calm this process.
Mocelin R, Marcon M, D'ambros S, Mattos J, Sachett A, Siebel AM, Herrmann AP, Piato A. N-Acetylcysteine Reverses Anxiety and Oxidative Damage Induced by Unpredictable Chronic Stress in Zebrafish. Mol Neurobiol. 2019 Feb;56(2):1188-1195. doi: 10.1007/s12035-018-1165-y. Epub 2018 Jun 6. PMID: 29876880.
Essential mineral that is critical for brain health. Magnesium deficiency has been connected to just about all mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar as well as autoimmune conditions like Fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue syndrome.
Our over the last century due to our soil being depleted of essential minerals creates this viscous cycle of our food not being rich in essential minerals. The most common deficiency is in magnesium. This has led to a lot of health issues across the board as magnesium is crucial to our bodies function. It has a significant impact on our brain health and therefore our stress response cycle, so if we don't get enough, that process begins to break down.
Ways to get Magnesium:
Epsom salt baths and even a handful of magnesium flakes helps
Salt. Salt your food with high quality salts like sea salt, Redmond's, pink Himalayan, sea salt or celtic.
Food: dark chocolate, legumes, avocadoes and vegetables
Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507250/
Fatty acid that helps lower cortisol. Those that are chronically stressed this is the one for you, this can help normalize your hypersensitivity in your bodies stress cycle.
Hellhammer, J., Vogt, D., Franz, N., Freitas, U., & Rutenberg, D. (2014). A soy-based phosphatidylserine/ phosphatidic acid complex (PAS) normalizes the stress reactivity of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-axis in chronically stressed male subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Lipids in health and disease, 13, 121. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-13-121
L-lysine & L-arginine: An essential amino acid L-lysine has been shown to reduce chronic anxiety in humans with low dietary intake of L-lysine. A combination of L-lysine and L-arginine has been documented to normalize hormonal stress responses in humans with high trait anxiety.
Smriga M, Ando T, Akutsu M, Furukawa Y, Miwa K, Morinaga Y. Oral treatment with L-lysine and L-arginine reduces anxiety and basal cortisol levels in healthy humans. Biomed Res. 2007 Apr;28(2):85-90. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.28.85. PMID: 17510493.
I have no doubt there are many many more that can help improve our stress response, but hopefully you found 1 or 2 that may be a good fit for your stress scenario.
These will alter how your body mechanically responds to stress, but if the root of the stress is not addressed or confronted, the cycle of stress will continue harming your body's overall health.
Get into a normal sleep cycle following the circadian rhythm
Eat food that is healthy for your body
Exercise at a level appropriate for you
Do you live or work in a toxic environment, consider getting out.
Do you have a condition or disease keeping your body in a constant state of stress, find someone to help you manage that condition and move towards remission and lessen the stress response
Address underlying trauma and undealt with stress
*Consult your physician before taking any supplement.
More questions? Please reach out!
Amelia Hunt, FNTP