A Series on Stress: Part 3 of 4: “Time to Up the Ante”

While our diet should always be the starting place for getting the vitamins and minerals we need for our bodily processes to function optimally, supplementation can offer therapeutic benefit above and beyond that which can be achieved with diet alone. Supplementation also serves an important purpose in instances of depletion or chronic stress as a means of replenishment and enhanced support so we may start to feel better faster.

When considering supplementation in the case of stress management or adrenal fatigue, it is important to think about basic glandular support. In order for our adrenal glands to function well, the enzymes within require some basic nutrients to operate:

  • Vitamin C: One of the highest concentrations of vitamin C in the body is found within the adrenal glands. Vitamin C is secreted from the adrenal glands in response to stress and supplementation can improve cortisol recovery.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is used in enzymatic processes all throughout the body, including those within the adrenal glands. Magnesium can promote relaxation, improve sleep, and reduce restlessness.
  • B Vitamins: B vitamins are used throughout the entire cascade of hormone synthesis in the adrenal glands and are essential for many processes in the body, including DNA synthesis and energy production. Of particular importance to the enzymes in the adrenal glands are vitamin B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B6 (pyridoxine).
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D has broad actions throughout the body, and of particular importance to stress management is its role in hormone production and immune system regulation (which can become compromised during periods of chronic stress).

Once we have addressed basic glandular support, we can introduce certain botanicals to further support adrenal gland recovery and activity. Herbs known to offer such benefit to the adrenal glands and aid in stress management are called ‘adaptogens’. There are several herbs within this category, including a few notable ones with some key indications:

  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): nervous exhaustion, feeling overworked – can act as a calming herb and improve thyroid function
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranceus): emotional exhaustion, reduced immunity – can boost immune function and improve mood
  • Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): mental and physical exhaustion – can improve concentration and mental capacity
  • Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra): fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness – can increase blood pressure and energy
  • Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum): food cravings and irregular eating habits – reduces cravings and can improve blood sugar regulation
  • Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus): chronic stress, low stamina – can improve performance and resistance to stress
  • Chinese/Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng): low vitality, poor memory – can act as a central nervous system stimulant
  • Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis): depression, irritability, forgetfulness – can improve mood and promote a sense of calm

For both nutritional and botanical supplementation, dosage, form, and potential interactions with other supplements or medications must always be considered, and should be determined based on an individual assessment. When choosing supplements, it is also always important to pay attention to the quality of the product. The quality of a supplement has significant bearing on the ability of the body to absorb and utilize the vitamins, minerals, and active plant constituents you are consuming.

We have identified the signs and symptoms of excessive stress and adrenal fatigue, highlighted the necessity of saying “no” and doing less, emphasized the importance of nourishment through food and sufficient sleep, and discussed the benefit of supplementation with certain nutrients and botanicals. In our last week, we will review movement and meditation, which might just be the most powerful considerations of all.