Stress Busters: Exploring the Best Supplements For Stress
Stress is part of our lives, whether we like it or not and we are all affected by it at some point. Managing stress is not easy and should be tackled from multiple angles. Exercising, dieting and meditating help. And luckily, we can now rely on some of the best supplements for stress to provide a helping hand as well.
These may come in various forms such as pills, capsules or liquid, and may vary in terms of content and ingredients, but the overarching goal is the same: to give you control over stress.
In this guide, I’ll give you some useful information about stress supplements and the most commonly used stress-buster components and let you decide whether such products can help you in any way or not.
What is stress?
Stress is our body and brain’s reactions to changes and challenges. These can be positive situations like a future wedding or the birth of a child or negative changes such as financial problems, illness etc.
While they can be triggered by stress factors that vary from one person to another, reactions can be physical, mental and emotional and can cause hormonal, cardiovascular or nervous system changes.
In some situations, stress can be a good thing because it determines you to react faster. The body feels like being under attack and provides a burst of energy also known as ‘fight or flight’ mode. During this chemical reaction, various hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine are released so that the body can be prepared for physical action. (1)
In other cases, stress makes you freeze and unable to think straight.
What causes stress?
Stress is caused by stressors or stress factors which are events/external or internal situations, real or imaginary, intense or frequent enough to require reactions from an individual.
The human brain is programmed to acknowledge each situation and classify it as negative (dangerous), positive or neutral and then react accordingly. A situation becomes a stressor when the individual’s available resources don’t seem to be sufficient enough to solve that situation successfully.
That is why stress is somehow subjective. What seems like a challenge to someone or impossible to overcome can be easy and relaxing for someone else. Individual differences in terms of the reactions to stress depend on genetic factors but also on different life experiences.
- Financial problems
- Busy schedule (2)
Symptoms of stress
Stress is a well-known risk factor in causing mental and physical problems. The symptoms people experience depend on how they perceive the stress factor and for how long.
For example short term stress, such as an interview or a tough deadline at work, can cause emotional distress, rapid heartbeat, excessive sweat, stomach problems, sweaty palms or headaches. But being a short time occurrence, this kind of stress does not generate any damage that cannot be manageable. (3)
Long term stress, on the other hand, also known as chronic stress, is the type that wears the body and mind leading to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sleeping disorders as well as mental disorders such as depression.
Some of the most common symptoms of chronic stress are the following:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Digestive problems
- Muscle tension
- Loss of appetite /increased appetite
- Libido changes
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Anger issues
It is best to watch out for warning signs of stress so that you can take care of it properly. This leads us to our next section.
How stress affects your hormonal balance
Physically, stress occurs whenever you unconsciously feel threatened by something. Your hypothalamus, an area of the brain, triggers an ‘alarm system’ and your hormones instantly react to keep you alert.
Your body starts producing adrenaline which increases heart rate and blood pressure, while giving you extra energy. The other hormone involved is cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone.’ Cortisol increases blood sugar levels that help your brain function quicker and prepares the body tissue for repair in case you get attacked.
All these reactions are perfectly normal; however, cortisol also affects the body in other ways that aren’t necessarily useful. This hormone alters the normal functions of your immune and digestive systems and suppresses growth, as well as the reproductive system. Cortisol also affects brain functions like mood, fear and motivation. (4)
Stress also inhibits thyroid functions, which affect the central nervous system. Insulin production decreases, which is why long-term stress increases your risk of hyperglycemia.
Micronutrients interaction with stress
By micronutrients, we mean vitamins and minerals that keep our body functioning properly. When you’re stressed, all of your body functions are working differently which requires plenty of energy. Therefore, whenever you’re stressed, you consume more vitamins and minerals than usual.
Unfortunately, the less micronutrients you have in your system, the more prone you are to stress and anxiety, so the two go hand in hand.
The B complex vitamins, for example, play a crucial role in keeping your brain and central nervous system functioning normally, thus reducing stress. They can create serotonin (also known as the hormone of happiness and relaxation), regulate blood pressure and improve immunity.
Vitamin deficiencies have been linked with increased stress and mood changes, which is why you should pay attention to this aspect as well.
According to a recent study, about half of all Americans say they’re dealing with moderate stress (5). Some people cope with stressful events in a more efficient way or recover faster than others.
For those out there trying to overcome stress, here are some tips you might find useful. They may not bring you total bliss, but learning how to manage stress in a more efficient way can literally add years to your life!
- Exercise – it is proven that regular exercise reduces stress by releasing endorphins that improve your mood and also help you sleep better
- Drink caffeine moderately – too much coffee can cause anxiety so, if you are a coffee lover, find the proper amount that doesn’t make you jittery or anxious
- Eat healthy – try to avoid high-sugar foods that give energy jolts for very short periods of time. It is recommended to eat foods with B vitamins, such as bananas, fish, avocados, chicken, because these regulate nerves and cells in your brain.
- Make time for yourself – pursuing hobbies and interests lowers the stress level by helping you focus on positive things
- Try supplements –supplements contain herbs and vitamins that help with many stress symptoms such as insomnia or bad digestion.
Should you consider supplements for stress?
Stress management is not easy for those struggling with ongoing stress and anxiety. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, therapy help but do not always eliminate stress completely. Therefore, more and more people start using stress supplements because they are an easy and cost-effective way to target stress reduction.
If you plan on using supplements for stress, you should know that they aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their quality and content can vary widely and provide different benefits for different symptoms but also side-effects if combined with other drugs. The overall goal, however, is to help you manage stress.
Because it may be difficult to determine which is the best supplements for stress, that really work for you, it is advisable to consult a doctor before beginning any supplementation process.
What can you find in stress supplements?
Although there is little evidence that stress supplements are efficient on the long term, there are some which can be considered both safe and reasonably effective. According to Mark Stengler, NMD, of Encinitas, California. “stress generates anxiety, and anxiety keeps our minds in motion. Luckily, we can choose from several natural substances to help us stay calm when the world around us is in turmoil.”
Also known as the Golden Root, Arctic Root, Roseroot, this tonic plant can be found in the arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and Alaska. Its root is used as medicine while the stem can be used in salads.
It is one of the most well-known adaptogens, helping the body to adapt to physical, hormonal, and environmental stress. It is also recommended to reduce fatigue and exhaustion caused by stress and improve energy.
Early research shows that taking a specific rhodiola extract at 200 -600 mg for minimum 12 weeks, before breakfast and lunch, can improve stress symptoms (6).
Described as the Indian ginseng, this herb has been used for over 3000 years as an Ayurvedic remedy for stress and it can presumably reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve mood and memory (7).
It is also an adaptogen that help the body adapt to stress and reduce the stress-generated hormone levels of cortisol.
Some clinical research showed that best results in improving symptoms of stress can be seen if 300 mg of ashwaganda are taken twice daily, after any meal, for 60 days.
This is a herbal plant part of the mint family which has been used for centuries in traditional medicine.
Several studies have shown that it can improve mood and induce feelings of calmness and relaxation, thus reducing stress and anxiety. “One study found that 1,600 milligrams of dried lemon balm was associated with an increase in calmness for up to six hours” (8).
It comes in the form of capsules or herbal tea and can be taken in split dosage throughout the day. However, it is recommended to be taken before going to bed because of its sedative properties which facilitate a better sleep.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green and black tea which helps the body and mind to relax without having the sedative properties of other supplements. For those aiming to reduce stress in their lives, theanine comes in the form of pills or capsules with a typical dosage of 100-200 mg (9).
It can be used during the day, making you feel better and keeping a more positive attitude but its effect is not as fast as that of other supplements.
Melatonin is a hormone released by the brain, commonly known as “the sleep hormone”. It has an essential role in inducing and maintaining sleep. And since stress goes hand in hand with lack of sleep, melatonin contributes therefore to lowering stress levels by facilitating a good night’s sleep and having an overall good health.
Melatonin is a pre-bed time supplement so it should be taken approx. 1 h before going to bed, with dosages varying from 3 mg to 6 mg (10).
Vitamin B complex
The vitamin B-complex refers to the essential water-soluble vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin, folic acid, and cobalamins (B12). B vitamins have been linked with an improved mental health and cognitive performance.
These are not stored by our bodies, which means they must be provided through diet or supplements. Studies showed that supplementing with a B-complex vitamins for 90 days relieves stress and symptoms of anxiety or depression and can help you keep you energy level high and stress level low (11).
Magnesium is an essential mineral with an active role in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
68% percent of Americans have been shown to consume less than the recommended levels of Mg intake. A magnesium deficiency increases the feelings of stress and anxiety-related behavior so a supplement can help you attenuate such problems. It promotes relaxation and according to some studies, it can have an efficient role in treating depression.
The recommended dosage varies between 300mg and 600 mg, usually before going to bed (12).
How to choose the right supplement
As a general rule, good supplements contain ingredients that were not genetically modified, so if you notice ‘non-GMO’ written on the label, it’s a good sign. Make sure to check the quantities of each ingredient; if a product contains dozens of ingredients in extremely low quantities, it might not work that well. Most mixed formulas have a few primary ingredients in higher amounts, and a few others that maximize the benefits of the capsules.
However, there are also a few things you’ll want to avoid here. Many supplements contain hydrogenated oils, which are a type of synthetic trans fats even the FDA tells us to avoid. The CDC adds that ‘Consuming trans fat increases low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or ‘bad’) cholesterol. This risk factor contributes to the leading cause of death in the U.S. – coronary heart disease (CHD).’ (13, 14)
Take home conclusions
Stress is a perfectly normal reaction of our body when we face changes or challenges; it helps us react fast and gives us energy through adrenaline. However, feeling stressed constantly leads to unpleasant symptoms like digestive problems, insomnia, migraines and even panic attacks.
On the long run, stress affects our hormonal balance especially when it comes to cortisol, a hormone that interacts with all the other body functions. Furthermore, stress consumes more vitamins and minerals than usual, which alters our usual energy levels, mood and brain functions.
Thankfully, we can relieve stress through healthy habits like exercise, regular diets, relaxing activities and simply staying positive about our life. In addition to that, supplements rich in stress-relieving herbs like rhodiola, ashwaghanda or lemon balm have proven benefits on regulating hormonal balance and keeping you relaxed. Other substances like L-theanine, melatonin and the vitamin B complex are also powerful allies in reducing long-term stress.
Although today’s society can make it look so, stress isn’t something we have to deal with for the rest of our lives. Creating a better lifestyle and using high-quality supplements is a great way of becoming happy and enjoying every day more.
Best supplements for stress
I think we can all agree that stress is not something to be overlooked. It does not go away by itself. Work pressure, family or relationship issues or even daily activities can make our hearts beat erratically, sweat like there’s no tomorrow or get very tensed.
Luckily, there are better ways to fight it. Besides meditation, exercising and practicing a healthy and balanced diet, there are several supplements based on herbs and vitamins which seem to alleviate stress symptoms and help you defend against its detrimental effects.
Let’s take a look at what we considered to be the best supplements for stress that may actually make a difference in your life quality.
This supplement contains a comprehensive blend of well-known adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola, roots like Maca and flowers, which work perfectly together to regulate mental and physical stress. As the product of a fermentation process with organic and vegetarian ingredients, this supplement manages to balance your adrenals and improve your mood. With 90 capsules per bottle, it is recommended for extensive use, preferably at breakfast or before lunch.
- Superior “Grade 10” herbs not typically included in other products
- Excipient free, which makes it more easily absorbed
- Gluten free with no genetically modified ingredients
- Although it is marketed as having no side effects, some customers complained about lack of energy
From its high micronutrient content to the combination of stress-relieving herbs, this supplement has all it takes for a powerful formula. While rhodiola keeps stress hormones under control, ashwaghanda is effective in reducing cortisol levels. The vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and thiamine improve your energy levels, all while creating a healthy hormonal balance on the long run.
- Contains lemon balm which induces calmness and reduces anxiety
- Has vitamin B complex and magnesium for extra energy
- Easy to swallow capsules
- Some customers with high anxiety levels didn’t experience a notable difference
Sometimes less is more – and if you want simplicity, this is the right product for you. Not only is every ingredient of this supplement organic and free from chemicals, but its formula is also based on a single, powerful ingredient: ashwagandha. As one of the most trustworthy natural remedies for stress, the root of this plant was processed to deliver a high-quality dose of natural help for your needs.
- Free from genetically modified ingredients
- Simple formula with a high quantity of ashwagandha root extract
- Based on a traditional, 5000-year-old science of plant manufacturing
- Some customers claim the effect of the formula is weak or non-existent
This product works by optimizing the effects of an all-natural herbal blend of Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Lemon Balm with vitamin B1, B2 and B6 as well as Zinc and Potassium. Like many other supplements, it is intended for long-term use in reducing stress and anxiety levels and keeping you relaxed and calm due to its Magnesium content.
- Full refund if not happy with results
- Does not make you sleepy
- 100% vegan-friendly
- Some customers reported side effects of stomach upset
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This supplement offers a well-rounded, high quality natural formula of amino acids and top adaptogen herbs like passion flower, ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, lemon balm and chamomile to promote relaxation and provide support in coping with stress. Unlike some supplements in this category, it does not contain Magnesium Stearate which some people are allergic to. Add up the L-Tyrosine and L-Theanine and this product makes you lighter and alert during the day and restful during the night.
- Balanced blend of ingredients
- Non-GMO Ingredients, vegan friendly, suitable for people with different diets
- Manufactured in the USA
- Some customers complained they did not observe any improvements in terms of better sleep
With stress being omnipresent in our society, people try to find the best but also easiest ways to fight against it. The products presented in the previous chapter are all powerful stress busters and efficient instruments against anxiety and related symptoms.
As an all-natural option to relieve stress and anxiety and promoting calmness and healthy sleep patterns, LES Labs Mood Boost comes up a winner in our race as the best supplement for stress.
Its plethora of herbs such as Aswhaghanda and Lemon Balm are known for their positive effect on body and mind and also for being a possible treatment against depression and anxiety. The ingredients have been successfully blended into a quality, non-addictive formula to have better effect than each individual ingredient.
The fact that is also contains L-Tyrosine and L-Theanine, powerful amino acids which are clinically proven to reduce physical and mental stress, regulate sleep and improve focus, all at a very good price, makes this supplement a top choice for those who want to take the edge off life and not stress and get anxious about everything.