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Vitamins for Stress: How Do They Work?

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but many of us have to deal with chronic stress that just won’t let up. Chronic stress can be debilitating and physically exhausting. But in many cases, your stress might be exacerbated by a poor diet that doesn’t include enough vitamins. Giving your body the vitamins it needs to thrive could help reduce stress now and in the future. Today, let’s look at how vitamins for stress work and whether they are right for your unique needs.

What Is Stress? 

Although we typically discuss stress in a negative context, it’s important to remember that it’s a normal biological process. In fact, stress can even be beneficial in limited circumstances. In a nutshell, stress is a physiological response to danger. The danger can either be real and immediate, like a physical threat to your safety or chronic and long-lasting, like when you’re stressed out at work. 

Stress helps to focus our energy, push down pain until we can get to safety, and summon more physical strength than we could otherwise. However, stress can easily get out of hand, especially in our modern, bustling lifestyles.

Let’s look at the harmful effects of long-lasting stress.

What Are the Harmful Health Effects of Stress?

Stress can have significant negative health effects, especially if you remain stressed over days, weeks, or months. Specifically, this level of stress:

  • Negatively impacts your immune system, making it less able to fight viruses and diseases
  • May lead to increased weight gain, both through the body’s natural conservation of fat and through causing “stress eating” habits
  • Could lead to acne development
  • Could cause high blood pressure thanks to excess cortisol (typically called the fight or flight hormone)

In other words, stress causes lots of bodily reactions. If you don’t regularly destress, those physical reactions can end up harmful in the long run. Unfortunately, many Americans suffer from chronic stress. Some of the recent findings show that:

  • Many adults stress about healthcare, climate change, or mass shooting threats
  • Approximately two out of every three U.S. adults experience significant stress due to current uncertainty in the country
  • Approximately 60% of Americans find that the number of chronic stress-causing issues they face is overwhelming

Even if we lived in a calmer time, many of us would still face excess stress. Lifestyle habits like not getting enough exercise, spending too much time in front of a computer, and not eating well can all lead to stress that adds up and takes a toll on the body.

Can Vitamins Help With Stress?

Vitamins are key micronutrients that our bodies need to remain healthy, regenerate lost or damaged tissue, and create important compounds that our systems use to function properly. You can probably list several vitamins off the top of your head. Adult multivitamins often include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, and other common vitamins. But while vitamins are important for overall health and wellness, they can also help with stress in some limited contexts.

Specifically, nutrients called antioxidants – which include vitamins A, C, and E, as well as selenium – may help to fight off cellular damage. In a nutshell, free radical oxygen molecules can sometimes cause tissue damage or inflammation. Antioxidant compounds neutralize free radical molecules as they build up in the body by sharing electrons. Thus, they prevent the free radical molecules from causing as much harm as they would normally. 

Therefore, if you eat foods with a lot of antioxidant vitamins, you could see reduced oxidative stress, which may lead to various positive health results.

When Should I Take Vitamins for Stress?

Although vitamins can be helpful for stress, they aren’t always the right solution. It depends on where your stress came from in the first place. If some or most of your bodily stress comes from a poor diet – so your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs – then vitamins can help alleviate that stress in no time. Vitamins can also greatly benefit you if your stress is due to injury, sickness, or chronic issues.

However, you shouldn’t take vitamins for stress if you already have a well-rounded diet, at least without consulting a medical professional. It is possible to accidentally overdose on certain vitamins if you aren’t careful or don’t know how much you should take.

What Vitamins for Stress Should You Take?

If vitamins are so helpful, which ones should you take? In truth, there are lots of vitamins you can prioritize. The vitamins in this list are great choices because of their roles in the body, their status as antioxidants, and their other health effects.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral closely related to calcium and other core micronutrients. Magnesium may help ease stress and tension under some circumstances. It can affect brain functions and is necessary for the absorption of other nutrients and vitamins by your digestive system. Luckily, it’s easy to get enough magnesium from your diet. To revamp the magnesium in your diet, try to eat whole grains, nuts, legumes, and leafy green vegetables like spinach and collard greens. You can also find magnesium-specific tablets or adult multivitamins.

Melatonin

Melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, is an important compound that helps your body enter a relaxing state when you fall into slumber. Many people have difficulty falling asleep because their brains don’t produce enough melatonin to get the job done. Taking a melatonin supplement can help your body fall asleep more easily and stay asleep throughout the night. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is vital for long-term wellness, mental health, and physical energy maintenance.

In some circumstances, melatonin can be helpful when you are trying to reset your circadian rhythm. For example, if you take a business trip and need to adjust to a new time zone, a melatonin vitamin can help you sleep at the appropriate time and wake up with the rising sun.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are essential for brain health, enabling your body to take energy from food. Some studies indicate that doses of B vitamins can improve energy and mood levels by lowering homocysteine levels in the blood (a chemical closely linked to stress and related cardiovascular conditions). B vitamins are, fortunately, easy enough to incorporate into your diet by eating foods like bananas, eggs, dairy products, beef, fish, chickpeas, and leafy greens.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is another important option to consider if you want to reduce stress. Certain studies indicate that this supplement, when taken consistently, can reduce stress levels if you experience chronic stress or stress-related fatigue.

Inositol

Inositol is a helpful nutrient you can usually find in meats, citrus fruits, corn, legumes, and cereal crops. Specifically, inositol may help ease tension throughout the body. However, you should speak to a healthcare provider if you have diabetes, as inositol can have unexpected effects.

Glycine

Glycine is a vital amino acid your body leverages to make new protein molecules. But in addition to this function, glycine can improve how resistant your body is to stress. It calms the brain, can lower your core body temperature, and help you sleep more easily. All of this can help to reduce oxidative stress or physiological fatigue.

L-Theanine

L-theanine is another amino acid that you can find in various tea leaves. Taking L-theanine as a vitamin supplement can help promote relaxation without making you drowsy or acting as a sedative.

Vitamin D (Sometimes)

Lastly, don’t discount vitamin D in the winter or if you live in an environment where you don’t get much sunlight. Vitamin D deficiencies are closely linked to higher stress levels and a prevalence of depressive and anxiety-related symptoms. It may be a wise idea to take a vitamin D supplement from time to time, especially in the winter months.

Stressed? Try Vitamins!

As you can see, vitamins can be helpful for stress when taken in the right dosages. It’s important to select the right vitamins for your needs and maintain a holistic, well-rounded diet to get them as often as possible.

1AND1 Life can help. Our wellness guides, dietary plans, healthy recipes, and vitamin supplements are the perfect tools to help you feel 1% better daily.

Sources:

Stress in America™ 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis | APA.org

A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ Individuals | NCBI

A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults | NCBI

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