5 Key Natural Medicines to Help our Bodies Handle Stress
Temporary moments of stress are a normal part of life. In fact, our bodies are well equipped as humans to respond appropriately to stressors around us. It is when stressors are excessive or prolonged over time that we can start to feel the adverse impacts of stress.
The impacts of stress can affect both of bodies and minds. Those with mental health concerns may feel more on edge. Burnout and our ability the perform cognitively can worsen. Our sleep and energy can become impaired. Weight gain can increase and inflammatory markers can rise.
Stress affects us all, young and old, whether we are students, families, or elders. Life as a student can be a very exciting time, though not without challenges. This is true for any student and especially those in demanding programs or during challenging exam periods. Isolation, loneliness, and anxiety are felt by many of us these days. This may be particularly true for some of the more vulnerable folks around us, certainly as the pandemic continues to linger. Many elders may feel particularly isolated, which can be a stressor. Families may be feeling stress with balancing the demands of work, partners, and children, especially through changing times.
For many of us, here are some of the key considerations to help handle stress:
(As always, before using any herb or nutrient consult with a healthcare professional first).
- Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids: Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are those healthy fats that the body itself cannot produce so we get them from foods or supplements. What makes EFAs so important is their role in both brain and nervous system health. EFAs can be found in fish, chia seed, flaxseed, nuts and seeds, and algae, as well as supplements.
- B-Complex (particularly B5): B-vitamins play a critical role in many bodily processes, including many energy pathways. B-vitamins also play a role in supporting our ability to deal with stress, particularly vitamin B5 which is thought of as the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin.
- Vitamin C: This important vitamin is known for its role as an antioxidant. Many free radicals can be produced during times of stress and vitamin C can help to stop free radicals. Vitamin C is used by our bodies to a greater extent under stressful conditions.
- Ashwaganda: This stress supportive herb is considered a calming adaptogen (calms us while helping us to adapt to stress). Herbs that are adaptogens help the body deal with stress by moderating our responses to stressors. Ashwaganda also helps to support insomnia caused by stress and can be effective for reducing anxiety.
- Bacopa: Bacopa is also an adaptogen. Specifically, it helps with short- and long-term memory, as well as assisting general cognitive abilities, such as focus and learning.
To get the most from our bodies and minds, and maintain good health during periods of stress, it is important to work in exercise, proper sleep, and a diet rich in whole foods. Doing so can pay off not only in our health but in our mental performance. As a naturopathic doctor, this is true in my own life, and I see the results in my patients.
Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.
- Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts.
- Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
- Marciano, M., Dr. (n.d.). The Naturopathic Herbalist. Retrieved February 20, 2016