Rather than making life easier, our increasing connectivity is raising the nation’s stress levels as we strive to remain available at all times for all people, while also allaying our fear of missing out (FOMO). Jane Wolfe looks at why we could all do with taking a few deep breaths
Well, I hope you all enjoyed (and survived) the festive season – apparently not the most wonderful time of year according to Mintel, which reports that 36% of adults in the UK feel stressed at Christmas. Stress and anxiety isn’t confined to family holidays and big life events though, it is a real year-round problem and this is partly due to our need to be constantly connected, both in our work and social lives.
Mintel states that 85% of the UK population suffers from anxiety or stress at least sometimes – with 29% suffering at least three times a week and 15% every day – and this is taking its toll on our productivity. Figures from the Health & Safety Executive reveal that in 2016-17, 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, resulting in the loss of 12.5 million working days. For the first time, work-related stress, anxiety or depression accounted for over half (57%) of all working days lost due to ill health.
Nutritionist and author of The Brain Boost Diet Plan, Christine Bailey, says there are many different types of stress, including physical, such as over-exercise; emotional; perceived stress; infections; toxic load; poor diet; imbalance in nutrients; lack of sleep, rest or relaxation; hormone imbalances; and poor social support. Stress has also been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and there is evidence to show it contributes directly to accelerated ageing and even premature death.
Relax, don’t do it
The Mental Health Foundation’s Stress: Are We Coping Report found that the top stressor (36%) is long-term health conditions, followed by work – with many taking work calls (59%) and checking emails outside working hours (55%) – financial concerns, and technology and social media (‘digital stress’).
Compulsively checking for updates was something the majority of respondents to the 2018 ISMA Stress Awareness Survey and Report said was a difficulty, with 59.9% stating they ‘feel panicked’ if they can’t find their phone, and 53.3% saying they have to check their email or social media accounts before going to sleep. This constant reliance on technology and obsession with social media means that Brits just aren’t carving out enough time to relax, with Mintel finding only 33% spend time relaxing each day.
“Stress is a massive issue,” says Melanie Lane, manager of Natural Health in Welwyn Garden City. “I’d say a third, maybe a half, of our customers come in with stress and anxiety. People aren’t switching off from the world around them; we are constantly connected and the brain doesn’t have the time to reboot. We reboot our computers but we don’t always reboot our brains. The first thing people do when they get up in the morning is turn on their phone. There is a pressure to be constantly in the know for fear of being left behind.”
One of the most cost-effective and important ways of dealing with stress is relaxation, whether that be in the form of exercise, yoga, a therapeutic massage, meditation, even just a brisk walk – thinking about nothing is a marvellous way to reduce stress
“Stress is like a rope of twine – as it gets longer and longer, it twists tighter and tighter and becomes more difficult to undo,” says Eric Mole, owner of ForeverSun Herbal Health in Biddulph. “One of the most cost-effective and important ways of dealing with stress is relaxation, whether that be in the form of exercise, yoga, a therapeutic massage, meditation, even just a brisk walk – thinking about nothing is a marvellous way to reduce stress. It is remarkable what mindfulness does for the microbiome too; we see big benefits for people with digestive complaints, which are often down to a stressful lifestyle.”
Health store help
Mole says that each individual requires a unique approach. “We look at the person’s lifestyle. If there is something they can identify as causing them stress, we can probably work with them to try and find ways for them to alleviate that for themselves.
“We would probably recommend a product that might help them in the interim; we have some good products that do really help, but it’s important to point out that there are several approaches, a lot of which involve the person having to contribute themselves to getting on top of their stress levels,” says Mole. “We try to find an effective way for each customer to reduce their stress – we’re not about just selling them a product.”
“People’s ages present different stressors too,” Mole explains. “From youngsters doing exams, to teenagers going through the change of leaving school and going into a work environment, young people with financial or relationship stresses, to older people who have lived with stress for many years and perhaps are only now realizing there is a better way than taking antidepressants. So we look at our customers individually and holistically.”
Lane explains that people often realize they are more tired than usual and aren’t sleeping as well, but don’t always associate this with stress. “Then you delve a bit deeper into what’s been happening in their life and find they’ve had a bereavement, a family member is ill or they’re having trouble at work.”
She agrees that a multi-layered approach is optimum, but adds that it doesn’t suit everyone. “Some people just want something for the symptom and don’t want to delve any deeper, so you have to tailor your approach. Some might want to explore therapies like counselling, reiki or massage, but others just want to take a pill and be done with it. I talk each person through the different things we offer – from crystals to various foods that could help, probiotics, supplements, therapies – there are lots of different roads you can go down.”
“People aren’t switching off from the world around them; we are constantly connected and the brain doesn’t have the time to reboot. We reboot our computers but we don’t always reboot our brains”
Off the shelf
“The first thing we look at for stress are things like valerian, A. Vogel’s AvenaCalm, passiflora and St John’s wort, as long as it won’t affect any medication,” says Mole. “One approach we have also had a lot of success with is rhodiola. For anxiety which could be brought about by other problems but is still within the stress remit, we can look at things such as ashwangandha and 5HTP.
“A digestive approach would be to look at a good probiotic or a digestive enzyme, such as Nature’s Aid Digestive Enzyme Complex or Viridian Digestive complex, and probiotics, ranging from a simple acidophilus complex up to HealthAid’s UltraProbio which has 100 billion live cultures and 14 different strains.”
Lane also recommends probiotics and has had good feedback with rhodioloa. For sleep, she suggests Viridian’s Organic Californian Poppy Tincture, magnesium and A. Vogel’s Dormeasan, and for anxiety, l-theanine, which she says works quite quickly and has produced positive results.
Bailey emphasizes that supplements are only effective if dietary and lifestyle changes are made simultaneously. She suggests: B vitamin complex, vitamin C, magnesium, l-theanine, omega-3s, phosphatidylserine, probiotics like Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum, and sedative herbs such as lemon balm, holy basil, passionflower, hops and valerian.
“I am also a great fan of adaptogenic herbs like ginseng, eleuthero, rhodiola, cordyceps and ashwagandha,” says Bailey. “These help the body adapt to the stress it is under. They can have a normalizing and balancing effect – whether you are hyper or hypo in the production, for example, of cortisol. They help to regulate the hypothalamus.”
A food fix
“Keeping the body optimally nourished, ensuring sufficient omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, phospholipids and balancing blood sugar through the day is important for alleviating the effects of stress on the body,” says Bailey, as our adrenal glands require vasts amounts of nutrients for optimal function.
“Deficiencies, toxicities and lifestyle habits impact the adrenal gland. Deficiencies in vitamin C and B5, which are essential co-factors in cortisol production and adrenal health, are two examples. The fatty acid content of the diet also contributes considerably to stress response physiology, and relative imbalances of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids create conditions that favour heightened inflammation and impaired stress response. Manganese, zinc, chromium and selenium are some of the trace elements that impact adrenal gland function.”
Bailey suggests a minimally processed, organic Mediterranean-style of eating, with plenty of protein, colourful vegetables, slow-releasing carbs like wholegrain rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and sufficient omega-3 fats through foods like oily fish, flaxseed, chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds. “Avoid refined sugars and syrups, additives, excess caffeine, sweeteners and alcohol,” she advises. “Keep the body hydrated through the day with sufficient electrolytes like potassium, sodium and magnesium. I often recommend that clients drink tomato juice and coconut water in addition to herbal teas, green tea and water.”
So what does Bailey see as the future development of this sector? “The use of fermented foods and probiotics is increasingly being researched for their role to help alleviate the effects of stress,” she says. “The use of medicinal mushrooms – including those like cordyceps but also those studied for brain health such as lion’s mane – are becoming increasingly popular. As stress can have a profound effect systemically on the body, including the brain, there will be an increased focus on nootropics or supplements to aid brain health – curcumin, for example, is being widely studied for its brain-supporting benefits. A much more integrative approach to stress incorporating more functional superfood blends containing these nutrients to suit people’s busy lives is likely to become increasingly important.”
Good Health Naturally – Ancient Magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in supporting over 300 different enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, normal muscle and nerve function, normal psychological function, energy production and much more! Unfortunately, due to the widespread depletion of this critical mineral from our food supply (which the body needs in large, absorbable quantities each day to function), many people aren’t getting enough magnesium from their diet alone. Research indicates that when the body is magnesium deficient it can result in deteriorating cellular metabolic function, resulting in serious health problems. Some of these health problems include anxiety and depression, migraine headaches, cardiovascular disease and fibromyalgia amongst other issues. Supporting your diet with a magnesium supplement is highly recommended. However, although drugstore magnesium powders and tablets are readily available, our digestive system struggles to absorb them. The best and most effective magnesium delivery is through the skin as a topical supplement, which significantly increases its uptake and health-protective abilities. Ancient Magnesium Ultra from Good Health Naturally is a 100% natural transdermal supplement that delivers a highly potent blend of genuine ‘ultra-pure’ Zechstein magnesium: extracted from the depths of the ancient Zechstein seabed, and OptiMSM: an organosulphur compound that when combined with magnesium dramatically improves transdermal absorption to help naturally boost magnesium levels and support a multitude of normal body processes. Ancient Magnesium comes in a variety of transdermal applications, including bath flakes, body butter, oils, lotions and cream – now with CBD (cannabidiol) oil!
Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-strain formulation
Stress is a growing epidemic, with 74% of people reporting that in the past year they have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.* In addition, 51% of adults who felt stressed also reported feeling depressed, and 61% reported feeling anxious.*
The importance of the gut–brain axis (and in particular the gut microbiota) in regulating stress-related responses is becoming increasingly apparent. The routes of communication between the microbiota and brain are slowly being unraveled, and include the vagus nerve, gut hormone signaling, the immune system, tryptophan metabolism, and microbial metabolites such as short chain fatty acids.* Our gut bacteria can become easily unbalanced from factors such as poor diet and lifestyle choices and antibiotic use.* Such changes to the gut microbiota have been implicated in a variety of stress-related conditions including anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.* Stress itself can also negatively impact our gut bacteria by triggering the release of inflammatory cytokines, shown to reduce the abundance of a number of bacterial species in the gut.*
In light of the growing prevalence of mood and stress related disorders “psychobiotics” (live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a beneficial psychological effect on the host’)* are an exciting new area of research, with researchers particularly interested in identifying bacterial strains which may improve mood, reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. Human clinical studies have shown significant improvements in reducing feelings of stress through probiotic supplementation. For example, a 2011 study found live bacteria-treated participants showed significant declines in self-reported negative mood and distress and a decrease in urinary free cortisol (the stress hormone), compared to placebo.*
Bio-Kult is a unique multi-strain formulation with 14 strains of live bacteria. In a recent double-blind randomised controlled trial in 400 IBS-diarrhoea type patients, Bio-Kult not only significantly improved overall symptom severity in IBS patients but was also shown to markedly improve all aspects of quality of life including psychological issues such as anxiety about health, depression, lack of enjoyment of life and feelings of having to avoid stressful situations.*
AQUA Carpatica Natural Sparkling Mineral Water- Sipping Stress Away
One glass of water is sometimes all it takes to unwind and beat anxiety symptoms: stress leads to dehydration and dehydration to stress! Break this vicious circle in the simplest possible way, by rehydrating with quality water, rich in magnesium. This dietary mineral is essential in regulating neuronal function, inducing a state of relaxation, quelling anxiety and keeping your brain healthy. AQUA Carpatica Natural Sparkling Mineral Water provides 26% of the NHS’s recommended daily amount of magnesium for adults per litre and almost 40% of the daily amount of Calcium. Quench your thirst and beat anxiety with Nature’s Most Perfect Water!
FSC Vitamin B Supreme High Potency
A high potency combination of essential B Vitamins and Vitamin C necessary to maintaining a healthy nervous system and adrenal gland, which is part of the stress mechanism. As with all FSC supplements, Vitamin B Supreme High Potency is made in the UK with the finest ingredients and based on widely recognised scientific evidence of their health qualities. Recommended to take one a day with food and available in 30 and 60 tablets.
NT Complex is a unique, high potency combination of L-theanine, lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, magnesium taurate and B-vitamins to support a balanced nervous system. A healthy functioning nervous system is dependent on the right balance of neurotransmitters and hormones. Magnesium and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6 support energy production and nervous system balance. Lemon balm, lavender and chamomile support relaxation and healthy sleep. Two capsules per day dosage allows half dose or flexible dosing through the day.
Mood Probio™ – Optimum Gut and Brain Health
The Probiotic Blend in MoodProbio™ is a combination of eight lactic acid-producing bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Due to their bactericidal and antiproliferative effects against pathogens, they primarily help regulate intestinal functions. Secondly, they may also have a stimulating effect on influencing brain function, behaviour, and mental health. The formula includes L.Rhamnosus, Plantarum, Helveticus and Bifidobacterium infantis believed to produce neurotransmitters and to regulate the level of inflammation throughout the body including the brain. MoodProbio™ has the added benefits of FOS acting as a prebiotic to help the proliferation of good gut bacteria.
MoodProbio™ retails at £16.99 for 30 Vegetarian Capsules. Contact HealthAid® on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information
or visit www.healthaid.co.uk
Helios Stress Relief
Award winning Stress Relief from Helios has been specifically formulated to relieve symptoms associated with mild stress and anxiety such as fear of flying, anticipatory anxiety before an event, exam nerves and much more. Stress Relief contains three homeopathic remedies with a long history of traditional use and, being completely natural is safe, gentle and without side effects. Stress Relief comes in lactose free, sucrose pills in our easy to use single dose dispenser.
Lamberts® Theanine & Lemon Balm Complex With pantothenic acid for normal mental performance
L-Theanine is a fascinating amino acid that is present in normal tea and is believed to be responsible for that unique ‘nice cup of tea’ feeling. Indeed, L-Theanine is now widely recommended by practitioners for those during times of stress and anxiety. Lamberts® Theanine & Lemon Balm Complex combines a full 200mg of L-Theanine alongside a significant 6000mg of lemon balm plus three relevant B vitamins. Folic acid and biotin are both included in view of the fact that they contribute to normal psychological functions and pantothenic acid as it contributes to normal mental performance.
100mg Food Based™ Magnesium
Known as natures chill pill, magnesium plays an essential role in maintaining healthy mental wellbeing, by supporting normal psychological function. Additionally, it helps reduce tiredness and fatigue, and supports energy-yielding metabolism. Link Nutrition’s Magnesium contains 100mg of Food Based Magnesium in a one-a-day vegetarian capsule. Food Based™ nutrients are vitamins and minerals just like those found in nature; complete with naturally occurring cofactors. Because Link Nutrition’s Magnesium is Food Based™ it is gentle on the stomach and readily absorbed for optimal effectiveness.
Tranquil Woman Support from NHP supports women managing a busy lifestyle in today’s stressful world. Contains all the B vitamins, with extra B5 (for the reduction of tiredness and fatigue), chromium for the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels, vitamin B12 which contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system and normal psychological function. It also contains L-theanine to help both physically and emotionally, along with Siberian ginseng, aloe vera and curcumin. Kosher approved, Vegan and Vegetarian Society registered and Halal approved.
New Nordic has developed an all-natural aid to your sleep problems. Melissa Dream™ is based on the newest studies of how plant extracts can be used to calm your mind and body. Melissa Dream ™ contain s a lemon balm extract, L –theanine, chamomile extract, vitamin B complex and magnesium. Lemon Balm is well known for it’s calming effects allowing the body to relax before going to bed and wake up refreshed after a good nights sleep.