Stress is an integral part of modern life. Our work and relationships, which form the core of our daily routine, can also become sources of stress over time. And while a tiny amount of stress can motivate us to perform optimally, long-term chronic stress triggered by problems at work or home can be harmful. In fact, chronic stress can lead to lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, thyroid problems, autoimmune problems and even heart related ailments. Moreover, lack of social and emotional support in relationships are stress triggers that can lead to mental health problems such as sleeplessness, anxiety and even depression. Now, you might have heard how yoga, lifestyle modifications such as maintaining proper sleep hygiene and exercising, and diet changes can lower stress. However, you might not be aware that nutritional supplements for stress management can also help to a large extent. Research studies have been carried out to throw light on the role of nutritional and herbal supplements in alleviating anxiety and stress related disorders.
Why do we need nutritional supplements for stress management?
Our body requires multiple vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats to function optimally. The food we eat provides all these nutrients to our body. However, the kind of diet we follow might not be enough to meet all our body’s nutritional requirements. Moreover, these days, natural sources of foods such as fruits and vegetables are sourced from pesticide laden infertile lands, which further deplete their nutrient content while increasing the toxicity level. Also, scientific literature has shown that stress depletes most nutrients, especially vitamin C and B. Moreover, smoking, infections and allergies, exposure to pollution and alcohol consumption drain many vital antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Hence, nutritional supplements for stress management has become important to fill in these nutritional gaps.
What are natural nutritional supplements for anxiety and stress?
Stress can lead to nervousness, anger or irritability. However, prolonged stress can affect our mental health, leading to anxiety, stress and even depression. The good news is that there are several natural supplements and vitamins that can help combat stress and anxiety. Some of the best natural supplements for anxiety and stress are listed below:
Ashwagandha: This herb is one of the best nutritional supplements for stress management. Used since ancient times, predominantly in Indian ayurveda, Ashwagandha helps lower stress levels and cortisol (stress hormone) levels while elevating mood. Studies have shown that this adaptogen herb increases our body’s resilience to mental and physical stress. Furthermore, a five study review also showed how people who supplemented with Ashwagandha herb extract experienced improvement in parameters pertaining to fatigue, anxiety and stress. The above scientific studies show that Ashwagandha is one of the best stress relief supplements.
L-theanine: L-theanine an amino acid found in tea leaves. This amino acid has been shown to alleviate stress and aid in relaxation, making it one of the best nutritional supplements for stress management. One study has shown that taking supplements that contain 200 mg of L-theanine can reduce stress measures such as heart rate, while performing stressful tasks. Moreover, this amino acid reduces stress and promotes relaxation sans any sedative effects, making it one of the safe supplements for stress relief.
Best vitamins for stress, anxiety and fatigue
Besides natural herbal supplements and amino acids, vitamins for stress relief are also available. B-complex vitamins are also considered nutritional supplements for stress management as they contain about eight B vitamins that can enhance mood and lower stress. This is achieved by lowering the homocysteine levels in blood or maintaining adequate amounts of these B vitamins complex in the body.
A study involving sixty participants facing work related stress showed that those participants who supplemented with the B vitamin complex experienced lesser work-related anger, fatigue and depression. B vitamins play a key role in metabolising the food into usable energy. Essential for brain and heart health, B vitamins can be found in eggs, meat, leafy greens, dairy products and grain sources. It’s interesting to know that high dosing with B vitamin complex is said to improve stress symptoms of mood and energy by lowering the levels of homocysteine in the blood. For the uninitiated, high levels of homocysteine in blood can increase incidences of heart ailments, dementia spectrum and colorectal cancer.
B vitamin complex is generally safe to take when consumed in recommended doses. But overdosing can cause nerve pain. However, as these vitamins are water-soluble, any excess amount is easily eliminated through urine.
Besides B complex vitamins, omega 3s, chamomile, L-theanine, curcumin, cannabis derived supplements like CBD and vitamin C can help fight stress, anxiety and fatigue. Hence, these can also be used as nutritional supplements for stress management.
Nutritional supplements for stress issues like anxiety and sleep
Many studies have directly linked stress and anxiety with sleep. It’s a vicious cycle wherein a lack of sleep causes increased anxiety and stress, which further aggravates insomnia. Although Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the mainstay therapy for treating sleep disorders, nutritional supplements can also alleviate and help manage these stress symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of these supplements for anxiety and sleep.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a natural nutritional supplement for stress management used for people who find it difficult to fall or stay asleep. It is a natural hormone that helps balance the circadian cycle or the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin levels increase in the evening to help us sleep and decrease in the morning to help us stay awake.
A melatonin dosage of 0.3- 10 mg is recommended for sleep disorders. But dosing should be incremental, starting with the lowest possible dose and then working up to higher doses.
A 19-studies review showed that melatonin dosing in people suffering with primary sleep problems helped lessen the time it took to fall asleep and increased total sleep hours while enhancing overall sleep quality.
Although melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, its supplementation does not affect the body’s production of the hormone. Moreover, melatonin is a non-habit-forming supplement, making it one of the ideal supplements for anxiety and sleep.
Glycine: Glycine is an amino acid that is used as one of the natural anxiety supplements to manage sleeping disorders. Glycine has a calming effect and is mostly used for troubled sleeping. It can also improve focus and concentration. Studies suggest that glycine has the capability to lower your body’s temperature and have a calming effect on the brain, therein promoting sleep. Lower body temperatures help us fall asleep and stay asleep during the night.
Although glycine is well tolerated, taking 9 grams of this amino acid on an empty stomach close to bedtime is said to cause upset stomach. But dosing with 3 grams of glycine is usually well tolerated.
Besides melatonin and glycine, magnesium and plant-based herbal supplements like valerian root, lavender, passionflower, ginkgo biloba are also useful supplements for anxiety and sleep problems.
Nutritional supplements for stress-related anxiety and depression
Stress, if not addressed, can lead to psychological manifestations in the form of depression. Depression is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Depression and anxiety are often treated using psychotherapy and medication. Besides, certain herbs, minerals and vitamins may also help in improving symptoms of depression. Let’s take a look at some of such nutritional supplements for anxiety and depression.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in many bodily functions. However, most people are deficient in this sunshine vitamin. Research shows that people with depression are more likely to suffer from low levels of vitamin D. Alternatively, people having very low levels of vitamin D have major depressive symptoms. Studies have suggested that Vitamin D supplementation helps to fight depression markers of inflammation, mood and neurocognitive dysfunction.
Zinc: The mineral zinc has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and plays a critical role in maintaining brain health. Studies suggest that the deficiency of this trace mineral is strongly linked to depression, making zinc a viable nutritional supplement for stress management. However, when people who suffered from clinical depression took zinc supplements along with their anti-depressant medication, they experienced lesser depressive symptoms.
Apart from vitamin D and zinc, herbs like Rhodiola rosea, St. John’s Wort, saffron, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and B vitamins are all nutritional supplements for stress management that help combat stress, anxiety and depression.
Do nutritional supplements for stress management really work?
Nutritional supplements help improve our mood and memory. Research has linked nutritional supplements with reduced symptoms of stress related disorders like anxiety and depression. Besides, supplementation might be necessary in certain population groups like older adults, vegans and vegetarians and those who suffer from certain health conditions such as autoimmune diseases. Moreover, people who are on a low-calorie diet or don’t get enough nutrients from their diet are good candidates for nutritional supplementation. However, taking large doses of supplements can also be damaging to your health. This propensity is more likely to happen in individuals who take high potency multivitamin in addition to a nutrient rich diet.
Things to keep in mind while buying nutritional supplements for stress management
- Unlike prescription drugs, nutritional supplements for stress management are not regulated by governing bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hence, they may have lower or higher proportions of some nutrients than stated on the labels.
- Ingredients in some supplements may interact with medications, prompting you to consult your doctor before starting with any new supplementation.
- It’s important that you purchase nutritional supplements only from reputed brands as the multivitamin nutrients might be obtained from real foods or produced synthetically.
It is not possible to avoid stress completely. Life comes with its own share of ups and downs, and you might need to juggle many responsibilities at a time. However, stress should not take over your life or make you ill. Which is why, it makes sense to consider taking nutritional supplements and vitamins and make your body more resilient to life’s stressors. But first talk to your healthcare provider before you start popping any multivitamin pills, especially if you happen to be pregnant or are taking medications for certain health conditions.
If stress continues to overwhelm you, seek help from a qualified therapist or medical professional for better answers.