vitamin deficiencies and their connection to stress

vitamin deficiencies and their connection to stress

Photography: Michael Lupo
Photography: Michael Lupo
vitamin deficiencies and their connection to stress

According to a study by the American Stress Association only 15% of us felt stressed on a daily basis, but in 2020 that is now almost 80%. Which means, almost everyone is having to deal with modern stress - stress that is not just sporadic of occasional, but pretty much a daily constant. This isn’t the greatest news, but it explains a lot of why many of us are feeling the physical symptoms of stress and are not sure how to curb them. Symptoms like anxiety and worried thoughts, insomnia and fatigue, or aches from tension in the shoulders and neck.

So how does stress cause these physical changes in our bodies? Well, when we get stressed our body responds by flooding our bloodstream with hormones to help us cope in a “fight or flight” response. Our body gets filled with adrenaline and cortisol which are fine in little bursts, but if they’re active all day will drain our body of many different minerals and vitamins we need for a lot of other functions.

So, in an attempt to calm these hormonal surges the body needs to use all the fuel at hand to slow our pulse and relax our bodies, produce energy, and flush our system of these hormones - it’s a lot of work especially if it’s happening all day long. As the day goes on, we’re left depleted of 9 essential nutrients that would normally, if in full supply, prevent physical symptoms of daily stress from appearing.

Bioavailable Magnesium

Stress hormones burn through a whole mess of Magnesium each time our body produces them. If the stress continues and we don’t rest or replace our Magnesium between stressful episodes, our Magnesium stores become depleted.

Then, when we are faced with the next stressor, our stress hormones - adrenaline and cortisol - just can‘t activate our Magnesium reserves, which calm those hormones’ effects. Without the soothing effects provided by sufficient Magnesium, adrenaline goes unchecked and starts to rev up our heart rate and elevate our blood pressure in a fight-or-flight reaction.

Elemental Zinc

Zinc is one a few minerals that doesn’t get stored in the body for use at a later time - it’s used when needed or discarded. But, it’s highest amount in the body is found in our brains, the center of our response to stress, anxiety and worry.

300 or more enzymes in our bodies use Zinc as a buddy to help them do their thing from making DNA to protein synthesis and regenerating cells. But when we get stressed, Zinc needs to be available to jump in to do some critical cell signaling to tell our brain to not over-produce stress hormones in the first place, but especially to tell it to stop so we don’t stay anxious all day.

Complex B Vitamins

Incredibly necessary for the production of neurotransmitters which regulate shifts in our mood. But also move messages from one part of the brain to another, and eventually sends those messages throughout our body to counteract feelings of anxiety and worry.

But Complex B Vitamins have a second job. They’re also critical for our body and mind to metabolize carbohydrates, which happens to be the fuel that our brains run on to carry out all functions of our body. When the body runs low, the brain struggles to fire off messages telling the body to counteract stress responses like worried thoughts that increase blood pressure.

Essential Omega-3

When we are stressed our bodies go into “fight or flight mode” and start to increase blood flow and tense up to help transport hormones needed to cope with stress. The idea is to move them as quickly through our body as possible, and stop them where they are needed the most.

But, when we are stressed for more than just a few minutes, we keep our blood pressure high and our muscles tense, ultimately causing inflammation which we feel as tight necks, tense shoulders, and aching legs. Our bodies need omega-3 to create chemicals called resolvins and protectins, which are used to put an end to or moderate inflammation, and ultimately muscle tension

Vitamin C

Vitamin C allows the body to quickly clear out cortisol, a hormone our bodies release when we’re stressed out. Cortisol increases sugars in the bloodstream which causes our blood pressure to rise and starts causing muscles in our neck and shoulders to tense.

Since most people don’t get anywhere nearly enough Vitamin C on a daily basis, most of us have high levels of stress hormones floating round in our bodies all the time. When our bodies do have enough, it can prevent stress hormones like cortisol from spiking in the first place when we find ourselves in daily or irregularly stressful situations.

Vitamin D

When we get stressed or “fight or flight” response causes our blood pressure to rise, swelling our muscles, causing them to tense up. When we remain in a stressed state and our muscles in our neck, shoulders, legs, and hands don’t relax, they become sore.

Vitamin D comes into play with stress-caused aching muscles since it’s a major factor in reducing inflammation in our bodies, and when it does that it’s also there to jumpstart the repair process. When our muscles are inflamed and become sore, they actually need time and the right nutrients to heal. Vitamin D helps kickstart that healing so aching muscles can go away.

Natural L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine plays an essential role in maintaining the health of our mitochondria, which are often known as the “powerplant” of the cells. Your mitochondria produce the energy that every single cell in your body needs to survive, helping us feel awake and not fatigued.

However, when this pipeline breaks or gets backed up, the entire system starts to fall apart. Stress produces hormones that drain our cells of energy, so natural levels of L-Carnitine get used up during the day trying to replenish that energy. By the end of the day, there just isn’t enough left to tell our bodies that it’s time to rest, so our bodies keep running on full throttle.

Vitamin A

When blue light from sunshine enters our eyes, vitamin A translates it into a signal that tells our brain it is daytime. When this signal slows, our brain knows that it is nighttime. This means that vitamin A plays an essential role in helping us fall asleep on time, get high quality sleep, sleep long enough, wake up feeling rested, and staying alert and energetic throughout the day.

Without vitamin A, our brains cannot know when it is daytime and cannot set our circadian rhythm. If this system fails, we are less likely to feel alert in the daytime, less likely to feel relaxed in the night time, and less likely to get adequate, regular, restful sleep.

Vitamin E

Throughout the day as our bodies turn food into energy, we naturally create free radicals or oxidative stressors that are released into our body. If not stopped, these free radicals floating around cause us to remain in a state of stress all night.

Vitamin E seeks out, scavenging throughout our bodies looking to neutralize these free radicals by donating a hydrogen molecule to each of them. Essentially, just like our skin needs Vitamin E to prevent tired skin from free radicals, the rest of our body needs it for the same reason - to keep us feeling energized by stopping free radicals from zapping all our energy.