Stress is perceived as a mental event to the conscious mind, but the actual stress response is based in our biology and is physical in nature. When thinking of the physical characteristics of stress, we tend to think of the visceral sensations we feel such as sweating and a racing heart.
Below the surface of the mental perception and visceral feelings of stress, the stress response is a complex interplay between nutrients, hormones, organs and nerves. There is a lot that goes on at a cellular level when we feel stressed.
The stress conversation is a big one & one often neglected facet is that the stress response requires many nutrients to take place. When it comes to lowering stress and minimizing the negative impacts of it, addressing key nutrients is a foundational piece.
What Does Stress Have to Do with Nutrients?
Stress increases the burn rate of several nutrients, meaning it depletes our micronutrient stores and increases the demand for dietary nutrients. The stress response which involves the synthesis of cortisol and other stress hormones, requires many nutrients.
Since stress is a survival response, all incoming nutrients are directed toward the areas and pathways in the body that are involved in stress. This often means that individuals who are stressed, have low levels of key nutrients needed for a wide range of functions in the body. Vitamin C, magnesium and the family of b-vitamins are among the nutrients that are most used in the stress response. ,
Ensuring adequate levels of vitamin C, magnesium and b-vitamins are consumed goes a long way in supporting the body in times of stress.
What Happens When Stress Depletes Nutrients?
In the case of chronic stress, vital nutrients are excreted through the urine at an increased rate. In general, all of the organs in the body require a constant influx of nutrients to perform their daily functions. When stress is in the picture, many organs need a higher amount of nutrients than in normal circumstances, because they are more active.
The three major nutrients to be mindful of when experiencing stress are Vitamin C, magnesium and b-vitamins
Vitamin C helps to breakdown cortisol, allowing it to leave the body. The more cortisol that’s made, the more vitamin C is needed to ensure it is being cleared out of the body in an efficient manner.
High levels of cortisol damage the body by causing free radical damage and prompting an inflammatory cascade. Vitamin C is one of the most well-known and powerful antioxidants and is therefore not only needed to take cortisol out of the body but to offset the damage and clean up the free radicals and inhibit further inflammation.
Food Sources of Vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers, broccoli & kiwi
Supplement Recommendation: Lypo-Spheric®Vitamin C, the most bioavailable oral vitamin C supplement!
When the stress response is activated, magnesium is released from inside the cell to outside the cell to protect the body. This results in a high amount being excreted by the body.
Since magnesium is required for over 400 actions in the body, when levels are low there is not only a decreased tolerance to stress but several organs systems in the body become negatively impacted.
Magnesium is involved at several points in the stress response and supplementing magnesium during stressful times decreases perception of stress and acts as an insurance policy for the body against short and long-term damage.
Recommended Supplement: AOR magnesium Glycinate. We love this one because the magnesium is chelated to glycine for superior bioavailability. Glycine in itself is inherently calming, which provides added benefit in the context of stress!
The family of b-vitamins are needed for nervous system health and are actively involved in the stress response. B-vitamins are water soluble, this means they are not stored in the body (with the exception of b12). As they are not stored, b-vitamin intake is essential everyday. The adrenals use b-vitamins rapidly when the stress response is activated, and when the creation of stress hormones is happening.
Food Sources: Bee pollen, liver, eggs, fish and grains
Recommended Brand: AOR’s B-Complex contains the b-vitamins in optimal ratios in the active form ensuring optimal availability and function when taken!
When there is an increased demand for nutrients and the body doesn’t receive them, over time 2 major things happen..
1. Incidence of chronic disease increases
It is a well-known concept that stress is a risk factor for nearly every chronic disease. This happens for many reasons, but the stress response uses up nutrients that are critical to maintaining health over the long term. The brain, heart, kidneys and every organ + system in the body require nutrients to perform their functions as well as to protect them from free radicals and inflammation. When stress is in the picture, and nutrients aren’t replenished, there is hardly any left over and a break down in structure and function of organs is seen
2. We perceive stress to a greater degree
There has been extensive research that shows Vitamin C, the b-family of vitamins and magnesium lower the mental perception of stress. If these nutrients are chronically deficient in an individual due to stress, they will feel as though they experience more stress. These feelings in turn do create mores stress. This can often present as anxiety accompanied by a then incremental deficit of the nutrients needed in the stress response which leads to under functioning organs.
Increasing nutrient density in the diet and through supplements is a critical part of stress management, both in the short and long-term. Magnesium, vitamin C and B-Vitamins are the most commonly depleted in those who experience stress. To ensure nutritional needs are being met, supplementation is often recommended alongside a nutritious, whole foods-based diet.
Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin