Managing Stress: Vitamins and Natural Supplements

We all know about stress, its causes, the possibilities to reduce its negative impact on our body or, if possible, about how turn stress for good. This is a simplified plan. In reality, everything is more complicated, more serious, and deeper.

Hans Selye, a renowned Canadian biochemist and endocrinologist, defined stress as “a non-specific response to any requirements of the environment, expressed as body tension aimed at adapting to and overcoming the difficulties that have arisen.” Experts divide stress into two types: eustress and distress. The first is associated with positive emotions aimed at achieving the desired goal. It mobilizes a person to solve tasks. This is “good” stress. In contrast, distress depletes the body's defenses and can harm health seriously.

Emotional manifestations of distress are mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. Bouts of anger and depression are also frequent. In this state, the level of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body changes.

Chronic distress can result in the following:

  • headaches

  • fast fatigue

  • decreased immunity

  • disturbed sleep

  • digestion disorders

  • cardiovascular system diseases 

  • high blood sugar level

The following cognitive disorders are also possible:

  • attention loss

  • deterioration of memory, forgetfulness

  • persistent negative thoughts

Everyone’s stress is personal 

The causes of distress, or stressors, are individual. These may be specific negative circumstances in personal life or professional activity, especially if they unexpectedly arise; psycho-emotional overloads; chronic household and financial problems; individual qualities of the body connected to low resistance to the harmful effects of external factors.

But there is a global cause which has always been extremely relevant, that is a disruption of the world order, war, loss of loved ones, homes and of familiar living conditions. We consider it important, timely, and extremely necessary to appeal to people who are under the influence of these new stressors which exacerbate the destructive role of existing ones.

Reducing distress has become a prerequisite for maintaining health. “All that does not kill us only makes us stronger.” This stereotypical phrase acquires another meaning if speak about the actions of a person who aware of his situation, understands challenges, and wants to live, love, and stay healthy.

It is important to adhere to the rules of a healthy lifestyle as much as possible: giving up bad habits, efforts to stabilize sleep, staying physically active no matter what. Omar Khayyam reminds us, “It’s better to stay hungry than to eat without discernment.” It is believed that weak people eat sweets and drink alcohol when they are under stress. Let's be strong – let’s understand the problem, and we try to solve it.

Having considered it, let’s now turn our attention to potential help of bio-supplements. You should try some of them.

We also remind you of evidence-based medicine that you should consult your doctor and exercise self-control. Do not harm yourself!

1. Rhodiola pink 

   This herbaceous plant (Latin, rhodiola rosea) is popularly known as "golden root," and rightly so. It contains more than 140 biologically active substances, with rosavin and salidroside being the most valuable in the fight against stress.

Doctors assign rhodiola to adaptogens – plants that allow the body to adapt to changes in external conditions and overcome stress. Nutritional supplements from rhodiola rosea root extract have many beneficial properties:

  • Relieve fatigue, including mental fatigue 

  • Prevent physical and mental exhaustion

  • Reduce restlessness and anxiety

  • Raise level of concentration

During the research, it was discovered that “golden root” does not contain toxic substances. The supplement is well tolerated by most people. For greater effectiveness, it is recommended to take it in the morning on an empty stomach in the amount of 400 to 600 mg. But note that the stimulating effect of taking rhodiola can aggravate insomnia and nervous agitation and increase blood pressure. That's why you should consult your doctor before using supplements.

2. Ashwagandha

Ancient Indian treatises say that the use of this evergreen shrub in Ayurveda (the art of healthy living) helps to “gain longevity, restore youth, gain tenacious memory, intelligence and freedom from disease.” Ashwagandha extract has a calming and hypnotic property,  improves the functioning of the central nervous system. According to the US National Library of Medicine this plant is considered an adaptogen that protects the body from the harmful effects of the external environment:

  • Stabilizes blood sugar.

  • Restores normal levels of cholesterol.

  • Improves concentration of attention.

  • Decreases worry and anxiety.

In September 2019, Medicine (Baltimore, USA) presented the results of a study involving 60 people who took 240 mg of ashwagandha extract or a placebo daily for two months. Those who took the supplement reported decreased anxiety, symptoms of depression, and stress.

Another study, published in the academic medical journal Cureus, used a higher dosage of 250 mg and 600 mg. The experiment involved 60 healthy but stressed adults. After eight weeks, those who took the supplement had improved sleep quality, reduced anxiety, and decreased cortisol levels in the body compared to those who took the placebo. However, these studies are too small for experts to draw definitive conclusions about the properties of ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is taken as a tablet, capsule, or powder that can be added to a smoothie or porridge with honey and fruit, as the pure powder has a bitter taste. To improve the quality of sleep in the evening, you can drink a cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha extract.

   Note! Ashwagandha can cause drowsiness and slow breathing, lower blood pressure and sugar levels, and should not be combined with certain medications.

3. B vitamins

B vitamins are essential for the healthy functioning of the whole body:

  • Improve metabolism

  • Support heart and brain health

  • Strengthen immunity

  • Regulate the functioning of gastrointestinal tract

  • Prevents sugar diabetes

The lack of these vitamins can lead to insomnia, irritability, apathy, and depression.

B vitamins are not stored in the body and must be consumed regularly with food. Their main sources are animal products (meat, offal, eggs), fish and seafood (salmon, trout, shellfish), leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, cabbage).

Not everyone manages to eat right and varied food. In addition, the ability of the body to absorb B vitamins decreases with age. To avoid deficiency, it is recommended to take specially designed multivitamin supplements that will help prevent many diseases, including coping with stress.

In addition to the proposed nutritional supplements, there are many others: melatonin, L -theanine, lysine, lemon balm ... Research results are yet to be analyzed and processed. Helpful properties of these supplements are yet to be confirmed. We will save a conversation about them for later.

Optimistic but cautious 

Today’s hardships reveal one’s strongest desire to overcome difficulties, to help loved ones, relatives, and strangers. Let us recall the words of W. Churchill: “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, and an optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty.” Notions of difficulty and opportunity are hard to combine. However, we will give it a try, we will look for a way out, believe, and try to overcome stress caused by life's problems.