Natural Remedies for Stress Reduction

Stress | October 20, 2016 | Author: Naturopath

Natural Remedies for Stress Reduction

Stress is a common condition affecting men and women at some point in their life. For some people stress is a daily ongoing occurrence, so engrained into their daily life it is perceived as normal, while for others it can be triggered by a specific event in their life. We all react and tolerate stress differently, what is stressful for one person may not be for another. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise the effects of stress on your physical and mental wellbeing. Utilizing stress reduction techniques, supplementing with herbs and increasing nutrients in the diet can help in successful stress management, so that you can live a healthier, happier life.

The top ten most stressful life events on the Holmes and Rahe scale include the following:

  • Death of a spouse
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Imprisonment
  • Death of a close family member
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Dismissal from work
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Retirement

The stress response

The fight or flight stress response is a normal physiological reaction to danger to give a burst of energy so that you can fight back or run away. In small amounts it benefits our mental and physical wellbeing by motivating and sharpening focus where a prompt response is required. However, when the stress becomes too high or constant and is poorly managed, it can predispose to major chronic pathologies and neurological changes.

Are you experiencing a poor stress response?

Check the common signs and symptoms to see if this is the case for you

  • Changes in mental wellbeing and mood: including anxiety, poor concentration and memory, depression, low energy levels, excessive worry, insomnia, panic disorder and depression
  • Cardiovascular dysfunction: increased heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, palpitations and clammy hands
  • Digestive dysfunction: cramping, irritable bowel syndrome, low stomach acid, poor digestion and food intolerances
  • Immunological imbalances: increased risk of infection, autoimmune conditions, predisposition to allergies and inflammation
  • Metabolic disorders: insulin resistance, loss of glycaemic control and obesity (especially with an increase of fat storage around the abdomen)
  • Hormonal disturbances: dysregulation of reproductive hormones
  • Thyroid dysfunction: impaired conversion of T4 to T3
  • Musculoskeletal system: muscular tension, tension headaches, reduction in bone mass and osteoporosis
  • Other: accelerated ageing, declining vision, hearing loss and loss of skin elasticity

Healthy eating for a healthy nervous system

It is essential to eat foods that supply the body with all its nutritional needs to help you resist and manage stress in a healthy way.

During times of stress, the requirement of specific nutrients may increase and below are some examples of these.

 

Foods to include:

Protein

This macronutrient is important for regulating blood glucose levels, supports healthy brain chemistry and allows the body to repair. Protein can be sourced from animal sources such as fish, chicken, lamb and beef or from vegetarian sources such as nuts, seeds, lentils, legumes, eggs and dairy.

Magnesium

This important mineral is a common deficiency among Australians. It is important to help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, promotes a healthy mood and calms the muscles and nerves. Sources include green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, bananas, berries and red meat.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are a complex of nutrients that support healthy energy production and are important for nervous system function.

These nutrients are found in meat, seafood, eggs, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables. To maintain adequate levels of all B vitamins eat from a wide variety of the sources listed above.

Essential Fatty Acids

Foods such as avocados, fish, walnuts, brazil nuts, linseeds and chia seeds, contribute to a favourable essential fatty acid balance.

Omega 3’s are essential for a healthy brain and nervous system, supporting healthy mood, cognitive function and memory.

Foods to avoid:

Foods that amplify the stress response should be avoided and include the following:

  • Caffeine in coffee, tea, caffeinated foods and beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white bread, pasta, rice and processed foods

Lifestyle

Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce stress, depression and anxiety. It is an important tool to help bring stress hormones back in balance. Aim for 20 minutes a day of aerobic activity of your choice.

Getting involved in a group activity can help to improve social support networks that are related to positive states of health and reduced risk of chronic disease.

Walking within nature (green exercise) has also be shown to immediately enhance mental well-being. A recent study found that green exercise also produced a more profound benefit on our physiological health compared to walking the same distance in an urban environment.

Practice gratitude and write down what you are thankful for each day. Regularly expressing gratitude helps in increasing our self-esteem, mental wellbeing and empathy while reducing aggression.

Mindful meditation. A meta-analysis has found that mindfulness meditation is able to assist in people dealing with mental and physical stressors. It works by allowing one to be present in the ‘here and now’, increasing one’s ability to cope.

Breathing. A simple technique to use anywhere to calm yourself is to take a few deep breathes to slow your breathing rate.

Herbs to promote relaxation

Anxiolytic and sedative herbs are indicated in people who are anxious, restless and have difficulty falling asleep.

  • Chamomile
  • lemon balm

are great herbs to use if a gentle action is required and there are also digestive symptoms present. Both herbs are also suitable for use in children.

If a stronger action is required consider taking:

  • valerian
  • zizyphus
  • hops
  • passionflower
  • kava
  • lavender

‚ÄčThey can be safely taken during the day to relieve anxiety without causing grogginess or at night to help fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.

Herbs that have adaptogenic qualities can also be helpful to reduce fatigue and stress-induced impairments of our immune and neuroendocrine system. If you want to increase physical and mental stamina consider the herbs: 

  • korean ginseng
  • siberian ginseng
  • withania
  •  rhodiola.

Stress is a common problem for many people, but it is the way in which we respond to and manage stressful situations which determines whether or not it has long-term effects on our health and wellbeing. Identifying causes of stress, implementing reduction strategies and using natural therapies can be helpful in reducing the harmful effects of chronic stress.

References

Sarris J & Wardle J. (2010). Clinical Naturopathy, Churchill Livingstone, Australia

De Kloet ER, Derijk R. Signalling pathways in brain involved in predisposition and pathogenesis of stress-related disease: genetic and kinetic factors affecting the MR/GR balance. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1032:14-34

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15677393

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_82.htm

Grant R, Guest J. Role of omega-3 PUFAs in neurobiological health. Adv Neurobiol. 2016;12:247-74

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27651257

Kennedy DO. B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy- a review. Nutrients. 2016 Jan 27;8(2):68

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26828517

Gladwell VF, et al. A lunchtime walk in nature enhances restoration of autonomic control during night-time sleep: results from a preliminary study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Mar 3;13(3)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26950138

Grossman P, et al. Minfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. J Psychosom Res. 2004 Jul;57(1):35-43

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293

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