Nutritional Support for Stress Relief

Nutritional Support for Stress Relief

By Cathy Burke, RYT
One of the top contributors to heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and a variety of chronic conditions, stress has become a part of life. Who hasnt experienced the symptoms of stressanxiety, fatigue, stomach problems, sweating, racing heart, shortness of breath, irritability and insomnia? With a little awareness and effort, however, we can take steps to keep the effect of stress to a minimum.
Nutrition plays an important role in stress regulation. In addition to ensuring that the body receives adequate amounts of vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins and fats, some specific nutrients may assist in staving off the effects of stress.
Vitamin C
Vitamin C supplementation may reduce blood levels of stress-related hormones.1-4  The recommended dosage varies depending on the individual need, intensity of stress, and other lifestyle factors. Typically, 1,000-1,500 mg per day is appropriate for a healthy individual dealing with a stressful time or situation. Levels above 2,000 mg are reserved for more severe cases such as surgery or specific complaints. Too much vitamin C may cause diarrheaa common sign that supplementation should be reduced.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Deficiency in omega 3 fatty acids may contribute to behaviors such as aggression during stressful periods.5- 7 Daily supplementation for three months with 1.5-1.8 grams of docosahexaenoic acid or DHA (found in cold water fatty fish, spinach, seaweed, and soybeans) may prevent an increase in aggression during stressful situations.
Thought to increase the bodys resistance to stress and enhance mental and physical function, Rhodiola has been shown in animal and human trials to protect against mental decline caused by physical stress.10-14 One study showed, however, that when participants stopped the supplement for two weeks, then started it again, they did not receive the same benefit from the herb.15
An amino acid used to produce adrenal stress hormones and neurotransmitters, tyrosine has been shown to decline with stress.16 To maintain mental capacity, taking 150 mg per 2.2 lbs of body weight, can be taken occasionally prior to stressful activity it is recommended that this amount be split between two doses taken 40-90 minutes apart.17- 21
MVM Complex
A multivitamin-mineral supplement shows benefit in reducing the effects of stress including improved mood, concentration and well being, as well as reduced anxiety and fatigue.22, 23, 24, 25
In addition, adding a probiotic formula to your diet during stressful periods may assist in offsetting other effects of stress. It is believed that stress depletes the beneficial bacteria in the intestines,26, 27 which may explain the contribution of stress to problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
While pursuing specific nutrients to assist the body in coping with times of high stress, make sure that you and your patients are eating a healthy, whole, well-balanced diet low in simple sugars and processed foods. Such a diet will provide a basis to assist the body in preventing and combating a variety of problems, including stress.
The author is grateful to Dr. James Gerber for his help in providing sources for the article.
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2. J Nutr 1987;117:110814.
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6. Physiol Behav 1996;59:91520.
7. J Clin Invest 1996;97:112933.
8. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 1999;45:65565.
10. Annu Rev Pharmacol 1969;9:41930.
11. Phytomedicine 1999;6:287300.
12. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2003;67:19306.
13. Biull Eksp Biol Med 1987;103:4224.
14. Eksp Klin Farmakol 1994;57:613.
15. Phytomedicine 2000;7:36571.
16. Aviat Space Environ Med 1992;63:3649.
17. Aviat Space Environ Med 1995;66:3139.
18. Brain Res Bull 1989;22:75962.
19. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1994;47:93541.
20. Brain Res Bull 1994;33:31923.
21. Physiol Behav 1995;57:22330.
22. J Clin Res 1998;1:30315.
23. Schweizer Zeitschr Ganzheits Med 1993;3:1403 [in French].
24. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2000;150:2205.
25. S Afr Med J 2000;90:121623.
26. Tijdschr Diergeneeskd 1991;116:2329.
27. Am J Clin Nutr 1978;31(10 Suppl):33S42S.

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