Back in June, I wrote about the connection between sleep, immunity and stress. There are clear connections between stress, the quality and quantity of our sleep, and the ability of our immune system to respond in just the right way when we need it to, and not more than that.
There are many other common symptoms of stress that I want to talk about today.
How do we recognize stress? What are the symptoms?
Often our emotions feel negative or extreme. Feeling irritable, worried, or tired but wired (nervous or on edge) are common ways we know we are stressed out. Behavior suffers. We forgo salads for sweets more often. In fact, having a reduced ability to regulate consumption of food (or stimulants or sedatives like coffee or alcohol) are common symptoms of stress.
According to Pew research, the percentage of people who experience common symptoms include:
- Irritability and anger: 45 percent
- Fatigue or low energy: 41 percent
- Anxiety, nervousness or worry: 36 percent
- Feeling sad or depressed: 34 percent
- Indigestion, acid reflux or upset stomach: 26 percent
- Appetite changes: 21 percent
Problems regulating intake of food or caffeine
Whether or not we have obvious changes in appetite, feelings of anxiety, sadness or fatigue will often trigger behavioral changes such as “stress eating”. I recently ran a food journaling challenge and heard reports of mindless eating of comforting foods. Unfortunately, the comfort lasted only a short time, but snacking can have long lasting effects on our weight and blood sugar balance. Eating when in a stressed state can also cause indigestion.
Problems regulating alcohol intake
I have noticed a lot of people recently making a point to quit alcohol. Increased booze consumption is a reflexive response to stress and many people have noticed it going too far and becoming habitual because of chronic stress. Drinking can unfortunately deplete the very B vitamins we need to handle stress and feel energized. Good for them for getting a handle on their drinking before it made things worse.
Things we can consume that actually make us feel better
The good news is, though our consumption patterns can be affected by or can even create stress, what we consume can also have an opposite, calming effect. Simply choosing to eat nourishing plant foods, to breathe, or to take a supplement can help our emotional wellness a great deal. Today I will focus on one great herb and several nutrients that can be trusted in stressful times.
The use of a special root extract called KSM-66 Ashwagandha® can lower stress hormones and relieve feelings of stress, as shown by numerous large-scale studies in various human populations. The use of nutrient formulas to minimize stress, even the stress associated with natural disasters, is now supported by several human studies. Let’s take a closer look.
Ashwagandha, the root that helps us adapt to stress
A clinical study in stressed and slightly overweight people showed that an ashwagandha root extract called KSM-66 reduced emotional eating behavior without the help of other interventions. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that KSM-66 reduced food cravings and “uncontrolled eating” in moderately overweight adults suffering from chronic stress. The participants consumed 300 mg of KSM-66 ashwagandha daily. They improved their eating behaviour and lowered their body weight and BMI in 8 weeks.
The weight we put on from stress is often different than other weight gain. If our body senses danger, it pads our organs with fat for protection. When the stress hormone cortisol stays elevated, we thus accumulate the unhealthy kind of fat that sits right around the middle. Ashwagandha may help this because it lowers cortisol. In addition to reducing food cravings, KSM-66 can lower perceived stress by more than 72% and decrease cortisol levels by 27.9%.
Another possibility is that the KSM-66 ashwagandha worked by encouraging metabolism by supporting thyroid health. In patients with low normal thyroid function, it has been shown to increase T3 thyroid hormone levels by 41.5%, T4 thyroid hormone levels by 19.6% and to significantly lower TSH readings. Then again, maybe it worked by improving sleep. Or it could have been all of the above. Herbal medicines often have a broad effect.
The A-B-Cs of stress support – your nutritional foundation
Nutrition is imperative for maintaining brain and nervous system function. B vitamins are the most famous for supporting our stress response, but did you know that the basic nutrients needed to respond well to stress are also depleted by stress?
Vitamins A, C and E have neuroprotective effects. Vitamins A, C and E affect cognitive function and stress response. Vitamin C levels are particularly high in the brain. Vitamin C is needed to transform neurohormones and produce some neurotransmitters.
B Vitamins are beneficial for stress and play a significant biochemical role in maintaining cognitive processes within the brain. This is even more of an issue these days where a lot of people follow healthy but restricted diets. Keto, paleo, and vegan diets can all unintentionally limit B vitamin-rich foods.
A couple of clinical trials, done in New Zealand and Canada, showed improved mental health from taking nutrients after living through a disaster such as an earthquake or a flood. Although the trials were small, they may indicate that supplementation with a formula such as a B-Complex can help us cope with symptoms of stressful events.
An all-in-one product to simplify your life
Clearly, even when what is happening outside is not in our control, we can choose to take control over what we ingest. We can pick items that have a noticeable impact on how we feel and think, and even on the levels of cortisol in our system.
Flora wants it to be as stress-free as possible to manage stress. They have created Stressveda™, an all-in-one product with a full 600 mg dose of organic KSM-66 Ashwagandha® and a proprietary blend of Vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E and K extracted from organically grown superfoods that include broccoli, strawberry, shiitake and maitake mushrooms, and sweet potato. Just one capsule a day melts stress away.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP, is a Vancouver-based educator and coach. She is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog and can answer your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Product Information Specialist at Flora.