It is easy to say that 2020 has been a stressful year, probably more so than any other year for most of us. The Covid-19 pandemic, job losses, small businesses being open but not at their capacity, a crazy political election still to this day filled with drama and uncertainty. Just how much stress can a person handle, does it matter how healthy you are when it comes to the body adapting to and handling stress? If one has contracted COVID-19, or even if you have not; you might find yourself emotionally and physically exhausted from all this extra life stress.
Most of us don’t realize the different types of stress and how they can all accumulate and cause significant challenges to our body and mind. There is emotional stress like we see from the pandemic, job loss and financial worries. There is the physical stress of people working out of a home office 8-12 hours a day, combine that with the lack of exercises and motivation to go the gym, (if you can go to the gym), is really affecting a lot of our patients. Last but not least is the chemical stress, the body being stressed by chemical from fast food, sweets, alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, sodas and processed foods. When emotional and physical stress is high; we are much more likely to make poor, unhealthy choices with what we eat and drink, it’s the nature of it.
Most likely your brain needs a break, and just as important, your body is likely deficient in a variety of nutrients. Emotional stress uses up many of the important vitamins and nutrients the body needs to function at its highest level, even if you have a perfect, organic, whole food diet, it is really difficult to get all you need. If feeling particularly drained, increasing your intake of specific vitamins and minerals can really help bring you back up to speed.
Nutrients That Are Drained By Extra Stress
During times of extreme stress, your body is doing its best to balance out energy, hormones, digestion and many other functions. Your body is trying to work as efficiently as possible and at the same time attempting to reduce the burden of stress. This means it uses higher quantities of specific nutrients to help adapt and balance out stress.
Here are some of the most common vitamins and nutrients that may end up depleted during times of extra adversity, challenge and stress. Of course, we are extra stressed right now during this pandemic but these nutrients are usually the most deficient for Houstonians in general. These common deficiencies may be the reason that so many people are having a hard time dealing with stress and as a result it takes it’s toll on the body with immune challenges, weight gain and chronic fatigue.
Magnesium takes part in over 300 chemical reactions in the body. To regulate the level of neurotransmitter GABA, there has to be sufficient magnesium present. GABA plays a role in managing and adapting to stress and anxiety. Magnesium deficiency has also been related to depression, mood changes, anxiety and extra aches and pains in the body. When your body experiences physical or mental strain, your body uses up magnesium to try to offset negative emotions and feelings of anxiety. For our patients that are depleted in this nutrient we recommend taking Standard Process Magnesium Lactate, or EZ-Mag, up to 500 mg per day.
Vitamin C is a very important antioxidant that helps the body reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress. With extra stress the Adrenal glands get exhausted and worn out, this causes a high level of Cortisol, a high level of this hormone will automatically deplete Vitamin C from the body. Lack of Vitamin C increases the risk of your immune system being compromised and oxidative stress that can be out of control. Remember that overall stress and anxiety wears out the adrenal glands, adrenal fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of physical, chemical and emotional stress. Think of Vitamin C as food for the adrenal glands, keeping it healthy so that it can help the body adapt to stress and balance out hormones.
Iron’s essential role in the body is in supporting red blood cells that help carry oxygen. A deficiency in this nutrient may cause respiratory problem, hair loss or chronic fatigue. Acute stress has been shown to significantly deplete iron levels. Vegetarians, kids and Women have been shown to be at higher risk for iron deficiency and anemia.
Zinc is a key mineral to help support the immune system and mood. Decreased zinc levels have been linked to a higher risk of anxiety and depression. Chronic stress depletes zinc, which in turn increases inflammation, hampering hormone production, and increasing risk of illness. At our office we recommend Standard Process Zinc liver Chelate, Trace Minerals and Organically Bound Minerals to help bolster low zinc levels.
Vitamin D is a little different from most other vitamins; it is really considered a hormone precursor meaning it is needed to help make other hormones. Vitamin D mostly comes from the sun and is pretty tough to get in the diet unless you are consuming Cod Liver oil. Even if you are in the sun a lot, it does not mean that Vitamin D is getting absorbed and broken down by your body in the right form. During periods of acute stress these Vitamin D stores get used up. When people are stressed out or ill, they are typically not spending a lot of time outdoors, so they are naturally deficient in Vitamin D and not putting any back into their bodies. Vitamin D deficiency can increase a person’s risk of viral infections. At our office, if the patient’s 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D blood test is below 20 nmol/L we recommend taking 10,000 I.U per day as a dosage. If the patient is chronically sick or is dealing with a viral infection, we recommend taking 12,000 I.U per day for at least 3 months. We recommend taking Standard Process Cataplex D and/or Cod Liver Oil to help replenish Vitamin D stores. This is a very inexpensive supplement and can help the body in so many way, learn more here about The Truth About Vitamin D
B-vitamins play a variety of roles in the body, they help support energy production, cell vitality and liver health to name a few. B Vitamins are also needed to produce certain neurotransmitters that help regulate mood and promote stress management. These essential vitamins are also needed for a properly functioning and healthy nervous system. B-vitamins are water soluble, so your body cannot store them. This is why replenishing them throughout the day using whole foods and nutritional supplements is so important. For our patients that are very high stressed with high blood pressure we recommend Cataplex G, (the relaxing side of the B Vitamins). To help patients needing more energy we recommend Cataplex B, (the stimulating side of the B Vitamins). Lastly, we recommend a general, longer term B supplement called Cataplex B-Core.
Eating Health-The Best Way To De-Stress
To help replenish your body of lost nutrients, it is important to focus on real foods high in vitamins and minerals. Here are a few recommendations to help your body adapt to stress and prevent long term health challenges.
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, arugula and more- high in magnesium and iron.
- Whole grains- high in magnesium and B-vitamins.
- Nuts such as almonds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and walnuts- high in magnesium and zinc.
- Citrus like grapefruit, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and bananas- high in vitamin C, and help with absorption of iron.
- Dark chocolate or cacao powder (70% cacao or more)- high in iron, magnesium.
- Lean red meat, grass fed meats- high in magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, and zinc.
- Daily sunshine and Cod liver oil- vitamin D.
A well-balanced, whole food diet can help replenish lost nutrients during periods of chronic stress. However, it is also important to avoid certain foods that seem to stress out the body even more.
Alcohol and sugar laden foods only deplete your body of critical nutrients. Although you might think when eating sweets, drinking soda or alcohol; it makes you feel better; the reality is quite opposite. Most people are deficient in the nutrients listed above, consuming sugar, alcohol, processed carbohydrates will deplete these nutrients of the body even more. During times of high stress, the best thing you can do is to focus on a whole food, well balanced diet; and no matter how great the temptation is; avoid alcohol and sweets. Using sugar substitutes like Stevia and Xylitol can help curb those sweet cravings without throwing off your blood sugar. Blood sugar stress adds additional problems for the body when mixing it in with physical and emotional stress.
Medicine and Drugs That Gobble Up Vitamins.
Something else that most people don’t realize is that taking prescription medication can cause vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Surprisingly as it may sound, the average American is taking 3 prescription medicines per day. For example, taking antacids will deplete the body’s natural stores of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Calcium and more. NSAIDS and Steroid medicine depletes Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Zinc, Selenium and more. If you would like to learn more, click Drugs That Gobble Up Vitamins to see how other medicines can cause nutrient and vitamin depletion in your body.
Other Stress Management Tips
Stress management involves a number of different things, although diet can definitely play a role, some other areas to focus on are sleep, exercise, mediation, unplugging, walking, fasting, hot and cold therapies. In today’s rat race environment; the body really needs to slow down and de-stress. Unfortunately, medicine has no solution to de-stress and make the body slow down, this is 100% up to us to make that choice and take the proper action. Exercising even 15 minutes a day has shown to improve health significantly. Meditate and journal for 15 minutes right when you wake up in the morning. Prepare healthy meals and make time to sit down and relax to eat, stop eating fast food while driving or in between meetings.
Implement these recommendations on how to naturally de-stress your body and improve its health through diet, exercise, supplements and more. There is no quick fix so get that our of your head right now, put in the time, commit to 30 days, then 60 and then it will become a habit and you will not want to stop.