We all get stressed from time to time, and our body’s stress response is our innate survival mechanism to keep us alert and ready in the face of danger. This is perfect if you’re running from a tiger or chasing your next meal, but the problem with modern day stresses – like relationship issues, financial worries and poor work/life balance – is that they can keep us in a chronic state of stress that depletes our vitality, lowers our immunity and depletes our body’s nutrients.
When stress strikes, what we need to do is rest, take-stock and nourish our bodies, yet unfortunately most people do the opposite; they drink more alcohol, guzzle coffee, eat junk food and abandon self-care practices that build their body’s resilience.
It’s a common story to feel that you’ve lost your mojo if you’ve been through – or are currently going through – stressful life events. Stress itself is one of the biggest anti-nutrients there is, but combined with the unhealthy dietary and lifestyle habits that usually accompany stress, it’s no wonder your health takes a downward turn, leaving you struggling to get back on track with depleted energy, low mood and lack of motivation, often alongside sleep problems and dependance on quick-fix foods to get you through the day.
If you’re unable to make lifestyle choices right now, there is still a lot you can do to buffer your body’s stress response by eating a diet that supplies the nutrients you need to feel better. Supplementing these nutrients also has a huge effect when stress has taken hold.
5 Key Nutrients That Get Depleted With Stress:
1. Vitamin C – crucial for immune-support, this nutrient is extremely important when it comes to stress. The adrenal glands need a lot of vitamin C, so when you’re stressed, it gets easily and quickly depleted. Most other mammals can produce their own extra vitamin C in response to stress, but humans cannot. We need to rely on our diets to keep our vitamin C stores regularly topped-up, especially in times of stress. Found in all fruits and vegetables, especially strawberries, watercress, peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi fruit.
2. Magnesium – Known as “nature’s tranquilliser”, magnesium helps to support the body’s stress response by reducing the hyperactivity of the HPA-axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), meaning it helps take us out of the biochemical stress response. Often even long after periods of stress, many people’s bodies are still trapped in the hyper-stressed state. Magnesium can be a perfect treatment for this. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical pathways in the body, and it gets rapidly depleted in times of stress. It’s no wonder people feel immediately better with magnesium supplementation. Found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, almonds, cashew nuts, brazil nuts.
3. Zinc – Many people are already deficient in this mineral, even without added stress. Junk food diets are low in zinc and strict vegetarians and vegans may need to supplement, as high levels are found in meat, oysters, poultry, fish egg yolks and organ meats. This vital nutrient is used up rapidly during times of stress too, and it plays an important role in modulating the brain and body’s response to stress.
4. Vitamin B5 (panthothenic acid) – Like all B vitamins, B5 is water-soluble therefore it gets washed out of the body daily and needs replenishment. It plays a crucial role as a nutrient co-factor needed during the stress response, so when stress levels increase so do your body’s requirements for vitamin B5. It’s also needed for energy production as it’s converted in the body into acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is present in all cells, but in high quantities in the adrenal gland because lots of energy is needed to produce adrenal hormones. It’s very important to keep it topped up in times of stress. Food sources include mushrooms, watercress, broccoli, eggs, peas, lentils, celery, cabbage, avocados.
5. Vitamin B6 – Also water-soluble, this vitamin is an important co-factor in several biochemical pathways of the adrenal stress response. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis modulates adrenal activity and the stress response. Vitamin B6 is crucial for the proper functioning of the HPA axis to help maintain balance and harmony. Vitamin B6 helps to relieve stress, however stress depletes it, so it’s crucial to ensure you’re getting enough. Found in watercress, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, onions, nuts and seeds.
Supplementation to the rescue
If stress has been going on for a while, or you’re feeling unable to bounce back after a period of stress, it’s wise to consider supplementing with quality supplements specifically formulated for the stress response. The Natural Dispensary is a great resource to purchase quality supplements. Don’t be fooled into buying cheap high street supplements. It’s best to consult with a nutritional therapist to get the right ones for your individual needs. The nervous system may need supporting with specific herbal formulas and adaptogens like rhodiola, or your wake/sleep cycle may need some help using valerian and magnesium. In many cases the body’s energy needs increasing using targeted adrenal formulas based on your own symptoms.
Adrenal saliva testing
I often run a saliva test in my clinic, via a laboratory called Genova Diagnostics, to test the body’s output of cortisol over the day. This gives an accurate insight into the HPA axis activity and whether a client is currently in over-stimulation of the stress response or whether they are heading for burn-out. It also represents the body’s circadian rhythm which is responsible for proper regulation of energy and sleep.
Article by Jo Rowkins, nutritional therapist at Awakening Health.
If you’re feeling run down or stressed and have lost your mojo, get in touch to see how I can help you.