The greater the demands that stress impose on our energy and physical processes,
the greater the need for nutrients to support them.
There are certain nutrients which are vital to normal function of the nervous system and of which we need an
adequate supply at all time. Unless they are in plentiful supply during times of stress a deficiency may arise,
further exacerbating any stress-related problems. It is apparent that some people naturally require more of certain nutrients for
the nervous system than others, and these people more easily become deficient, making them particularly prone to stress,
anxiety, depression and psychiatric problems. Many of the important vitamins and minerals are described on
the Diet Chart
giving their sources and their functions in the body.
Vitamins and minerals are both involved in neurotransmitter production, and the transport of vital blood components to
the brain, so that the nervous system works properly.
Vitamin B and C are considered to be the most important vitamins in the battle against stress.
A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, junk foods, and carbonated drinks may cause a deficiency of vitamin B,
which can upset the nervous system, causing symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, agitation, nightmares, fatigue, night sweats,
poor appetite, bowel problems, depression, and recurrent infections.
Vitamin B3 may be deficient in people with a low protein diet particularly if they have a high alcohol intake. It can cause irritability, fatigue, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, poor memory, emotional instability, and skin problems. There may be diarrhea and a sore tongue in some extreme cases.
Vitamin B6 deficiency can cause anxiety, depression and personality changes - often experienced before a
period as premenstrual syndrome. It can be a result either of poor diet or of taking the contraceptive pill.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can give rise to depression, fatigue, nervousness, and anxiety.
It may arise during stressful periods because gastric acidity, necessary for proper B12 absorption, is reduced in
some people with emotional problems.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has been researched widely for its ability to enhance resistance to stress and
its use as a treatment for nervous and psychiatric problems. It has been found for example that schizophrenics can
require 70,000 mg of vitamin C before their body reaches saturation, while others may only need 4,000 mg.
Emotional stress and strain causes the body to use much more ascorbic acid.
Essential Fatty Acids are vital to normal functions of the nervous system. Make sure you have plenty of unrefined
vegetable oils in your diet and eat nuts and seeds and fatty fish to boost your intake.
Zinc deficiency has been shown to be related to depression, irritability, mood swings, tearfulness, sullenness,
as well as schizoid behavior. Zinc requirements increase considerably during pregnancy and lactation, and deficiency at
these times may well lead to postnatal depression and hormonal problems after childbirth.
Zinc is required for normal hormonal balance.
High copper levels -often found in women on the pill - upset zinc balance in the body, and have been associated with irritability,
mood swings, and senile dementia.
Potassium deficiency can occur from excess losses of potassium in the urine, resulting from taking diuretics,
or drinking too much tea, coffee or alcohol, or from diabetes.
It is associated with lethargy, debility, depression, and mental apathy.
Calcium and magnesium are essential for proper relaxation of nerve tissue.
Deficiencies can cause cramps, muscle tension and twitching, headaches, PMS, poor appetite, apathy, debility,
tiredness, anxiety, panic attacks, hyperactivity, insomnia, and depression.
Iron deficiency is linked to lethargy, tiredness, depression, anxiety, heart palpitations, and poor concentration.
Refined carbohydrates - white bread and pasta, white sugar, polished rice, and junk food should all be avoided.
Not only to they contribute to constipation, giving rise to a toxic system which predisposes to a range of illnesses,
but also they lead to nutritional deficiency, notably of magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins.
They also upset your sugar balance. While alcohol can have a relaxing effects, ideally it should be kept to
avoided completely. It creates high urinary loss of magnesium and destroys vitamins B and C, zinc, and potassium.
Caffeinated drinks such as cocoa, cola drinks, chocolate, tea, and coffee should be avoided, as caffeine is
well known to exacerbate the effects of stress by potentiating adrenalin. It also causes loss of vitamin B and C.
Tea and coffee substitutes such as dandelion coffee, instant chicory, and herbal teas are preferable.
Bear in mind that caffeine withdrawal can lead to lethargy and headaches for a few days.
Smoking destroys vitamin C and puts further stress on the body.
It is obviously best avoided, but if you are a smoker and feel you depend on cigarettes to relieve tension,
it is important to provide yourself with alternative support, such as herbal nerviness and tonics,
before you try to kick the habit to prevent causing yourself further stress.