Most people probably don’t need to read a biometric study to know that the holidays can be stressful, but such a study has been performed. The findings: shopping can be as stressful as running a marathon, with shoppers’ heart rates increasing 32 percent. And that’s just shopping; so far there are no hard data on how stressful cooking, decorating, traveling and in-laws can be.
Clearly, holiday stress can be significant, and many of us would benefit from tools to help us cope — preferably something healthy. Luckily, there are several nutrients that have been clinically demonstrated to help alleviate stress. These include:
B-vitamins cannot be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them. They are essential to mental and emotional well-being. Crucially, they are required for the production of serotonin and norepinephrine, neurochemicals that are related to mood. They have also been demonstrated to reduce stress in clinical trials.1
Both dimethylglycine (DMG) and trimethylglycine (TMG) increase the body’s natural production of SAMe or S-adenosyl methionine, which, in turn reduces homocysteine levels. Homocysteine has been linked to various stress conditions and heart problems.
Essential fatty acids have been shown to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and
adrenaline. Cortisol (the “stress hormone”) is produced by the adrenal gland as part of the fight-or-flight response. It promotes heightened alertness during dangerous or stressful situations.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is conducive to a relaxed state. Neurotransmitters all fall into one of two classes — inhibitory or excitatory. In simple terms, excitatory neurotransmitters turn neurons on, while inhibitory neurotransmitters turn neurons off. If there is not enough GABA in the brain, too many neurons can be left in the “on” state, and relaxation can become difficult.
Magnesium can have a relaxing effect on both muscles and the brain. Like essential fatty acids, it reduces the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Though magnesium appears to reduce stress, stress in turn appears to reduce magnesium. Those who experience stress over a long period of time show depleted levels of magnesium.2
1. Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, Spong J, Myers S, Downey LA. “The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress.” Human Psychopharmacology. 2011 Oct;26 (7):470-6. doi: 10.1002/hup.1229. Epub 2011 Sep 8.
2. Cuciureanu, M., Vink, R., “Magnesium and stress.” Magnesium in the Central Nervous System. DOI: 10.1017/UPO9780987073051.020