If the past year has taught us anything, it's that life is unpredictable! A lot of us have been more stressed than usual so in this blog we’re answering the big questions like ‘what is stress?’, ‘how to deal with stress’, and ‘how to reduce stress’.
Being resilient to unwanted change, the ability to adapt, and managing the stress that life holds can benefit our lives in the most positive of ways.
When we manage our stress effectively, we keep our levels of cortisol low which is essential for maintaining a calm mind, a healthy weight, and our bodies’ main functions.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and while some is helpful, too much is not. Extra stress means extra cortisol which means extra demand on nutrient stores and when we have extra nutrient demand but neglect to keep them topped up, it leads to exhaustion!
In this article we will explore how to manage stress via our diet and the power of nutrients and herbs in helping our body and mind manage and build resilience to stress.
Let’s start with some quick background information on some key terms. Or, to jump straight to the list of nutrients, click here.
This is our body’s equilibrium. It’s the ideal state for our bodies and minds and is where we can repair and rejuvenate. It’s a bit like a lovely holiday - we can’t be there all the time, but we want to maintain that feeling for as long as possible and be able to get back there easily after periods of stress.
We are at our ‘healthiest’ when we are in states of homeostasis and when we move away from homeostasis, especially long term, that opens the door for illness to sneak in. A bit like getting a cold after a tense week at work.
Quite simply, adaptogens help us adapt! They’re molecules found in nature - most often in herbs. They’re particularly good at helping us bounce back from stress - whether it be physical, emotional, or mental. Because stress interrupts our lovely state of homeostasis, and adaptogens help us adapt and get back to homeostasis, it naturally follows that adaptogens are good for managing stress!
So, what's the relationship between nutrients and these adaptogenic herbs?
Like food fuels us to go about our day, nutrients fuel our biochemical pathways. We need these biochemical pathways to work in order for our body to respond and rebound. This is as true if you injure yourself as it is after a period of low mood or stress.
We need a base level of nutrients to maintain a base level of homeostasis and we need adaptogens to help us get back there faster. In addition to speeding that process up, adaptogens help us build resilience to our external environment.
Nutrients are utilised in thousands of pathways in our bodies.
When it comes to stress, there are three particular functions that nutrients are essential for:
- Production of neurotransmitters and hormones
- Energy production
- Ease of return to homeostasis post-stress
The production of neurotransmitters and hormones such as cortisol—the hormone that regulates our stress response—are dependent on a wide range of micronutrients.
Cortisol in particular is essential for our short-term survival, and so the production of it is always top priority over other functions such as digestion and reproduction. We can't do anything else if we're not alive, can we?
If we are constantly, or often, in a state of stress, our body is burning through our nutrient stores just to keep on top of cortisol production. When we're not topping the stores up each day, energy production becomes harder as well.
When we're stressed and deficient in some or many nutrients, our bodies also struggle to make energy efficiently. That leaves us tired and stressed! And naturally when we're stressed, tired and nutrient depleted, life feels hard.
Even when stressors pass or are dealt with, our bodies require nutrients to function well, and for us to feel healthy and happy.
So, that's a very brief overview of how stress and nutrients interact with each other. Let's look at some specific stress-busting herbs and nutrients:
9 Stress Busting Herbs and Nutrients
All nutrients are important, but some play a particularly beneficial role when it comes to stress. And when combined with the power of specific herbs we’re able to build a very helpful tool kit to lean upon in times of stress. Read on to find out what this stress busting line up is.
We’re huge fans of magnesium here since it’s so effective at calming the body and the mind. Those enzyme-catalysed reactions we talked about above? Those are nourished by magnesium, this nutrient is actually involved in over 300 of these reactions so it’s super important to our body. Best taken in the form of magnesium biglycinate because it's the most bioavailable - meaning it is easily absorbed by the body.
2. Broad spectrum B Vitamins
B group vitamins are essential for a healthy immune system and a healthy immune system is better prepared to deal with stress. These vitamins are best taken in methylated forms for B12, B9 and B6 because in this form, they are more easily available for detoxification, neurotransmitter production, and cellular energy. Looking at B6 in particular, it supports neurotransmitter production - specifically our lovely happy serotonin hormone. Multiple studies have shown benefit to mood from B6, with one study showing an approximate doubling of likelihood of depression to those participants deficient in B6.
Best taken in the form of sodium chloride (salt). Salt, in the right amounts, is known to reduce stress with studies showing that it reduces cortisol. This is especially true for women. So, if you're stressed, a healthy snack with a little salt sprinkled on top is tasty and good for your mood!
Zinc acts as both sword and shield when it comes to mood! It has been shown to support the efficacy of antidepressants, it also has been shown to ease signs of low mood when taken in supplement form. It specifically feeds dopamine and serotonin. Zinc is best taken in the form of zinc picolinate which is its most bioavailable and easily absorbable form.
5. Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps to lower levels of cortisol in the blood. It also boosts immunity which means stress can't take as big a toll on the body as it might if our immune defences are weakened. It’s best taken in the form of buffered ascorbic acid which is gentler on the gut and more readily absorbed.
6. Ashwagandha root:
This ancient adaptogenic herb has a host of benefits. It contributes to a healthy HPA axis balance, which brings the body back to homeostasis. This is particularly helpful in times of stress when we need our body to go from a highly strung position to one of balance and readiness. In taking it consistently, we are increasing our body’s resilience.
7. Lemon balm:
Another multi-pronged attack. Lemon balm is an adaptogenic herb that reduces perceived stress (anxiety), assists sleep, and improves cognition. A very supportive herb for those experiencing chronic stress and burnout.
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb designed to pick us up, increase our energy, stamina, strength and reduce fatigue. Similar to antidepressants, it feeds our neurotransmitters to ensure they fire properly and send happy mood messages to our brain and is particularly helpful in the face of burnout and chronic stress.
This magical amino acid supports balancing the neurochemistry within our brain, calming and relaxing the sympathetic nervous system. It is also shown to help improve focus over long periods of time, which is particularly useful for those experiencing brain fog and trouble concentrating brought on by chronic stress.
So, what next?
That’s a lot of nutrients, right? It would be a lot of effort to try and get all of these into our diet on a daily basis and in the right doses for each.
That’s where BePure comes in. Our latest additions are designed specifically to bring balance back to our lives by nourishing our minds and bodies.
For fast and enduring relief, seek out calming and restoring herbs like kava, passionflower, lemon balm, ashwagandha and rhodiola found in BePure’s Stress and Burnout Recovery Pack. This pack contains both InnerCalm and InnerStrength these products are also topped up with stress busting nutrients B6, B5, magnesium and vitamin C.
To learn more about finding balance in times of stress, anxiety, and burnout, read our blog with four easy tips!
- Take the BePure Energy, Anxiety & Your Stress Quiz and check in on how your energy levels and anxiety indicators measure up.