Are you stressed?

- then make sure to get enough of the essential nutrients so you can cope with more

 Are you stressed?Stress is a large problem for many people. It is believed that the majority of people who consult their physician do it because of stress-related problems. Many people try to relieve their stress with sweets, coffee, alcohol, painkillers, and sleeping medication just to get through the day. However, in the long run, this can turn into a vicious cycle that increases your risk of disease and faster ageing. There are dozens of books about stress that can be useful for solving problems and slowing down your pace, but don’t forget that stress is also physiological. It is a condition that deteriorates tissues, burdens the body with free radicals and increases your need for B-vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, selenium and coenzyme Q10. If you make sure to get the necessary essential nutrients before it is too late, you can cope with more.

Temporary, acute stress is best for you

Most of us know the feeling of being stressed when we have too many things on our plate, worry about things, feel in doubt, have fear or sorrow or just feel a sense of hopelessness. It is not the problems as such that determine whether we become sick or not, it is our own interpretation of them, our reactions, and our resources. Acute stress causes our adrenal glands to produce large amounts of adrenalin, a hormone that has prepared us humans for fight or flight ever since the beginning of time. Our blood pressure goes up, sending more blood with sugar and fatty acids to our muscles and brain to help us perform optimally, physically and mentally. Also, our blood’s ability to coagulate intensifies in anticipation of potential lesions, while white blood cells are redirected to our different tissues to help fight infections. All these reactions are potentially beneficial, as they increase our odds of surviving sudden danger.

Did you know that an irritable bowel, which affects 15-30 percent of people, is related to stress?
During stress, blood from the intestines is sent to the brain and muscles, and the digestive system is given lower priority. Eating fiber and lactic acid bacteria does not help much, as it is the nervous system that is overloaded.

Long-term stress is bad for your health – this is why

If the burden of stress lasts for hours, days, or months, just like many people experience, the condition becomes dangerous because the body does not have a chance to recover. The adrenal cortex produces huge quantities of cortisol (long-term stress hormone) and that depletes the body’s resources, breaks down tissue to produce energy, and minerals from the skin and bones are removed to fuel enzyme processes in connection with the energy turnover in cells.
At the same time, cortisol prevents the immune system from fighting infection. The digestive system and reproductive system are also given lower priority, as these functions must stand in line and wait “until the danger is over”. Because the body uses such enormous amounts of cortisol during periods of stress, it can easily take its toll on the other steroid hormones, including sex hormones and thyroid hormone.
Very long-lasting and severe stress burdens the nervous system, immune system and hormone system and may be the final drop, once all resources have been used. People may feel burned out and fall victim to a number of diseases, including those diseases to which they may be genetically predisposed but are able to control under normal circumstances. Nonetheless, many fail to understand why they suddenly succumb to stress. The problem with stress is that it causes us to produce adrenalin and dopamine, two hormones that give us a biochemical “rush” that makes us believe, mistakenly, that we can deal with any challenge. Therefore, it is a good idea to listen to signals that your body sends and react promptly, as shown in the table below.

If you are stressed, you typically experience one or several of the following symptoms:

Physical:

Heart palpitations, headache, sweating, inner unrest, stomach pain, irritable bowel, altered appetite, weight loss, weight gain, frequent infections. In the long run, you may feel burned out and fall victim to serious diseases, including diseases to which you are genetically predisposed.

Psychological and behavioral:

Tiredness, sleeping problems, difficulty with memory and concentration, indecisiveness, short temper, unsociable behavior, fear, depression. Increased need for and use of sweets and other stimulants.

Cortisol in such large quantities can cause damage to your

  • Sex hormone production (steroid hormones)
  • Immune system
  • Blood sugar regulation
  • Waist circumference (increased fat deposits around the stomach)
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Bones

Make sure to get plenty of B-vitamins regularly

B-vitamins are important for our energy turnover, nervous system, immune system, hormone system, and digestive system, all of which are under great pressure in situations with stress. We use more B-vitamins when we are stressed, and we tend to become deficient more easily because B-vitamins do not get stored in the body.
At the same time, overconsuming coffee, black tea, and stimulants, plus using birth control pills, diuretics, and anti-depressive medicine can deplete the body of B-vitamins and exacerbate the problem. Good sources of B-vitamins are fresh, green, and coarse foods such as whole grain, legumes, vegetables, brown rice, nuts, seeds, kernels, and brewer’s yeast (an excellent source). Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal food sources like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy product.
B-vitamins are water-soluble and are not stored in the body, so we need to consume them daily. Strong B-vitamin supplements are useful for any type of stress, and you may want to take them with the different meals of the day in order to benefit the most from them.

The following gives an overview of the different B-vitamins and their role in connection with stress

  • Vitamin B1: Energy turnover, nerve and brain function. A deficiency may lead to fear and self-destructive thoughts
  • Vitamin B3: Energy turnover, synthesis of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, and inner rest. A deficiency may cause fear and aggression.
  • Vitamin B5: Together with folic acid and vitamin C, vitamin B5 controls the body’s production of adrenalin and cortisol
  • Vitamin B6: Energy turnover and synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Helps maintain the mental balance.
  • Vitamin B12-vitamin: Energy turnover, blood formation, and production and maintenance of nerve cells. Important for cognitive functions such as concentration and memory.

Free radicals and oxidative stress play a role in the development of many diseases

Stress causes the body to produce more free radicals, which are aggressive molecules that attack our cells and create dangerous chain reactions. The free radical burden is increased by tobacco smoking, poisoning, medicine, radiation, and ageing processes. Our only source of protection against free radicals is antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A), zinc, selenium, Q10, and different plant compounds that work in different ways. The combination of having too few antioxidants and too many free radicals causes something called oxidative stress, a condition that can damage tissues and increase the risk of atherosclerosis and different diseases. That is why it is essential always to get enough antioxidants, especially if you are stressed.

Can stress cause premature ageing?

Yes, because free radicals speed up the ageing processes. We need more protective antioxidants that can counteract oxidative stress caused by the free radical load.

The advantage of taking extra vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for our energy levels, nervous system, mental balance, and for helping the adrenal glands produce hormones in situations with physical and mental stress. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that protects the body against oxidative stress. The vitamin also supports the production of collagen, it supports the immune function, and has a number of other vital functions. It is often compared to a water-soluble hormone. Lack of vitamin C may cause frequent infections, iron deficiency, fatigue, and a number of other symptoms. A tendency to bruise easily, bleeding gums, nosebleed, and slow wound healing may be signs of subclinical scurvy.
Most animals are able to synthesize their own vitamin C depending on their individual needs, and their vitamin C production increases if they are stressed. It appears that we humans also need more vitamin C in situations with stress. Extra vitamin C is able to strengthen the immune system and help us fight infections.

Important: Eating many refined carbohydrates and having high blood sugar levels can increase your need for vitamin C

That is because blood sugar (blood glucose) and vitamin C compete for the same channels that lead into the cells.

Vitamin C, sources, and supplements

Good vitamin C sources are rosehips, parsley, berries, bell pepper, cabbage, citrus fruits, fruit and vegetables. It can be difficult to get the same amount of vitamin C from your diet as you can get by taking a supplement. For example, an apple contains around 14 mg of vitamin C, so in order to get the same amount of the nutrient as you get from a 750 mg tablet, you would have eat 53 apples.
With any type of stress, it is advisable to take non-acidic vitamin C that is gentler toward the stomach mucosa.

Magnesium is a must for the energy turnover and the entire body

Magnesium is involved in around 350 different enzyme processes in the body and is essential for the energy turnover, adrenal glands, nervous system, and blood sugar. For that reason, magnesium is very important if you are stressed.
Typical signs of magnesium deficiency are fatigue, tension, inner unrest, trembling, muscle cramps and insomnia and are caused by the nervous system working overtime. Some people may have constipation and irritable bowels, hypertension, insidious mineral loss from the skeleton and imbalances in their blood sugar, sex hormone balance, and metabolism.

Did you know that a craving for chocolate may be a sign that you lack magnesium?
The explanation lies in the fact that cocoa beans contain a lot of magnesium. However, chocolate also contains sugar and a caffeine-like compound called theobromine that can influence your blood sugar and adrenal glands, but only if you get more than a certain amount.

Magnesium sources and supplements

Some of the good magnesium sources are pumpkin seeds and other seeds, almonds, nuts, beans, whole grain, vegetables, seaweed, and dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. Before the industrialization, the average intake of magnesium easily reached 500 mg per day. Today, many people get less than half that amount, which is unfortunate because stress increases your need for the nutrient. Stimulants, diuretics, vitamin B6 deficiency, and too much calcium from dairy products and supplements may increase the magnesium deficiency or make it difficult for the body to utilize the mineral. Magnesium supplements should contain high-quality magnesium, which the body can easily absorb. You may want to take magnesium several times a day.

Many people with stress benefit from taking magnesium supplements (possibly with B-vitamins) with their dinner to help them sleep better.

Lack of selenium can have grave consequences

Selenium is necessary for around 30 different selenoproteins that are important for our energy turnover, metabolism, cancer prevention, and a host of other functions. Selenium also fuels some powerful antioxidants (GPx) that protect our cells and DNA against oxidative stress.
Selenium is found in fish, shellfish, organ meat, eggs, dairy products, and Brazil nuts (a very rich source). European crops are generally low in selenium because there is not very much selenium in the agricultural soil. Even though fish and shellfish are counted as good selenium sources, eating a five-servings-per-week seafood diet is unable to provide enough selenium, according to a Danish study from 2015. Selenium supplements can compensate for the low selenium intake from the diet. Selenium yeast is the best source because it contains a variety of different selenium species similar to what you would get from eating a balanced diet.

The body’s economy and why lack of nutrients is bad in the long run

If you lack one or several nutrients, your body gives first priority to the energy turnover and the vital organs by reserving nutrients for these functions. However, this increases the risk of the body lacking those nutrients needed for protecting cells, tissues, and the cardiovascular system. It is the exact situation as if your household budget only allows you to pay the most important bills. It may work for now, but in the long run the whole economy breaks down.

Stress increases the need for Q10

Q10 is a coenzyme that works around the clock inside the mitochondria, which are small “powerhouses” inside the cells. Helped by oxygen, Q10 converts fat, carbohydrate, and protein into energy, but it also serves as an antioxidant by protecting the mitochondria and cells against oxidative stress.
The body produces most of the Q10 it needs, but the endogenous production of Q10 begins to decline when we are in our twenties. Most people feel this drop in energy levels when they are in their 40s and 50s. Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) can also deplete the body’s Q10 levels.
The body’s need for Q10 increases drastically when we are stressed because the brain cells have to work so hard. The same is the case with the cells in the nervous system and muscle cells. Many people with stress use stimulants to get more energy, but if their fatigue is caused by lack of Q10 in the cells, is makes more sense to take a Q10 supplement. Make sure to choose a supplement with documented bioavailability, as the body has difficulty with absorbing Q10.

Stress makes us lack certain nutrients for different reasons

When we are stressed, we often don’t have the inclination to buy and prepare healthy food, so we are tempted by ready meals and other types of food that lack nutritional value. But a stressed body uses more nutrients such as B-vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, selenium, and Q10, to this can easily turn into a problem.

Twelve fast tips for fighting stress

  • Eat blood sugar-stabilizing main meals
  • Make sure to get enough B-vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, selenium, and Q10
  • Limit your intake of sugar, coffee, alcohol, and other energy fixes
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Remember to take several breaks during the day
  • Listen to your body’s stress signals and react to them
  • Say no and draw a line in the sand
  • Choose easy solutions to problems
  • Engage in relaxing exercise and activities
  • Meditate
  • Treat yourself to nice experiences
  • Remember to breathe properly

References

http://www.stressforeningen.dk/stress-og-statistik/

http://www.institut-for-stress.dk/stress/fysiologi

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27840283

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5112180/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2698273/

Pernille Lund. Q10 fra Helsekost til epokegørende medicin. Ny Videnskab 2014

Pernille Lund. Sund og smuk hele livet. Ny Videnskab