By Claire Bacon, ACN, CNC
More than ever before, stress and anxiety emotions are present in every demographic and age group. Whether it’s keeping up with the demands of school or sports, work deadlines, or changes in relationships, everyone has a source of stress that can make them feel anxiety. Increasingly in our Nutrition consults, we see that people are at a loss how to overcome the buildup of negativity and agitation. People never get a break!
What’s the difference?
For a moment, let’s consider what is stress? Stress is your body’s automatic reaction to any kind of uncomfortable demand or threat. When you sense a change, a burden, or a danger, the body’s defenses kick up a “fight-or-flight” reaction. This is also called the “stress response.” Physically or emotionally, this can be a good thing – to increase your heart rate when you need to run, sweat to cool your body, or cry to express your empathy. But over time, chronic stress can wear out your body.
How is anxiety different? Anxiety is a negative emotion characterized by tension, worry, or uncontrollable physical symptoms. It’s a sign that normal stress has gone too far. Very often, people may avoid certain situations that trigger anxiety symptoms like sweating, blushing, or trembling. They may worry themselves sick about a racing heart rate or feeling palpitations. Sadly, sometimes people cannot identify or avoid the trigger, and anxiety becomes disabling.
Looking at the big picture, our changing culture and chaos of life are putting us under too much pressure for too long. Our brains and mental capacity can only take so much. As we are focusing on brain health through the month of November, we’ll offer some things to help. Here, we examine a variety of strategies that can restore peace and productivity in your daily life.
Strategies for Managing Stress and Anxiety
Replenish What’s Been Depleted
All day every day, long periods of chronic stress put the body in “fight or flight” mode. This process increases cortisol production until the adrenals and thyroid burn out. Fortunately, use of adaptogenic herbs and glandular extracts can be super restorative in this area. Natural health practitioners know that “like cures like.” So, if you feel like stress is beating you down, increase your resilience with Adrenal Desiccated or any of these adaptogenic herbs. Ask our team how to choose the herbs that suit your needs best!
Nutritionally, we know that dealing with stress depletes our B vitamins, which are essential for calm nervous system function. We find that B vitamin supplements work best – not when created from synthetic materials in a lab – but when sourced from whole foods like liver powder, nutritional yeast and mushrooms. And yes, you should eat these foods, as well!
Gut Microbiome, Immune and Intestinal Permeability
Did you know, the diverse living organisms within the gut do a multitude of beneficial things?
- They help digest our food
- Produce calming neurotransmitters and B vitamins
- Consume heavy metals, and
- Modulate the immune system.
However, due to our current stress levels, we are at a huge risk of diminished bacterial populations. If there’s one thing everyone should have learned through the pandemic, it’s that fear and stress impair the immune system. This is because a variety of stress hormones stimulate changes to the living organisms in the gut. These changes are typically not beneficial to long term health.
A depleted immune system opens opportunities for viruses and pathogenic organisms to disrupt normal functioning. When damage happens to the gut lining, this paves the way for autoimmune conditions and dysfunctions throughout the body. Certainly, if you’re looking to reduce symptoms, better stress management is a key technique for healing the gut. This applies to any immune depletion or chronic inflammatory condition.
Imbalanced Blood Sugar and Detoxification
When people are stressed, they tend to consume a convenience-type diet. Too many refined carbohydrates and sugars deplete B vitamins and magnesium, exhaust the pancreas, and alter your appetite. You may feel like you’re constantly hungry, as stress hormones stimulate grehlin (the hunger hormone). Or, you may feel like your digestive function shuts down, and you can’t eat anything. Did you know, stress hormones can increase your insulin and make you insulin-resistant – even if you’re not snacking on sweet things while working! If you’re having trouble balancing your energy and blood sugar, maybe your stress level is the real problem.
With stress-induced insulin resistance, the liver is a prime target for developing Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. This means that excess carbohydrates circulating in the bloodstream will accumulate in the liver as stored glycogen. The liver conducts a multitude of bodily functions without you ever knowing it. If excess sugar storage bogs down the liver, this will potentially disrupt all major body systems. With poor liver function, you can expect:
- Poor energy
- Reduced thyroid hormone conversion
- Impaired fat assimilation, and
- Incomplete elimination.
Brain Health and Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are natural chemicals produced in the brain. They act as messengers between the brain and bodily functions. Having a happy mood, healthy weight, and good focus are all influenced by neurotransmitters. Specifically, the chemicals necessary for calm and focus are primarily Serotonin, GABA and Acetylcholine. These or their precursors (5-HTP, inositol, choline) are often beneficial as supplements to reduce stress and anxiety.
When we have imbalanced neurotransmitters, we may feel:
- Anxiety (lack of serotonin)
- Laziness, anger or lack of motivation (need for dopamine)
- Panic, stress and being on edge (needs GABA)
- Heart irregularities or inability to exercise (lack of noradrenaline), or
- Memory and focus problems (insufficient acetylcholine).
Poor gut health is a major factor in neurotransmitter imbalances for two main reasons.
- Did you know, your gut microbes make tons of neurotransmitters! If your gut health is poor, you are less capable of converting dietary amino acids into usable neurotransmitters.
- Gut inflammation leads to brain inflammation. Inflammatory foods such as wheat gluten and pesticides like glyphosate cause the majority of inflammation in the gut.
Supplements to Manage Your Stress:
- Kava Forte contains Kava Root extracted with water in the traditional method. This process accesses the active constituents without potential for causing damage to the liver (as alcohol-extracted Kava products can do). Kava Forte promotes relaxation and calms the nerves in a non-habit forming, yet fast-acting way. You can even use these tablets to make a non-alcoholic Kava Colada!
- Adrenal Desiccated supports our stress-handling glands. It is our most powerful, short term product for immediate energy needs. We like it during times of depletion or with athletic training. If you’re fatigued to the point you just can’t do it anymore, Adrenal Desiccated will pick you up and return life to normal again.
- Min-Chex is a combination of minerals and high B vitamin foods selected to support the nervous system. It maintains emotional strength during high-stress situations, or when going through intense grief or loss. Would you like an adult security blanket to bring you back from the edge of tears? Think Min-Chex.
Stress and Anxiety Takeaways:
No matter your age or occupation, stress can sometimes take its toll on your health. If you’re feeling chronic stress and anxiety, you owe it to yourself to find more natural solutions.
We hope this information is helpful to you. Please let us know if you have questions. We can help you customize your recommendations!