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Natural Therapies to Help Students with Stress and Memory

Stress | August 17, 2016 | Author: Naturopath

memory, work stress

Natural Therapies to Help Students with Stress and Memory

Almost everyone feels stressed during exam time. A little stress and in moderation is not a bad thing. It keeps you alert and motivated, helps you to cope in challenging situations, and can even enhance your performance. However, too much stress can interfere with your studying, impair your memory and be harmful for your health.

What is Stress?

The Australian Psychological Society describes stress as a feeling of being overloaded, wound-up, tight, tense and worried. Physically, a stressful situation triggers physiological changes in our body, also known as the "fight-or-flight" response, releasing adrenal stress hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. This response increases your heart rate and blood pressure, and slows your digestion - all of which provide the body with a burst of energy and fuel to respond to perceived danger and protect us from harm.

How Does Stress Harm the Body?

Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a state of calm. However, chronic and prolonged stress increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to raised blood sugar, food cravings, fatigue, low mood, problems with memory and learning, and weakened immune system.

Manage Your Stress and Boost Your Memory

Diet

Brain function is related to what we eat! An emerging body of evidence suggests that a healthy diet containing fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and omega-3 fats can help reduce stress and ease anxiety.

shutterstock_88218493As for memory, researchers found that undergraduate students consuming a Western style diet high in saturated fat and refined sugars performed poorly on memory tasks, compared with a group consuming less saturated fats and sugars. Similarly, high intakes of take-away food, red and processed meat, soft drinks, and fried and refined food at age 14 were associated with poor cognitive performance 3 years later.

Dietary tips: Regulate your blood sugar. Maintaining stable blood sugar throughout the day can help counteract the harmful effects of cortisol. Ways to regulate blood sugar include:

  • Eat low glycaemic load foods – Glycaemic load describes the overall effect of carbohydrate quality and quantity on blood sugar. Lowering dietary glycaemic load can be achieved by increasing the consumption of whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruit and non-starchy vegetables, and decreasing intakes of moderate and high glycaemic load foods like potatoes, white rice, white bread, and sugary foods

 

  • Frequent, regular meals/snacks - Eating something every two to three hours will prevent both the drop in blood sugar and the resulting cortisol release. Snacks and meals should always have some protein and fat, never just carbohydrate alone.
     
  • Adequate, good quality protein – protein has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol – Caffeine and alcohol both disrupt the production of cortisol. Caffeine is a stimulant, over stimulating cortisol production, while alcohol inhibits the production of cortisol.

Eat foods for your brain

Some foods have been identified as having the ability to influence cognitive ability. The following foods are particularly good for your brain:

Omega-3 fatty acids – They are structural components of brain cells and as such are essential for optimal brain function. Food sources include fatty fish, flaxseeds, walnuts and green leafy vegetables.

Green leafy vegetables - A study evaluating the eating habits and mental ability of more than 950 older adults for an average of five years found that those who ate one or two servings of leafy green veggies a day, such as spinach or kale, experienced slower mental deterioration than those who ate no vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are great sources of folate and vitamins A and K.

Blueberries - Potent antioxidants, high in vitamins C, K, and fibre, and have been shown to improve memory and learning.

Turmeric – This ancient spice contains a compound called curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatoryproperties that seem to protect the brain.
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Walnuts – A study of over 10,000 people found that eating a handful of walnuts per day may help boost memory, concentration and the speed at which your brain processes information.

Olive Oil - Extra virgin olive oil improves learning and memory thanks to its powerful antioxidants.

Green tea – Drinking green tea has been shown to increase memory and improve task performance.

Nutritional supplements

Vitamin B5. The active form of B5, pantothenic acid, is required to produce adrenal hormones like cortisol, which support healthy adrenal function. Suggested dose: 450 milligrams twice a day with food. Or choose a Vitamin B complex or Multi Vitamin.

Vitamin C. Marathon runners who were supplemented with vitamin C were found to have significantly lower levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline immediately post race. Suggested dose: 1-2 grams daily.

Magnesium. Low magnesium levels increase release of stress hormones. Suggested dose: 400-600 mg daily.

Omega-3 fatty acids. Associated with improved mood and cognition. Suggested dose: 1-3 grams daily.

Botanicals

Adaptogens. A group of herbs, which is known to greatly improve response to stress. Some common adaptogens include rhodiola, panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng (eleutheroccocus senticosus), licorice root (glycyrrhiza glabra), and withania/ashwagandha (withania somniferra).

Kava (piper methysticum), Passion Flower (passiflora incarnata), and Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) have all been reported to have calming and anxiety-reducing effects.
Aromatherapy 

This ancient healing therapy involves the use of essential oils, some of which have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, including lavender, lemon balm, passion flower, rosemary, and sandalwood.

Lifestyle

Practice relaxation. Exercise, yoga, tai chi, a walk on the beach, meditation, music therapy – can all reduce stress

Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep leads to stress, while stress and anxiety can interfere with your sleep, creating a vicious cycle. Sleep deprivation is associated with impaired memory and reasoning abilities.

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References
Arab, L., & Ang, A. (2015). A cross sectional study of the association between walnut consumption and cognitive function among adult us populations represented in NHANES. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 19(3), 284–290. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-014-0569-2
Australian Psychologyical Society. (2016). Understanding and managing stress.
https://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/StressTipSheet.pdf Beilharz, J. E., Maniam, J., & Morris, M. J. (2015).
Diet-Induced Cognitive Deficits: The Role of Fat and Sugar, Potential Mechanisms and Nutritional Interventions. Nutrients, 7(8), 6719–38.
http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7085307 Bhattacharya, S. K., & Mitra, S. K. (1991).
Anxiolytic activity of Panax ginseng roots: an experimental study. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 34(1), 87–92. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1684404 Bhattacharya, S. K., & Muruganandam, A. V. (2003).
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Extra virgin olive oil improves learning and memory in SAMP8 mice. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD, 28(1), 81–92.
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Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 9(7), 568–78. http://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2421 Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University. Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load (2016).
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MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 11(9), 1015–1022. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2015.04.011 National Institute on Aging. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know? (2016).
https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/search-alzheimers-prevention-strategies/ Natural Medicines – Medical Conditions: Anxiety disorders (2016). http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com Nyaradi, A., Foster, J. K., Hickling, S., et al. (2014).
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A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta Medica, 75(2), 105–12. http://doi.org/10.1055/s-0028-1088346 Peters, E. M., Anderson, R., Nieman, D. C., et al. (2001).
Vitamin C supplementation attenuates the increases in circulating cortisol, adrenaline and anti-inflammatory polypeptides following ultramarathon running. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 22(7), 537–43.
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