As you know, I’m a family doctor. I’ve been through medical school, residency and more than 10 years in professional practice. I’m also a wife and mother. I’ve survived the newborn period TWICE, once with a baby who was born with his days and nights backwards and didn’t sleep through the night until he was 8 months old.
I know a little bit about stress.
Stress can make you sick. Stress can make you gain weight. It can keep you from sleeping well at night, hurt your relationships with friends, family and coworkers, and in short make your life miserable!
How does stress do all that?!
Well, let’s talk about how your body handles stress. Cortisol is a major regulatory hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA and dopamine are signaling molecules in the brain that are targeted by the antidepressant and anti-anxiety classes of medication. Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, and norepinephrine are released in response to stress as part of the “fight-or-flight” reaction. Melatonin is a cousin of serotonin that regulates sleep.
Many folks prefer to use a supplement to control stress rather than a “drug.” Please be aware that anything you use for the purpose of controlling or changing the way your body works IS A DRUG. All supplements and vitamins are drugs and can interfere and interact with medications prescribed by your doctor. As always, make sure your doctor knows what supplements you are taking and gives you the thumbs-up.
B Complex The production of serotonin and melatonin (they are created from tryptophan) in the brain is heavily dependent on B vitamins. Deficiency of any of them can produce irritability, poor sleep, depression, anxiety and fatigue. If you choose a B-complex supplement make sure it has 100% RDA of all 8 B-vitamins, especially biotin. Biotin is very expensive, so supplement companies tend to skimp on it to save money. In fact a patient brought me a B-Complex supplement she had bought at the drugstore that had NO biotin in it at all! Since the B vitamins function as a group, deficiency of one affects the whole complex. B complex is my favorite supplement for young people suffering from stress and anxiety. I have had children as young as 8 years old benefit from using it.
Magnesium This nutrient is calming and soothing and more than 50% of us don’t get enough of it in our diet! Magnesium is helpful for controlling migraines, for anxiety, for stress management and for sleep. If you happen to have high blood pressure or suffer with constipation you should definitely take extra magnesium!
St. John’s Wort This is the most commonly prescribed antidepressant in Europe! It is well-documented that extracts of St. John’s wort increase serotonin in the brain the same way medications like Prozac do.
L-Theanine This is an amino acid that has the effect of reducing mental and physical stress, improve mood and increase cognition. It increases GABA activity in the brain.
Ashwaghanda This is a traditional Indian herb that has been used to blunt the physical responses to stress including increases in cortisol.
L-Tyrosine This is an amino acid which is a precursor to many chemicals in the brain including dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Interestingly, it has no effect on the mood under normal circumstances but seems to blunt the stress hormone response to stressful events such as divorce and death of a loved one.
Sleep Hmm, is sleep a drug? No, but it sure is good medicine! Our brains require at least 7 hours of good sleep per night. That’s for adults, kids and teenagers need more, sometimes upwards of 10 hours per night! If we’re not getting enough sleep we are tired, crabby, forgetful and stressed.
If you are struggling with stress, these would be my recommendations:
Stress Relief Complex – With ashwagandha, L-theanine, tyrosine and beta-sitosterol, Stress Relief Complex is calming without being sedating. Take it every day, take it only on stressful days, or wait to see if the situation gets stressful. It takes about 20-30 minutes to take effect. Flexible and effective, Stress Relief Complex is part of my daily supplement regimen.
B Complex – Shaklee’s B complex contains all 8 B vitamins including 100% of biotin (a nutrient many supplement companies skimp on to save money). I always recommend my patients with anxiety or depression take B complex because of its calming effect. Also helps with migraines. Available in two-month and four-month bottles.
Vital Mag – Magnesium is a critical nutrient and according to nutritional surveys over 50% of us don’t get enough in our diet. It is calming and helps with anxiety and sleep. Magnesium also prevents migraines and helps correct high blood pressure and constipation.
MoodLift Complex – St. John’s Wort is one of the most prescribed antidepressants in Europe and works like Prozac. Many people prefer to take an herbal product rather than a pharmaceutical but you should make sure your doctor knows what you’re taking because medication interactions do happen.
Gentle Sleep Complex – Sleep is so important for managing stress! If you’re having trouble falling asleep you may benefit from this blend of valerian, chamomile and passionflower.