Building a Stress-Busting Supplement Routine

I’m running late, the kids missed their carpool, traffic is terrible, I still have to pay the electric bill, now I’m going to be late to work and I haven’t even opened the paper yet today! Sound familiar? You’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2012 Stress in America™ survey, the average American reports higher levels of stress than what they believe is healthy, and two thirds say their stress level has increased over the past year. It seems that perpetual stress has become a way of life here in the States and it is taking its toll on our health and our happiness.

While some stress is normal and our body can handle a certain amount of it beautifully, long term or severe stress has far reaching consequences and is being recognized as an underlying factor in many degenerative diseases. When our bodies are under stress, the adrenal glands release the hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline works first to ignite our immediate reaction to stress by triggering our “fight-or-flight” response. Cortisol kicks in later to allow us to maintain an increased stress response for long periods. Chronically elevated cortisol levels occur when we are under a constant level of stress and lead to weight gain (especially around the midsection), depression, and memory loss. Cortisol also raises insulin levels, which then increases inflammation in the body that may lead to diabetes and heart disease. The bottom line? Chronic stress is NOT good for anyone.

Don’t run away to some abandoned island just yet, though. Throw a few strategic supplements and some simple lifestyle tweaks into your routine and you might just come out feeling better! First check yourself and your expectations, and be realistic. No amount of supplements can override the exhaustion you create for yourself when you set unrealistic goals. Also, take time every day, even if it is just a short break, to ground and calm yourself. And don’t forget to eat well. Good eating habits are the first thing to go when we are under stress. Minimizing your intake of sugar and refined carbs, like breads and pastas, while focusing on veggies, protein and fat will help protect your body from physical stress. Lastly, give your body some extra support with a stress-busting supplement routine.

To begin, support your basic nutritional needs daily with a basic multi-vitamin. Even one week of high stress can deplete nutrient stores by 30 to 40 percent, making a high quality multi-vitamin essential. A B-complex is also a good idea since our bodies burn through these important vitamins when we are under stress. They are used to maintain nerve function, produce neurotransmitters, and regulate cortisol levels, not to mention their critical role in energy production.

If you are the type of person who tends to hold tension in your muscles, resulting in a tight neck and shoulders, then a little extra magnesium might be just the mineral for you. Magnesium is involved in numerous reactions in our body and is essential for muscle relaxation. It is also necessary for the production of GABA, an amino acid that helps to deactivate stress hormones, which may be why magnesium helps reduce anxiety and nervousness. Try 200 to 400 mg at dinner or before bed to aid in relaxation before sleep.

You might consider sipping a cup of green tea as part of your daily routine. Green tea contains the amino acid theanine, which helps to increase the brain waves associated with relaxation while decreasing those associated with anxiety. Theanine also encourages the release of GABA. For more potency and convenience, consider supplementing with theanine in pill or chewable tablet form.

Remember that during times of stress your adrenal glands are working overtime, so show them a little love with some herbal adrenal adaptogens. These herbs naturally help fortify and support the adrenal glands without stimulating them further. There are many excellent adaptogens, but two of my favorites are Siberian eleuthero (formerly known as Siberian ginseng) and Ashwaganda. Eleuthero helps the body to adapt to stress by calming the nervous system and supporting adrenal gland function. Ashwaganda also supports the adrenal glands and appears to enhance vitality and energy while supporting immune function.

Perhaps my favorite of the stress-busting herbs is holy basil, or tulsi, a member of the mint family. Holy basil has long been revered in India for its many wonderful uses and it is fast becoming a favorite in the West for stress support. Specifically, holy basil helps support a healthy stress response by modulating stress related hormones, like cortisol. Taken regularly, or even as needed, it helps to promote a sense of well-being and calm.

A stress support package is the perfect antidote for a stress-filled life and a great first step in creating a calmer, more satisfying one, too.