Summary: Follow the General Maintenance Regimen to ensure sufficient vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Follow the Zone Diet, eating adequate protein and good oils, and exercise at least every other day.
It is necessary to absolutely ensure adequate nutrition when under stress. One way stress is thought to affect the body is by causing digestive dysfunction which can affect B vitamin production and absorption. Since B vitamins are required to produce dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, and other brain chemicals, using the multivitamin, multimineral, and EFA supplements recommended in the General Maintenance Regimen provides the necessary basis for improvement.
Sufficient nutrients are also necessary to produce other stress-reducing hormones in the body. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids (especially omega 3), but more important in this regard is consuming adequate protein and good oils in the diet. It is important to avoid damaged oils like hydrogenated oils (in margarine and many processed foods) and trans fats (fried foods). Following this type of diet and avoiding too many starches and sugars provides excellent mental focus and balance.
Oddly, stress seems to often be caused by a lack of epinephrine, also called adrenaline. This is a hormone released by the body into the bloodstream in response to physical or mental stress. Some of the best stress supplements include tyrosine and GABA, necessary for the adequate production of epinephrine.
Minerals are known as a calming supplement, particularly calcium and magnesium. It is best to use a multivtiamin in the General Maintenance Regimen that has a good amount of minerals for daytime use, such as NSI Synergy Energy, but most people use major minerals at night. This is when they are best absorbed plus since they cause relaxation (plus stimulate elimination by morning), many prefer to use them in the evening. One of the best multiminerals is Now Full Spectrum Mineral Caps. On the other hand, multivitamins should not be used at night since the B vitamins they contain, particularly B12, can cause wakefulness. Despite this occurring for most people, those who are deficient in B vitamins who take a multivitamin or other good source can get immediately relaxed (and in many cases sleepy) by using B vitamins at first since production of the above mentioned brain chemicals commences.
Exercise stimulates production of another class of hormones which fights stress called endorphins. These are morphine-like chemicals which block pain and improve mood. Sometimes it is important to exercise for long periods to produce adequate amounts.
The best known single herb to combat both mental and physical stress is Siberian ginseng root, also known as eleuthero, and it's quite inexpensive. It is known to improve mental acuity and is considered an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adjust to stress as well as provides numerous other benefits such as possibly improving immune system function. A cruel but informative study was done by Russians years ago found that rats fed siberian ginseng could swim twice as long as rats not fed the herb. Other herbs used to fight stress include those which cause relaxation, including kava kava, valerian, chamomile, lavender, poppy, hops, passion flower, and skullcap.
Natural Balance's Happy Camper is an herb blend that contains mostly relaxing herbs including kava, but also throws in kola nut (a source of caffeine) plus some siberian ginseng. It provides relaxation and stress relief without causing drowsiness and is a popular supplement.
Natrol SAF Stress and Anxiety Formula is an excellent blend that addresses adrenaline production by providing significant amounts of tyrosine and GABA along with some B vitamins, minerals, and siberian ginseng. It is a excellent product to use if just one supplement would be used for stress. Rainbow Light 3-Way Stress Management System is another good standalone product. It contains sufficient B vitamins along with siberian ginseng, valerian, and poppy plus a digestion support herb complex.
If the main symptom of one's stress is felt in the stomach, less expensive supplements can be used. The best two are fennel seed and slippery elm capsules. They are taken in large amounts (up to 6 or 8 at a time for the fennel and up to 10 or more for the slippery elm, but taking smaller amounts is still beneficial).
Lavender is an often used herb to fight stress. It is not usually taken internally, but lavender oil, one of the most gentle essential oils, can be used directly on skin to provide an immediate calming effect. It is even better put in a hot bath along with epsom salts to soak to provide a relaxing therapy. The body will also absorb some of the magnesium from the epsom salts to improve mineral stores.
Chamomile can be used internally in capsules as well as made into a tea to drink. It is calming to the nerves and stomach but used in amounts too large can actually upset the stomach so stick to recommended amounts. An excellent use of chamomile to reduce stress is to drink a cup of chamomile tea instead of coffee if one drinks too much coffee.
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