Dietary supplements exist in all shapes and forms, and they are here to help optimize your body functions, replenishing you with vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and other powerful plant compounds. These beneficial micronutrients help keep inflammation at bay, fight free radicals and their harmful oxidative effects, and protect you from a multitude of diseases. [This article, “7 Best Dietary Supplements to Reduce Stress” was originally published in News7Health]
Healing plants and herbs bring a variety of different health benefits to the table, and while some do wonders for your cardiovascular health and energy levels, others support your immune system and reduce stress.
What is Stress?
Stress is a reaction in the human body that occurs due to a trigger. It’s a natural reaction without which we wouldn’t exist… and in certain situations, it’s much needed. If a lion were chasing you down the street or if your house was on fire you’d need to reach into your stress tools and count on your stress hormones to save your life. But these stress hormones should drop down after the danger is over and let you go back into the safer “rest-and-digest” mode for recovery.
It’s when those stress hormones are high for a long period of time, often without a specific trigger, that stress becomes particularly detrimental to your health. The first type of stress is called acute stress, and it’s the one that usually occurs after an immediate danger or stressful situation.
A car cuts in front of you in traffic, a loud horn sounds next to you, your alarm clock didn’t go off and you’re late for work…in all of these situations, it’s normal for your heart rate to go up, your entire body to feel like it got a sudden burst of energy, and to feel like your actions just got sped up 100 times.
Your body doesn’t know if you’re being chased by a predator or if you simply sent out an email to a wrong person who shouldn’t have received it. It still produces cortisol and adrenaline, helping you to avoid danger at all costs. Acute stress invariably dials down after the danger has passed and your body is back in its normal state.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, is the reason for many of our health problems today. It causes a strong immune response from your body, elevates your stress hormone levels without a specific trigger and keeps them elevated for long periods of time. This increases overall inflammation in your body and impairs your immune system’s ability to fight and recover. It’s this type of stress that we need to focus on, and we need to find ways to reduce our daily stress to a minimum to give our bodies a break and let them rest, recuperate, and regenerate.
One of the most coveted stress-reducing dietary supplements today is ashwagandha. This powerful herb comes to us from the Indian Ayurvedic principles of healing, and it’s been used for thousands of years for its incredible health benefits. It’s known for its ability to increase energy levels, hence the name. In Sanskrit, ashwagandha translates to “horse’s smell,” referring to its strength-inducing properties.
It’s also one of the most powerful adaptogens in the supplement world, helping your body cope with stress more efficiently and adapt to the known and recurring triggers so your stress hormone levels stay within their range. Studies show that ashwagandha helps control heat shock proteins and cortisol as well as reduce the activity of your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) that regulates your overall stress response.
You might know about magnesium through its popular role of reducing muscle soreness and helping improve your sleep quality. Today, its role in reducing stress, inflammation, and even anxiety is well known, and this is why such supplement brands in the marketplace such as Revive MD have it in their arsenal of stress-reducing tools which you can use on a daily basis to promote optimal health.
Magnesium is a mineral and it exists in many different forms, from oxide and citrate to sulfate and glycinate, with some brands even combining a few in their products. Glycinate is usually considered to be the best kind, but it can also be a bit pricey. Still, you pay for the quality and stress-reducing benefits.
L-Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid that contains sulfur and it’s mostly concentrated in your muscles, heart, brain, and eyes. It’s conditionally essential because it’s mostly obtained from outside sources (animal foods), but it can be produced by your body, albeit in small amounts.
It’s known for several important roles, including: helping you maintain proper hydration in your cells, regulating electrolyte balance and calcium levels, forming bile salts, fighting free radicals through its antioxidant characteristics, and reducing overall stress levels. Since it’s easy to obtain through food, not many people are deficient. However, taking it as a supplement can notably improve your stress response and help support your immune system.
Eleuthero root, also known as Siberian Ginseng, is a powerful medicinal herb that’s been known for its stress-reducing abilities for thousands of years. It’s also used in helping improve arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, diabetes and obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, and more. Classified as an adaptogen, it affects you body on a cellular level, helping you to keep your stress hormones in check.
It’s also one of the most used herbs for increasing energy and reducing fatigue, as well as for improving your athletic performance and helping you to push through your workouts. Often found in supplement blends, this potent herb is a great addition to your stress-reducing toolbox.
Next to ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea is one of the best known adaptogens in the plant world. Its healing roots contain more than 140 active compounds that help reduce stress and inflammation, support and strengthen your immune system, and even have anti-aging properties. Coming from Europe and Northern Asia, this powerful herb has been used for centuries to improve mood, relieve anxiety and depression, and fight fatigue.
Numerous studies show its amazing effect on chronic stress and its side effects, and that’s why every major supplement brand has Rhodiola listed as one of its main ingredients in their stress-reducing formulas.
Kava is a tropical plant that’s mostly found on the Pacific Ocean islands, and it’s traditionally known and used for thousands of years by the native tribes. Usually brewed as a ceremonial drink, kava is known to produce a calming and relaxing effect. Experts are studying the exact channels through which kava activates certain of the neurons in the brain and helps reduce inflammation and stress, as well as anxiety and depression.
There is even some research on how kava can potentially help in the treatment of cancers, but because of some documented cases of liver toxicity, its dosage and use need to be monitored and regulated.
Often times found in dietary supplements that promote better sleep quality, the valerian root herb is often referred to as “nature’s Valium” for it calming and relaxing properties. Apparently its sleep-improving effect has been recognized and used since the Middle Ages.
Certain beneficial compounds in valerian root can stimulate GABA receptors in the body, one of the main neurotransmitters for sleep regulation and sleep quality. It’s therefore another amazing dietary supplement that can be used as a powerful aid in stress management and recovery, stimulating your body to transition from fight-and-flight into rest-and digest mode.
Other Stress Management Techniques
In addition to these amazing supplements, there are other stress-reducing techniques you can implement in order to improve your overall health. Some of the most common ones include meditation, mindfulness routines, breathing techniques, journaling, sauna, massage therapy, listening to music, reading, and exercise.
Stress is one of the most important areas everyone should focus on as its harmful effects aren’t seen overnight. The inflammatory environment it produces can be the cause of many diseases that could be possibly be prevented if only we were taking better care of ourselves and diving deeper into our harmful lifestyle habits and diet. Stress reduction is one of the most important keys to improving our health, and to successful and effective self-care.
Stress Effects on the Body, American Psychological Association
Six Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress, Harvard Health Publishing
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health.