Stress supplements may help not only reduce physical and mental stress, but also enhance the body’s response to it. This glossary describes the main terms and concepts related to stress and anti-stress supplementation.
Adaptogens are herbs that help the body manage all kinds of different physical and mental stress factors, including fatigue, loud noises, sleep deprivation, and extreme temperatures. Adaptogens not only seem to reduce general stress, but also revitalize the body. Examples of adaptogens for stress relief include holy basil and rhodiola rosea.
Antioxidants are compounds in foods and dietary supplements that help counter damage to cells caused by reactive oxygen species. Their primary stress-related use is to minimize the negative consequences of stress rather than reduce the stress itself.
Blood Brain Barrier
The blood-brain barrier, or BBB, is a membrane that separates blood passing through the brain from other fluids. Besides water, only select fat-soluble molecules and gases are allowed to pass through, which prevents harmful toxins from entering and affecting the brain. The effectiveness of GABA supplements has been questioned due to their inability to cross the BBB.
Catecholamines are hormones produced by the adrenal glands during periods of stress. Stress triggers the production of the two principal catecholamines— epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline)—which play a critical role in the fight-or-flight response.
Known simply as the “stress hormone”, cortisol is released during periods of stress and low blood sugar levels. Chronic stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels, which can in turn lead to serious health problems such as weakened immune system function, lowered bone density, weight gain, and cardiovascular disorders.
The body’s response to threatening situations which prepares you to either fight or flee. The fight-or-flight response is largely mediated by the catecholamines adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a psychological disorder that is marked by persistent and excessive worry concerning various aspects of daily life. This form of anxiety tends to be disproportionate to the actual situation, even to the extent of anticipating disaster.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis refers to the interaction among three glands important in the production and management of hormones: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. It is a system that regulates the body’s response to stress.
Malondialdehyde (MDA) is a highly reactive compound that can damage cells by binding to proteins and DNA. It is classified as a free radical and used as a marker of oxidative stress. The stress reliever eleuthero has been shown to minimize the increase of stress-induced increase of MDA.
Oxidative stress, different from physiological stress, refers to a state in which oxygen-carrying molecules called reactive oxygen species deal damage to cells. Studies have demonstrated a link between physiological stress and oxidative stress, although precisely how they interact is still being investigated.
Chemicals that help brain cells communicate. Neurotransmitters impact multiple aspects of mental function, including mood, wakefulness, attentiveness, and creativity. Boosting the activity of certain neurotransmitters, such as GABA and serotonin, can help relieve anxiety and stress.
A nootropic is a type of drug or supplement that is capable of protecting the brain from illness and improving cognitive function. A large number of supplements used to relieve stress – such as CBD, GABA, and ashwagandha – also function as nootropics.
Phytochemicals are unique biological compounds found in plants that may impart beneficial effects on health. The saponins found in oat straw are a prime example.
A compound that has euphoric or mind-altering effects, such as the THC found in marijuana. Few commercially available stress relief supplements are psychoactive.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a kind of mood disorder in which otherwise healthy individuals exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time of the year, typically the winter. Certain stress relievers, such as St. John’s Wort, are used to help manage stress-related symptoms tied to SAD.
Serotonin is considered by some to be the “master neurotransmitter” for its major role in regulating mood, emotions, perception, memory, sleep, anxiety, and appetite. Some stress relievers interact with serotonin or its receptors, some of the most common supplements being 5-HTP and CBD.
Commonly known as Briquet’s, somatization disorder is a complication in the peripheral nervous system that is characterized by pain and stress. The stress reliever St. John’s Wort is often offered to relieve associated anxiety.