Thriving (Not Just Surviving!) With Stress
Catalog Summer 2016
Thriving (Not Just Surviving!) With Stress
By Nicole Crane, B.S., NTP
Stress!!! The word itself is anxiety inducing. Stress can affect us all and keeps physical and mental well-being just out of reach. What can you do when stress becomes an overwhelming daily occurrence from which you cannot escape? If you cannot lower your stress level, you can increase your biochemical resistance to stress. Combat stress by clearing stress hormones, building happy-healthy brain chemistry, vamping up daytime energy and supporting deep, restorative sleep. Natural remedies can give you the biochemical edge you need to not just survive, but thrive.
When relieving stress, the goal is to balance the hormone cortisol, which is released by the adrenal glands. Stress, and the cortisol elevations that follow, have detrimental effects on all of our body systems, but take the greatest toll on the heart and the brain. One category of herbs, called adrenal adaptogens nourishes the adrenal glands and helps the body adapt to stress. They also adapt to the individual using them, offering customized benefits based on what their body requires. One herb, ashwaganda, is a classic Ayurvedic herb used for stress relief, positive mood and healthy brain function. Ashwaganda has been shown to significantly protect brain cells from the harmful oxidative effects of stress, which otherwise disrupts nerve communication, amps up inflammatory responses and causes physical damage to the brain.i Research also shows that this powerful feel-good herb supports memory, relaxation and overall cognitive function by regenerating the brains nerve cells.ii If stress leaves you feeling exhausted, another adaptogenic herb called Rhodiola rosea (a potent Siberian herb) has been shown in a study performed in 2008 to improve stress-related fatigue. After 28 days on either a placebo or 576 mg of Rhodiola daily, the Rhodiola group showed significant improvement in energy, mood, ability to concentrate, and mental performance.iii Rhodiola also curbed cortisol responses to stress, the mark of an effective stress supporter.
Normalized cortisol levels reflect improved stress coping ability. When stress affects your memory, a powerful internal antioxidant called SOD (superoxide dismutase) protects us from the inside out. A 2009 study showed that SOD reduced stress by 30% in those who felt daily stressiv, while a 2014 study showed that SOD boosted memory and cognitive function by 14% in just one week.v
Combat stress by clearing stress hormones, building happy, healthy brain chemistry, vamping up daytime energy and supporting deep, restorative sleep. Natural remedies can give you the biochemical edge you need to not just survive, but thrive.
Stress fosters sympathetic “Fight-or-Flight” mode and hinders the balance provided by parasympathetic “Rest-and-Digest” mode - two main parts of the central nervous system. Cortisol tends to deplete memory supportive, feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine. Lacking these brain chemicals can negatively affect mood, memory, appetite control and overall brain function. Luckily, nutrients like GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), and L-Theanine help to clear out excess cortisol and rebuild essential brain chemicals. GABA slows down the firing of nerve cells, which decreases anxiety and supports memory, attention, focus and learning, as well as relaxation and restorative sleep.vi Theanine, an extract of green tea, calms the central nervous system, reduces anxiety and supports the production of alpha brain waves, which are made during relaxation, meditation and sleep.vii One study showed Theanine vastly improved the quality and depth of sleep, without affecting sleep duration or daytime drowsiness.viii Stress can also lead to cortisol being released hours before it should - at sunrise. For those who wake in the very early morning hours, Theanine may be helpful by allowing you to quickly fall back asleep. When falling asleep is the challenge, a proverbial walk through the poppy fields may lull you to rest! The sedating herb California poppy is known for diminishing pain, supporting relaxation, and fostering uninterrupted sleep.ix
Getting adequate rest is very important for well-being, especially when stress becomes overwhelming. Supporting tranquility during the day and restful sleep at night may be the key to helping the body resist the harmful effects of stress on memory, mood, and sleep, restoring your waking vitality. Natural remedies keep cortisol and other wellness-zapping hormones in check and build healthy, positive brain chemistry. With the help of some natural remedies, you can get your biochemistry back on track, and not only survive, but thrive with stress.
i Shah, Navjot, et al. "Combinations of Ashwagandha Leaf Extracts Protect Brain-Derived Cells against Oxidative Stress and Induce Differentiation."PloS one 10.3 (2015): e0120554.
ii Tohda C, Kuboyama T, Komatsu K. Search for natural products related to regeneration of the neuronal network. Neurosignals. 2005;14(1-2):34-45.
iii Olsson, Erik M., Bo von Schéele, and Alexander G. Panossian. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica 75.2 (2009): 105.
iv Milesi, Marie-Anne, et al. Effect of an oral supplementation with a proprietary melon juice concentrate (Extramel®) on stress and fatigue in healthy people: a pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutr J. 2009; 8: 40
v Carillon J, et al; Dietary supplementation with a superoxide dismutase-melon concentrate reduces stress, physical and mental fatigue in healthy people: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrients. 2014 Jun19;6(6):2348-59
vii Ross, Stephanie Maxine. "L-theanine (suntheanin): effects of L-theanine, an amino acid derived from Camellia sinensis (green tea), on stress response parameters." Holistic nursing practice 28.1 (2014): 65-68.
viii Shirakawa, S. Theanine supplementation and sleep quality. 17th European Sleep Research Society. 2004.