An inevitable part of modern life, stress can exhaust natural defences, leaving the body susceptible to a wide range of health problems. Certain nutrients can help you cope, and various herbs and other nutritional supplements can calm the mind and restore equanimity.
What is stress?
It is simply an individual’s response to taxing physical, emotional or environmental demands. Though the body is equipped to deal with brief episodes of stress, sustained high-level stress can eventually take a heavy toll on your physical and mental health.
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What causes it?
A variety of predicaments can produce stress: job pressures, family discord, financial problems, traumatic events, injuries or illness. The body’s initial response to stress is the phase in which the adrenal glands prepare the body for impending danger. The two small glands, one stop each kidney, release adrenaline and other so-called stress hormones that provide an instant burst of energy and strength — allowing the body to confront an enemy or escape to safety.
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Problems arise, blood pressure and cholesterol levels increase (sometimes damaging the heart and blood vessels); the stomach secretes too much acid; sex hormones diminish; and the brain becomes starved for glucose ( it’s only energy source), impairing mental ability. All these effects take an additional toll on the immune system, which can become so weakened that the body can muster little resistance to infection and illness.
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How supplements can help?
Because many nutrients are crucial to the body’s natural ability to cope, a daily multivitamin and mineral is especially important during times of stress.
Vitamin B complex
One pill twice a day with food. Choose a B-complex with 50 mcg vitamin B12 and biotin, 400mg folic acid and 10mg all other B vitamins.
Calcium / Magnesium
250mg calcium and 250mg magnesium twice a day with food.
100mg–300mg twice a day
100–250mg twice a day
Other herbs such as Kava may be helpful for stress- induced anxiety, but is best reserved for high-stress periods lasting up to three months. Try Melatonin if worry is keeping you up at night, and St John’s wort if stress is accompanied by mild depression.