5 Best Supplements to Manage Stress Naturally
As you may have noticed in a recent video I posted, the stress of life (and, let’s be honest, 2020) has been getting to me lately. Finally, after experiencing the nth emotional up-and-down, I decided it was time I take a fresh look at my own diet and supplement intake (which has been basically non-existent because I prefer a “food as medicine” approach), and figure out what nutritional support could benefit my emotional, mental, and physical health.
A great meditation session reminded me that 150 years ago, the quality of our food was very different. Today, we only add 3 of the 80+ minerals and nutrients that were previously abundant in local soils, back into the fields we cultivate foods in year-round. Due to mono-agriculture, the quality of food is lacking even further… which means, we would have to eat a ton of fruits and vegetables to catch up on the missed nutrition. This realization spurred me to keep track of my daily food intake for three days, which is something I ask clients to do so I can determine what nutrients and minerals they, on average, are and aren’t getting enough of.
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My food analysis revealed that while I am eating around my caloric goals and getting plenty of potassium, vitamin A, C, and other nutrients, I am oftentimes missing out on essential nutrients for the nervous system, endocrine, and cognitive well-being. Those nutrients are B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, folate, and chromium. Basically, these are key nutrients for keeping the mind sharp and reducing the “flight or fight” response that can occur from high-stress loads. As a holistic nutritionist who fancies herbs, I also knew there are ton of adaptogenic plant remedies out there that can help bring my body and mind back into balance, which subsequently will help reduce inflammation (and thus, help relieve pain which has been plaguing me).
It’s only been a couple of weeks since adding these supplements back into my regime, but I can feel a world of difference. I have mental focus again, my emotional state isn’t so up-and-down, and I can focus for 10+ hours again (which is essential, since I am 4-5 months away from finishing my degree). If you are suffering from stress overload and are looking for a natural way to combat the fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and confusion that can result, consider adding these supplements to your regime:
CBD, or cannabidiol, has developed a positive reputation over the past decade. The oil comes from the cannabis plant but is not psychoactive. It is one of over 100 different cannabinoids found in the plant and has been shown to benefit pain relief, stress, anxiety, seizure disorders, and more.
One study that was performed in 2010 showed that CBD can help to reduce anxiety in people with social anxiety disorder, or SAD. The study found that the non-psychoactive compound helped reduce current anxiety, but also changed the initial brain reaction to the said anxiety. Brain scans showed changes in the blood flow patterns in regions of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.
A 2014 research study found that appropriately dosed CBD oil had antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects. This study was performed on animal models with a variety of experiments, such as the forced swimming test (FST), elevated plus maze (EPM), and Vogel conflict test (VCT).
There are many brands of CBD, and not all are equal. Here is a good guide for finding a reputable source near you.
2. Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogenic herbs and roots are non-toxic plants that have the potential to help the body resists stressors of all kinds – whether physical, chemical, or biological. They have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, and are making a comeback in modern times due to the prevalence of adrenal fatigue (or “burnout” caused by stress).
- American Ginseng – boosts working memory, reaction time, calmness, and immune system
- Ashwagandha – reduces stress and anxiety
- Astragulus – supports healthy heart, reduces stress, boosts the immune system
- Goji berry – boosts energy, physical and mental performance, and can improve sense of well-being
- Eluethero root – improves focus and staves off mental fatigue
- Licorice root – reduces stress
- Rhodiola rosea – staves off physical and mental fatigue
- Schisandra berry – boosts endurance, mental performance, and working capacity
- Turmeric – anti-inflammatory and boosts brain function; reduces depression
3. Greens, Greens, Greens
There is so much I could write on greens… but I will simply state that they are highly alkalizing, typically fiber-rich, and are very nutrient-dense (magnesium + B vitamins), therefore are great aids in reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, balancing blood sugar, and keeping one’s brain sharp and focused.
You can add spinach or kale into a smoothie, take a green powder supplement in capsule form, or add green powder mixes to your water (try adding fresh-squeezed lemon and a little bit of honey for a power elixir) to consume more greens. You can also make a concerted effort to eat more large, delicious salads with plenty of textures and a dressing (such as an apple cider vinegar + olive oil Greek dressing) to make it easier to digest.
4. Medicinal Mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms are powerful adaptogens, as well. They have been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine and can be found in all different forms. The most prominent mushrooms which have been studied for their anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and adaptogenic properties are cordyceps, turkey tail, lion’s mane, Reishi, and Shitake. You can include these medicines in powder form (add to smoothies, stir-fry, coffee, etc…) or find a Stamets-approved brand that offers the mushrooms in capsule form.
5. Fish Oil or Cod Liver Oil
Not everyone will agree with this recommendation, but that’s okay. Fish oil and/or cod liver oil are highly contested supplements in the plant-based community. While one can get a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds, they are less bioavailable than animal-based omega-3 fatty acids, such as cod liver oil or fish oil. As a result, most vegans still need to supplement with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to reduce inflammation, keep omega-6 fatty acids in check, and nourish the nervous system.
Fish oil comes from oily fish, such as herring, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel. If one doesn’t eat enough fish on a regular basis, supplementing can be a good way to get more vitamins A and D in a form that is bioavailable to the body (doesn’t take more work to digest, break down, and utilize). The main omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while the omega-3 in plant sources is mainly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Research has linked the omega-3s with better brain health, improved cardiovascular health, healthier blood sugar levels, and nervous system support. In fact, some studies suggest that people with certain mental disorders have lower omega-3 blood levels. Other studies have found that supplementing with fish oil in high doses may reduce some symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Inflammation, which is the precursor of most modern-day illness, is also reduced when fish oil or omega-3 rich-foods are consumed. In one study, stressed and obese individuals experienced a significant reduction in joint pain, stiffness, and medication needs when taking fish oil.
I wholeheartedly believe that adding a combination or all of these supplements (with the guidance of a doctor, nutritionist, or naturopath) can reduce inflammation in your body, nourish your nervous system, help regulate blood sugar levels (also tied to emotional well-being), and help you feel like “you” again — but really, really good.
Please let me know your thoughts below. Any other natural remedies you’d recommend to others?