7 Stress Management Supplements And Navigating A New Normal
In this article:
- What Is Stress?
- Stress Management
- 1. Melatonin
- 2. Glycine
- 3. St. John’s Wort
- 4. L-Theanine
- 5. B Vitamins
- 6. Phosphatidylserine
- 7. Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger — whether real or imagined — the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the fight-or-flight reaction or the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When it’s working properly, the stress response helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life, giving you extra strength to defend yourself.
Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV. But, beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and quality of life.
Stress management is a way to regulate the effects of stress on your body and mind. Stress management can be learning skills like problem-solving, prioritizing tasks, and time management. It could also include enhancing your ability to cope with changes, adversity, and/or conflict, for example, improving emotional awareness, practicing gratitude, or bettering personal relationships.
Supplements may also be helpful in managing stress. Many over-the-counter remedies may support healthy physiological responses to stress, like maintaining healthy stress hormone levels, getting adequate sleep, and supporting your mood.
7 Possibilities for Natural Relief
Researchers have studied numerous herbs, supplements, and vitamins to determine if they have benefits for people in need during this difficult time. Here are a few of them to consider.
Getting an adequate amount of quality sleep is important for relieving stress. On average, this should be 7–8 hours of uninterrupted shut-eye. Stress is strongly linked to sleeping difficulty, including having trouble falling or staying asleep. Managing sleep is key to stabilizing mood and maintaining healthy levels of stress hormones.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Levels of the hormone increase in the evening when it’s dark to promote sleep and decrease in the morning when it’s light to promote wakefulness.
Exogenous melatonin, or melatonin not made by the body, is one of the most requested supplements. Melatonin may support the total number of hours you sleep, and it may also support balancing healthy circadian rhythm cycles from jet lag or shift work (working an all-night shift, for example).
Glycine is an amino acid that your body uses to create proteins, which are needed for the growth and maintenance of tissues, hormones, and enzymes. The body naturally produces glycine from other amino acids (compounds that build larger proteins), but it is also found in protein-rich foods and is available as a dietary supplement.
Glycine is one of the amino acids the body uses to make glutathione, an antioxidant that can protect the body’s cells against oxidative damage, often a result of stress. Glycine helps to create components that make up our DNA, called purines.
Glycine is also key in making a compound called creatine. This compound, among other benefits, may support healthy brain function and mood.
Studies also suggest that glycine may increase your body’s resistance to stress by supporting healthy sleep, as it has been shown to support calming the brain. It may also have the ability to lower your core body temperature. A lower body temperature may promote better sleep and help you stay asleep during the night.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a shrubby herb with yellow flowers. It grows wild through Europe, parts of Asia, parts of Africa, and the western United States. St. John's wort has been used for centuries and may support a variety of different health conditions, including the management of symptoms of depression. The chemical composition of St. John's wort has been well-studied, and current research supports the traditional use of the plant. Properties of this botanical may include antidepressive, antiviral, and antibacterial effects.
These properties are attributable to chemical compounds like hypericin and flavonoid constituents. Hyperforin is one of the major components of St. John's wort that may be responsible for its antidepressant ability. Hyperforin has been shown to be an uptake inhibitor of neurotransmitters like 5-HTP, dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA. This supports the chemical balance in the brain, addressing one of the causes of depressive symptoms.
The flowers are used to create the supplement, and it often comes in the form of teas, tablets, and capsules.
L-theanine is an amino acid most commonly found in tea leaves. It has been studied for its ability to support relaxation and healthy cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
This compound can also help manage anxiety symptoms and support healthy memory function and attention span. These effects may be due to the synergistic effects of the caffeine and L-theanine in the tea, as each ingredient on its own was found to have a lesser impact. However, studies suggest that L-theanine by itself may still help relieve stress.
B vitamins are made up of a group of eight water-soluble vitamins that perform essential functions. For example, these vitamins may play an important role in metabolism by transforming the food you eat into usable energy. B vitamins are cofactors for enzymes needed to break down food. They are also key in creating DNA and many neurotransmitters that support healthy moods.
Food sources of B vitamins include grains, meats, legumes, eggs, dairy products, and leafy greens. An easy and convenient way to get these B vitamins is through supplements. B vitamins have been attributed to supporting energy production, healthy moods, and healthy cortisol levels.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) occurs naturally in the body and may support cellular function, especially in the brain. PS is a fatty substance called a phospholipid. It covers and protects the cells in your brain and carries messages between them. PS plays an important role in supporting your memory. It may also moderate the body’s reaction to stress.
Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. Neurotransmitters function as chemical messengers. GABA is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it blocks, or inhibits, certain brain signals and decreases activity in your nervous system
Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is often taken as a supplement. It may help reduce anxiety symptoms and support mood. GABA may also support a healthy immune system.
As we all continue to look for ways to stay healthy during this pandemic, luckily, there are many natural options available that can help provide us with the support and relief we need.
- Costello, R. B., Lentino, C. V., Boyd, C. C. et al. (2014). The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutrition Journal, 13, 106; Published 11/7/2014; Accessed 6/29/2020
- Razak, M. A., Begum, P. S., Viswanath, B., et al. (2017). Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017, 1716701.
- Davidson, J.T., Connor, K.M. Valerian. In: Herbs for the Mind: Depression, Stress, Memory Loss, and Insomnia. New York: Guilford Press, 2000: 214-233.
- Hidese, S., Ogawa, S., Ota, M., et al. (2019). Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 11(10): 2362.
- Kennedy D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review. Nutrients, 8(2): 68.
- Kim, H. Y., Huang, B. X., & Spector, A. A, et al. (2014). Phosphatidylserine in the brain: metabolism and function. Progress in lipid research, 56, 1–18.
- Boonstra, E., de Kleijn, R., Colzato, L. S., et al. (2015). Neurotransmitters as food supplements: the effects of GABA on brain and behavior. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1520.