By Kira Greasley, BA, CHNC
Did you know that a moderate amount of stress is beneficial! It can stimulate motivation and even protect the body from infection. However, chronic stress should not be ignored as it can contribute to cardiac, digestive, immune and mental health disorders. It is also important to keep in mind that how and what a person perceives as stressful is subjective to the individual. Getting to the root cause to assess and understand where your ‘Stressors’ are coming from and trying to eliminate or at least minimize your exposure to them will benefit you emotionally and physically.
One area that everyone has control over is the food you consume. Poor quality food is a very common source of the stress reaction in the body. This includes regularly ingesting foods you are sensitive to as well as consuming non organic foods (why? pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers to name a few makes for a messy chemistry experiment in your body), processed foods, GMO foods, and high glycemic foods such as sugar, refined carbohydrates and flour.
So what can YOU do? One thing is, when it comes to food, I have this simple rule; stay to the outside of the grocery store and if it hasn’t had a life, it is not going to give you life. Secondly, since stress burns through many key nutrients such as B Vitamins, Zinc and Vitamin C, it could be important for you to supplement with the following:
- B Complex: in short, your B’s are everything in your body. They are needed for energy production, synthesis or your neurotransmitters (one being serotonin or the “happy” chemical), hormone production, you name it they do it. Some Food sources: good quality meats and dark leafy greens.
- Calcium and Magnesium: is needed for nerve impulses that are responsible for thought, perceptions & memories. Magnesium is also known as the “anti-stress” pill. Some Food sources: Calcium: dark leafy greens (spinach, chard, beet greens, kale). Magnesium: Hemp seeds, Dark chocolate (85% cocoa), avocados.
- Zinc: is essential for balancing emotional behavior & mood disorders. Some Food sources: pumpkin seeds, zucchini, cooked, pasture raised chicken breast (free of hormones & antibiotics).
- Vitamin D: helps absorb calcium, plays a protective role against oxidative stress which will assist the immune system, and plays a protective role against neuro inflammation in illnesses such as MS and Parkinson’s. Most people are Vitamin D deficient. Best source is the sun which can be difficult depending on where you live, sunscreen, and make-up. So the next best would be Vitamin D drops as they are better absorbed than a capsule. Some food sources: Wild cooked salmon, eggs, grass fed/finished beef ribs or roast.
- Omega 3 with both EPA & DHA: helps improve mood disorders, & supports cognitive function throughout life by assisting with decreasing inflammation in the body. Best food sources are your oily wild fish (salmon, halibut, and trout).
- Probiotics: help maintain a healthy balance of good gut bugs (yes you have bugs in your gut) and we want more of the good than the bad. A Happy gut = a happy brain. Clinical evidence supports the role of probiotic intervention in reducing anxiety and stress responses. Some Food sources: whole milk yogurt, kefir, raw unpasteurized sauerkraut.
- L-Theanine: is an amino acid that promotes relaxation without reducing alertness. It has a calming effect that helps to reduce stress levels. Organic green and black tea are dietary sources.
- Lastly, get your iron levels checks. Human studies have linked anxiety driven behavior to poor iron status.
When choosing a supplement, they should be 3rd party tested, contain no fillers or additives and be free of gluten dairy and soy. Expensive does not always mean better and cheap is just that. It is always best to speak to a knowledgeable professional at a vitamin & supplement store in your area.
**It is important to always consult your ND or MD/healthcare provider before starting anything new to ensure that the supplements are the right choice for you and will not interact with any medications you may be on.
**Supplementation is not intended to replace any current medications you may be on for anxiety or mood disorders. Again. It will be important to discuss these additions with your physician so that you may be monitored and medication doses adjusted as needed.