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Quest Vitamins LTD,
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Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

Issue 72

What is meant by stress?

How the Body Reacts in a Stress Situation

Stress and Disease

Nutrition and Stress

Supplements for Stress

Herbs and Stress

Homoeopathy and Stress

Guidelines for Lifestyle



What is meant by stress?

At some time in life everyone is affected by stress. Generally stress implies a negative reaction to an event or a situation. The individual and the reaction will vary depending on the perception and control over what is about to happen and whether it is positive or negative.

How the Body Reacts in a Stress Situation

Consider a situation that could affect any human being, for example, being threatened by another person shouting, being angry, wielding a weapon, or simply the feeling that happens when there is a power cut and all the lights go out. In seconds, the body is alert and acutely aware of any further sound or movement. All of these are stress situations. Another example could include hearing footsteps behind you as you walk home from work on a dark, misty autumn evening, some of the streetlights arent working, subconsciously you speed up…so do the ootsteps.

During these examples, the body is saying that it either wants to fight or flee. In very scary situations, the fight or flight reaction causes the body to become a cocktail of chemicals triggered by a spurt of messages to the brain and the autonomic nervous system producing a quantity of adrenalin. This starts a cascade of hormones -orticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) from the hypothalamus, adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) from the pituitary gland and the high levels of ACTH alert the adrenal glands that in turn, produce cortisol. Suddenly, the person feels frightened. In seconds, the heart rate has increased to about that of the equivalent of fifteen minutes vigorous cycling; saliva and digestive enzyme production is decreased (these are not required for fight or flight); the immune system is working hard to prepare for physical injury; the pupils of the eyes dilate to enable better vision and ability to detect slight movements and the muscles prepare to act very quickly (2).

In modern times, situations of shock, panic and anxiety trigger the fight or flight reaction. If the stress is prolonged, the body adapts into what is called the "resistance" reaction - the long-term body response involving the release of cortisol to reduce inflammation (with physical stress) and the increase carbohydrate and protein catabolism. Cortisol makes the blood vessels more sensitive to stimuli causing them to constrict, if there is no wound, blood pressure will be increased because of this. Blood pressure is also increased due to the action of aldosterone that promotes sodium retention to maintain correct body pH, this can lead to water retention. During the resistance stage, the body chemistry returns to normal and the cells replenish their energy supplies. Circulatory changes are made in order to meet the demands of emotional crisis or strenuous physical activity, if these reactions occur too frequently, exhaustion can be the result (3).

Stress and Disease

Continued exposure to stress often leads to mental and/or physical symptoms such as (3):

" Anxiety and depression

" Migraines

" Indigestion

" Palpitations

" Muscular aches and pains

" Irritable bowel syndrome

" Peptic ulcers

" Hypertension

" Rheumatoid arthritis

Nutrition and Stress

The physiological changes that occur in a stressed individual have nutritional implications. This is because many nutrients are required for the bodys biochemical reactions, whether they be health of skin and hair or the functioning of the immune system and major body organs. Stress hormones (released in the fight or flight reactions and during periods of prolonged stress) are also said to be "immunosuppressive". This situation increases the bodys need for certain nutrients, which may not be obtained if lack of motivation to prepare meals is the reason for a stressed person having a poor diet. A multinutrient may be particularly helpful in this instance.

Supplements for Stress

Magnesium in the body is depleted by stress. Good food sources of magnesium are leafy, green vegetables; nuts, wholegrains, fish, meat and dairy.
Low levels of zinc are common in people suffering from stress (4). Foods rich in zinc are shellfish, pumpkin seeds, wholegrains and dairy.
Lactobacillus acidophilus provides a source of friendly lactic bacteria that maintain healthy intestinal flora, balancing the pH that becomes disturbed in times of stress (5). In stressful situations where the diet has been neglected, an antioxidant formula may be prudent, especially where the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables has decreased.
The antioxidant nature of Vitamin C may also be particularly helpful in reducing the harmful effects of the stress hormones, and in improving the bodys ability to deal with the stress response. Those with a poor tolerance to ascorbic acid may prefer a buffered version of vitamin C.
If hair, nails and skin are in poor condition, or thought to be affected by stress, a standard release multinutrient may be considered. The essential fatty acids omega 6 (evening primrose and/or borage) and omega 3 (as fish oil) could be of great benefit for those with skin conditions such as acne, eczema or psoriasis.

Herbs and Stress

The calming effect of hops may have a benefit for insomnia and anxiety. The mild effect of the herb means that it is often combined with other treatments (7).
Rhodiola has been studied and results suggest that overall physical and mental fatigue were reduced in subjects working night-shifts (8) or taking examinations (9).
Siberian Ginseng is reported to improve the bodys ability to deal with stress by helping the body metabolise harmful lactic and pyruvic acids released during the stress reaction along with more efficient energy production (10). Its support of the adrenal gland function also helps the body deal with stress (11).
St Johns wort may be particularly helpful for those in anxious states (12).
Valerian has traditionally been used as a sedative for the relief of insomnia, anxiety, intestinal cramps, nervous and other conditions. Among its pharmacological effects is the normalization of the central nervous system. The herb acts as a sedative in states of agitation, lowering blood pressure and other uses. Valerian may be used in conditions of stress and anxiety (13).

Homoeopathy and Stress (14)

~ Severe emotional or mental stress

~ Feelings of shock, panic and restlessness

~ Can be helpful in panic attacks
~ Anxiety combined with irritability
~ Severe grief or emotional upset such as bereavement

~ Crying uncontrollably, may be hysterical
~ Workaholic, who may burn out

~ Irritable and irascible

~ Often turn to drink, tranquillisers or stimulants to cope
~ Exam nerves or similar situation

~ Feels paralysed by fear

~ Can be used for school phobia
~ Anxious, fears failure

~ Nervous, irritable and stubborn

Guidelines for Lifestyle

" Concentrate on one job at a time.
" Prioritise your workload.
" Learn how to say NO, practise when on your own - be firm with those who take advantage of your good nature.
" Dont be afraid to ask for help.
" Be responsible for your own problems, but not someone elses.
" Relax whenever possible, a variety of interests makes conversation.
" Relax when walking - a walk around the block at lunchtime can help quieten the mind, this might help solve any problems. Look at what is in the world around you.
" Relax when you talk - it often saves having to repeat yourself because your listener missed what was said the first time.
" Help your body, allow plenty of time to eat, and feed the body with healthy fresh foods.
" Have a good laugh - or a good cry! (Or even a scream for that matter)
" Reduce overindulgences - smoking, alcohol, sweets, or comfort foods, they might be good at the time, but not in the long term.

Life is a gift. Enjoy!

1. "Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine". Murray & Pizzorno. Optima. 1998.

2. "Human Instinct" Robert Winston. Bantam 2002.

3. "Principles of Anatomy & Physiology" 7th ed. G. Tortora & S. R. Grabowski. Harper Collins. 1993.

4. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing", Balch & Balch. Avery,

5. J Am Diet Assoc 2001 Feb;101(2):229-38.

6. "Causes and Prevention of Vitamin Deficiency", Dr. L. Mervyn, 1995:

7. Schulz V, et al. Rational Phytotherapy. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998:

8. Phytomedicine, 2000, 7:5:365-371.

9. Phytomedicine, 7:2: 85-89.

10. Siberian Ginseng: Current status as an adaptogen. In: "Economics and
Medicinal Plant Research", vol 1, N R Farnsworth et al, Academic Press,

11. Wagner H, Nörr H, Winterhoff H. Plant adaptogens. Phytomed 1994;1:63-76

12. "Herbal Medicines, a Guide for Healthcare Professionals", C Newall
& L Anderson, Pharmaceutical Press. 1996.

13. "The Healing Power of Herbs", M Murray ND. Prima, 1995.

14. A Guide to Homoeopathy. Dr. A. Jones.

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