If you find yourself tearing your hair out over mundane issues, read this – and learn how to treat stress naturally …
IsoWhey Dietitian Belinda Reynolds says stress can present in numerous ways. “You may experience periods where you find it difficult to cope with the regular stresses of life, struggle to find the light during tough times, or find yourself overreacting to situations that you normally manage well,” she explains. “This can be a sign that your body – including your brain – is not able to respond appropriately to stress. A lack of optimal health, combined with chronic, unmanaged stress, is often a key culprit here.”
What you consume can also play a part on your stress levels. “What you put into your body has a profound ability to positively, or negatively, influence the health of your brain,” she explains. “Your brain controls your mood and your adrenals – the small glands sitting on top of your kidneys – which are triggered to produce stress hormones including adrenalin and cortisol.”
Belinda says nutrients are the essential building blocks required to manufacture the neurotransmitters. “Serotonin, GABA and dopamine help to ‘switch off’ the stress response, promote a healthy mood and provide protection against the negative impacts stress can exert,” she says.
Here, Belinda explains some of the most important nutrients to assist in times of stress …
“The sunshine vitamin is not just essential for your bones, but has also recently been shown to play an important role in immune and also brain function. Research shows that a deficiency of vitamin D can be linked to an increased risk of depression (Brouwer-Brolsma, Mizoue), and it’s use as a supplement has proven useful in helping certain individuals suffering mood disorders (Shaffer) (including those that may already be on medication (Khoraminya)).
“Because there is a risk associated with the unprotected sun exposure required for vitamin D synthesis in the body, many healthcare practitioners will recommend a supplement as the safest way of achieving healthy levels – if you have become deficient.
“Please note, that when it comes to serious mood disorders, it is vital that you seek the support of a qualified healthcare practitioner. If you are on medications, it is also important to speak with someone who understands potential interactions between them and any additional supplements you are considering, especially herbs. Complementary medicine can work beautifully together with pharmaceutical drugs, however, they may also interact and result in negative effects. The right advice is therefore essential.”
Zinc, magnesium, B vitamins (e.g. B2, B5, B6, B12, folate) and amino acids
“These nutrients play a role in assisting with the healthy synthesis of our ‘mood lifting’ chemicals, plus zinc and magnesium have been found to interact with certain areas of the brain, providing a ‘calming’ effect, whilst also protecting, and healing this essential organ.
“More so, magnesium is often referred to as ‘the great relaxer’. It not only helps to relax the mood, but also the muscles. The body is shown to lose more magnesium when we are stressed, and consequently, individuals can develop an insufficiency, which leads to muscle tension, irritability, poor mood and fatigue.
“To achieve healthy levels of these nutrients in the diet, opt for lots of green leafy vegetables, other bright and deep coloured vegetables and fruit, whole grains (avoid over-processed wheat products), raw nuts and seeds like almonds and pepitas, and healthy protein sources, such as grass fed beef and pork, organic, free-range eggs and whey and/or brown rice protein.”
“The benefits provided by the essential omega-3 fats in fish oil are staggering. Not only are they anti-inflammatory and protective for the heart, but they also help to improve the health of the brain cells, assisting then in the function of the beneficial chemicals, which are working there to facilitate healthy responses to stress. These fats have also been shown to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body. Fish oil has been suggested (in the right doses) to be equal in effectiveness to some anti-depressant medications, and also to work well in conjunction with them, increasing the beneficial results people achieve. (Jazayeri, Levant)
“Eat lots of oily fish, such as non-farmed salmon and sardines a few times per week. Also add in some healthy fats and oils with avocado, virgin olive oil, small amounts of coconut oil, nuts and seeds and even eggs.”
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Brouwer-Brolsma EM, Dhonukshe-Rutten RA, van Wijngaarden JP, et al. Low vitamin D status is associated with more depressive symptoms in Dutch older adults. Eur J Nutr 2015. [Epub ahead of print].
Jazayeri S, Keshavarz SA, Tehrani-Doost M, et al. Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid and fluoxetine on plasma cortisol, serum interleukin-1beta and interleukin-6 concentrations in patients with major depressive disorder. Psychiatry Res 2010;178(1):112-115.
Khoraminya N, Tehrani-Doost M, Jazayeri S, et al. Therapeutic effects of vitamin D as adjunctive therapy to fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2013;47(3):271-275.
Levant B. N-3 (omega-3) polyunsaturated Fatty acids in the pathophysiology and treatment of depression: pre-clinical evidence. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets 2013;12(4):450-459.
Mizoue T, Kochi T, Akter S, et al. Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations are associated with increased likelihood of having depressive symptoms among Japanese workers. J Nutr 2015;145(3):541-546.
Shaffer JA, Edmondson D, Wasson LT, et al. Vitamin D supplementation for depressive symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Psychosom Med 2014;76(3):190-196.