What is Stress?In today’s fast-paced and ever-connected world, stress has become a fact of life. Stress is the body's reaction to the constant demands of the world. The events or conditions in the surroundings that provoke stress are called stressor. Stress can cause people to feel overwhelmed or pushed to the limit.
Stress may be affecting our health, and we may not even realize it. Persistent stress can lead to many adverse health problems, including:
Stress symptoms can affect our body, our thoughts and feelings, and our behavior.
The human body responds to stressors by activating the nervous system and specific hormones. The hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of the brain, signals the adrenal glands, situated just above the kidneys, to produce more of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol and release them into the bloodstream. These hormones speed up heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. This natural reaction is known as the stress response.
The long-term activation of the stress-response system - and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones - can disrupt almost all of the body's processes, increasing the risk of obesity, insomnia, digestive problems, heart disease, depression, memory impairment, physical illnesses and other complications.
Managing StressStressful events are a fact of life, but we can take steps to manage the impact these events have on us. We can learn to identify what stresses us out, how to take control of some stress-inducing circumstances, and how to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally when we face events that we cannot control.
These strategies can include exercise, relaxation techniques, healthy nutritional choices, social support networks and professional psychotherapy. The benefits of managing stress are peace of mind and perhaps, a longer, healthier life.
Nutrients to Fight StressStress can create nutritional havoc. Some 1400 chemical changes occur as stress hormones sap the body of important nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A and the mineral magnesium.
In particular, the B vitamins are known as the anti-stress nutrients and mood enhancer. This is not surprising because B-complex vitamins are essential for healthy brain function. Some B vitamins are needed to make serotonin, the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter that keeps the mind calm.
Scientists theorize that the initial signs of B-vitamin deficiency are irritability and difficulty dealing with stress. People with stressful jobs often take vitamin B-complex to help counter the effects of stress.
The B vitamins are a group of water-soluble nutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of our body. They ensure that our body is provided with energy from the metabolism of carbohydrates and glucose. They are also needed for the metabolism of fats and proteins, and also for the maintenance and health of the nervous system in general.
Pantothenic acid, a member of the B vitamins, is also called the anti-stress vitamin because of its role in relieving stress. Pantothenic acid, along with folic acid and vitamin C, is required for the normal functioning of adrenal glands.
The B vitamins work best as a team. Thus, it’s important to take a B-complex vitamin when taking additional amounts of any single B vitamin. This promotes the natural synergism of the whole family of B vitamins.
Aside from the B vitamins, an adequate amount of nutritional magnesium - in proper balance with adequate nutritional calcium - is key to a healthy stress response.