Stress natural remedy, herbs vitamins, food
How to ease it naturally with diet and supplements

April 5 2018 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.


Stress is the disruption of our mental and physical balance through physical or psychological stimuli. Stressful stimuli can be mental, physiological, anatomical or physical reactions. In this article I will review natural ways to deal with stress through dietary supplements, vitamins, foods, and diet. The term 'stress' in this context was coined by Austro-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye, who defined the General Adaptation Syndrome in 1936.


Dietary supplements
There are a number of natural supplements that could help reduce stress. Some of these include Hydroxytryptophan, also known as 5-HTP, the serotonin precursor; theanine the amino acid, kava, an herb from the South Pacific; and Passion Flower, a gentle herb that helps you relax. Some people prefer an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine such as the herb ashwagandha. Consider reading about the function of the adrenal glands in the body since these glands have a strong influence on the stress response. See also information and natural treatment of anxiety disorders.


Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013. Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: positive correlation among salivary α-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress. Theanine, an amino acid in tea, has significant anti-stress effect on experimental animals under psychosocial stress. Anti-stress effect of theanine on humans was evaluated in 5th-year university students during pharmacy practice. Theanine or placebo (lactose) tablets (200 mg, twice a day, after breakfast and lunch) were taken from 1 week prior to the pharmacy practice and continued for 10 days in the practice period. Results suggest that theanine intake suppressed initial stress response of students assigned for a long-term commitment of pharmacy practice.


Stress is common to everyone. Our bodies are designed to feel it and react to it. It keeps us alert and ready to avoid danger. But it is not always possible to avoid or change events and it is easy to feel trapped and unable to cope. When stress persists, it can affect the body and illnesses can occur. The key to coping is to identify stressors in your life and learn ways to direct and reduce them. Learning an effective means of relaxation and using it regularly is a good first step. Allow yourself some "quiet time," even if it's just a few minutes. Examine and modify your thinking, particularly unrealistic expectations. Talking problems out with a friend or family member can help put things in proper perspective.

Keep a positive attitude. Believe in yourself.
Accept that there are events you cannot control.
Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
Eat well-balanced meals.
Limit or avoid use of alcohol and caffeine.
Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
Learn to use stress management techniques and coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing or guided imagery.

Consequences of excess stress include
Overeating leading to obesity. The urge to chow down on sweets and fast food at stressful times is common. Female first-year college students from Germany, Poland and Bulgaria all reported eating more of these types of foods if they felt stressed out, and fewer fruits and vegetables, Dr. Rafael T. Mikolajczyk of the University of Bielefeld in Germany reports in Nutrition Journal, 2009.

Stress can slow a metabolism and lead to weight gain.

Immune system malfunction, making us more susceptible to colds and various infections. Certain germs or immune cells fighting these germs can potentially cross the blood-brain barrier and damage brain cells. Lack of sleep significantly interferes with proper immune function.

Stress increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Chronic damage to arteries leading to the brain can decrease blood flow to vital systems. There is a type of brain deterioration called multi infarct dementia that occurs when frequent small clots travel to the brain and limit the blood supply to brain cells. Tiny strokes that go unnoticed can, over the long run, damage a number of areas in the brain. When enough damage occurs, noticeable signs of mental malfunction become apparent. A large blood clot can cause a blockage of a major artery incapacitating a wide segment of the brain thus causing a major stroke.
   Patients with coronary heart disease who have both depression and stress are at increased risk of myocardial infarction and death.

May elevate blood sugar levels. Adv Surg. 201. Stress-induced hyperglycemia: is it harmful following trauma?

Psychological trauma may leave a visible trace in a child's brain. Children with symptoms of post-traumatic stress have poor function in the part of the brain that stores memories.

Stress leads to higher likelihood for chronic fatigue and various musculoskeletal aches and pains. These chronic conditions can lead to low mood and can necessitate the use of painkillers that can have detrimental effects on brain function.

Luckily we can do something about stress by attempting to channel our thoughts into a more positive direction. Some of the stress we encounter is self-induced or self-aggravated. While stuck in traffic, we can boil with frustration or we can turn on the radio and hum along with the songs. Some of our daily stress is not necessarily due to external circumstances. Rather it is due to our underdeveloped coping skills. How we handle stress is often more important than the nature of the stress. Does every little thing throughout the day that doesn't go according to your plans upset you, or do you calmly adapt to unplanned situations?

   The first step in dealing with stress is to identify its source. The next step is to take specific action to relieve or eliminate the source. Take a moment now, or later, to list any sources of stress in your life in a private journal. Beside each entry write down how you plan to deal with that stressor. There are times when life is cruel, and our load is so heavy, that we just want to sit and cry. That's perfectly okay. Crying helps to wash away toxic chemicals and hormones built up during stress, which in turn improves mood. It's healthy to cry once in a while.


Ways to Reduce Stress
There are many ways to relieve stress: vacations, playing with pets, improving sleep and physical health, finding satisfying work, consulting with an understanding friend or family member, establishing financial security, and participating in exercise, sports, yoga, prayer, or meditation.

Daily meditation might slightly help some people relieve anxiety, depression and pain, Johns Hopkins University researchers report online Jan. 6, 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers reviewed 47 prior studies that looked at meditation's effect on various conditions that included substance abuse, eating habits, sleep, pain and weight in addition to depression and anxiety. Meditation while walking may be a better option.


Dietary supplements, vitamins, herbs
If all of the above suggestions are not enough to relieve your stress, you can temporarily use certain natural supplements available over the counter to help you ease your tension. The most effective ones are the herb kava, the amino acid theanine, and the nutrient 5-HTP, the direct precursor to the brain chemical serotonin which helps with relaxation and sleep. The B vitamins, in low dosages, are also very good in helping us build resistance to stress. Many other nutrients, such as methyl donors, mind energizers, and certain herbs such as ginseng can improve energy levels and well-being and hence make it easier to deal with everyday stress but use low dosages since taking too much can cause anxiety.

Phytomedicine. 2018. Effects of a fixed herbal drug combination (Ze 185) to an experimental acute stress setting in healthy men - An explorative randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. The present study examines the effects of a fixed combination of valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, and butterbur extracts (Ze 185) on biological and affective responses to a standardized psychosocial stress paradigm. The results show that Ze 185 attenuated the subjective emotional stress response during an acute stress situation, without affecting biological stress responses.


Avoid drinking sodas or drinking a lot of coffee or caffeinated drinks, they cause anxiety and poor sleep.


Who is commonly at risk?
Women, people with chronic medical conditions, the poor and those without health insurance are more likely to struggle with serious psychological distress.


Stress and asthma
It is known that stress exacerbates the symptoms of asthma in children, but the biological reason for this has been unknown. Now, scientists in Canada have discovered that a stressful home life diminishes the expression of certain proteins on the surface of cells that regulate airway responses and inflammation. Researchers interviewed 39 children with asthma and 38 healthy children, ages 9 to 18, regarding acute and chronic stress over the preceding 6 months. Blood specimens were obtained to measure levels of the so-called glucocorticoid receptor and beta-2-adrenergic receptor. In general, children with asthma expressed higher levels of beta-2-adrenergic receptor and glucocorticoid receptor than did healthy children. However, the researchers found that asthmatic children exposed to chronic stress, such as abrasive family relationships or an unstable home environment, expressed less beta-2 than those not exposed to chronic stress, whereas healthy children expressed more. Major life events alone did not affect expression of these proteins in either group of children.

Work stress danger
Stress at work has been linked with heart disease and diabetes, but the biological processes were unclear. A study provides new evidence for the biological plausibility of the link between work stress and heart disease. Researchers examined the association between work stress and the metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors that increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes) in 10,308 British civil servants aged between 35 and 55, over a 14 year period. Work stress was measured on four occasions between 1985 and 1999. Components of the metabolic syndrome, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, were measured between 1997 and 1999. Social position and health damaging behaviours, such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise, were also recorded. A dose-response relation was found between exposure to job stress and the metabolic syndrome, even after adjusting for other risk factors. For example, men with chronic work stress were nearly twice as likely to develop the syndrome than those with no exposure to work stress. Women with chronic work stress were also more likely to have the syndrome, but they formed a small group. Both men and women from lower employment grades were more likely to have the syndrome, confirming previous reports that the syndrome has a social gradient. The association between the metabolic syndrome and exposure to health damaging behaviors was stronger among men than women. Poor diet (no fruit and vegetable consumption), smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity were all associated with higher odds of the syndrome. Despite some study limitations, a dose-response relation exists between exposure to work stress and the metabolic syndrome, even after other risk factors are taken into account, say the authors. One possible explanation is that prolonged exposure to work stress may affect the nervous system. Alternatively, chronic stress may reduce biological resilience and thus disturb the body's physiological balance (homoeostasis).
   When workplace difficulties, such as a difficult boss, spills over into your personal life, your family's well-being can also suffer.


Sick Building Syndrome?
Work-related stress, rather than building conditions, may be what's behind the constellation of symptoms known as "sick building syndrome."  In a study of more than 4,000 government employees in England, high job demands and perceptions of poor support were more closely related to sick-building symptoms than were the physical conditions of the workplace. The findings suggest that "sick building syndrome" may in fact be a misnomer


Job Stress and Drug Abuse
Young workers who feel high stress on the job may be at increased risk of using drugs. In a survey of nearly 1,000 young adults, researchers found that those who reported high job strain when they were first interviewed for the study were more likely to have started abusing marijuana, cocaine, heroin or other drugs one year later. Specifically, "low control" jobs, where workers have little leeway in how to accomplish their tasks, were linked to a higher risk of drug abuse.


Stress and War
Nearly one in 10 American soldiers who served in Iraq are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, most after witnessing death or participating in combat.
   Feelings of confusion, difficulty concentrating and memory lapses are fairly common among a sample of U.S. soldiers examined after they returned from wartime duty in Iraq. While the majority of veterans may not be afflicted with the flashbacks and dark moods associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, unwelcome psychological changes affected many returning soldiers. Several often "subtle" changes in mental function can occur among U.S. Army veterans. Deployment effects on sustained attention, learning and memory following Iraq deployment cannot be attributed to pre-existing dysfunction.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Nearly one in 10 U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq suffered from post-traumatic stress - a disorder that can lead to nightmares, flashbacks and delusional thinking.

   Subtle neurologic deficits appear to predispose some individuals to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to combat experiences. Neurologic soft signs include mild impairments such as altered sense of direction, difficulty identifying objects by sight or touch, difficulty in performing specific tasks and impaired reflexes. Combat veterans with PTSD have higher neurologic soft sign scores than veterans without PTSD. The conclusion is that subtle neurologic dysfunction in PTSD patients is not associated with PTSD-related brain damage, but instead represents a family vulnerability factor, which was there before exposure to the traumatic combat events. Archives of General Psychiatry, May 2006.


Stress natural remedy questions
I work at a very stressful job and I even get muscle twitches around the eyes. The stress causes me too wake up at night and I'm unable to get back to sleep because my brain is racing about work. This lack of restful sleep further compounds the problem. I'm wondering if SAM-e supplement would be a good OTC supplement as a natural stress remedy to help manage the stress and help me get a better nights sleep?
   It is possible that low dosages of SAM-e supplement, at 50 mg taken in the morning, may be helpful, but higher dosages of SAM-e supplement can cause anxiety and alertness late into the night that can cause insomnia.


If you are under a great deal of stress that HRT hormone replacement therapy will not work?
   A lot of stress can have a wide variety of effects on the body including medications not to work as well.

One pill touted as a natural remedy for stress includes the following nutrients and herbs
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Vitamin B-1 (thiamine hydrochloride)
Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride
Folic acid
Vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin concentrate)
Pantothenic Acid (d-calcium pantothenate)
Magnesium (gluconate)
Choline (bitrate)
Inositol powder
PABA (para aminobenzoic acid)
Kava Kava Root Extract (30% kavaloctones)
St-Johns Wort (0.3% hypericine) Hypericum perforatum
Hops Flower Powder (flower)


What is the right dosage of withania somnifera for relaxation and stress reduction?
    One could begin with 500 mg of the regular powder in the evening and base future dosage on the initial response.

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