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.
All supplements and vitamins 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 result in irritability, poor sleep, fatigue and mood problems. 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. 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! Extra magnesium is beneficial for the cardiovascular, digestive, neurological and musculoskeletal system.
St. John’s Wort This herb is the most commonly prescribed antidepressant in Europe!
L-Theanine This is an amino acid that Is helpful for reducing mental and physical stress, improving mood and increasing 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.
Here are 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). 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 stress and sleep.
MoodLift Complex – Use of St. John’s Wort should be cleared with your doctor because medication interactions can 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.