Evidence-Based Stress Management – Vitamins, Probiotics – Part 1 of 5

The majority of U.S. adults experience significant anxiety and stress each day, often compounded by the use of multiple electronic devices, cognitive overload, and “social comparison” when participating in social media.

Amy Arnsten

Amy Arnsten

General stress and anxiety can negatively affect work performance because it can undermine prefrontal cognitive abilities and eventually lead to architectural changes in prefrontal dendrites, according to Yale’s Amy Arnsten.

John Medina of Seattle University concurred, noting that prefrontal cortex structural damage occurs when catecholamines and glucocorticoids are released during stress experiences.

John Medina

John Medina

He amplified Arnsten’s findings by linking these substances to declines in processing language and math, working memory, and attention regulation as well as to increased fear conditioning and memory for negative emotional states.

Stress management recommendations abound, and this series of five blog posts reviews research evidence supporting suggestions that usually require commitment and willpower, such as eliminating multi-tasking and reducing internet usage.

Michael Roizen

Michael Roizen

If reducing media usage is an unappealing prospect, heavy users can cite  Michael Roizen‘s findings at Cleveland Clinic, that the internet can be a vehicle for stress management.
He reported that internet-based stress management programs are effective.

Two familiar nutritional suggestions have been reconfirmed in recent research:  Include vitamins as well as probiotics (beneficial bacteria) found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, soft cheese, miso, sourdough bread, sour pickles or supplements.

Bonnie Kaplan

Bonnie Kaplan

University of Calgary’s Bonnie Kaplan validated claims that vitamin and mineral supplements can enhance mental energy, manage stress, enhance mood and reduce fatigue for those prone to anxiety and depression as well as for healthy adults.

Kaplan found that among 97 adults with diagnosed mood disorders, higher vitamin and mineral intake over three days were significantly correlated with enhanced mood, better mental functioning and reduced stress.

Sara-Jayne Long

Sara-Jayne Long

David Benton

David Benton

Similarly, Sara-Jayne Long and David Benton of University of Swansea showed that people who took a multivitamin pill for a month experienced a 68 percent reduction in anxiety and perceived stress, but not depression, fatigue or confusion, in their meta-analytic review.
Supplements containing high doses of B vitamins may be more effective in improving mood states.

Kirsten Tillisch

Kirsten Tillisch

Kirsten Tillisch of UCLA and 10 collaborators demonstrated the cognitive benefits of eating foods containing probiotics.
Tillisch and team reported that women who regularly consumed probiotics in yogurt showed altered brain function in managing stress and anxiety both while in a resting state and in response to an emotion-recognition task.

Participants were women between ages 18 and 55, divided into three groups who consumed different dietary products:

  • Yogurt containing a mix of several probiotics twice a day for four weeks
  • Dairy product that looked and tasted like the yogurt but contained no probiotics
  • No fermented milk product

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans before and after the four-week study and found that women who consumed the probiotic yogurt were better able to modulate experimentally-induced anxiety and stress.

Participants showed decreased activity in the insula when they viewed a series of pictures of people with angry or frightened faces and matched them to other faces showing the same emotions.
In addition, volunteers had somatosensory cortex activity during the emotional reactivity task, demonstrating better stress coping.

During the resting brain scan, participants in each group showed differing activity patterns in the brainstem’s periaqueductal grey area and the prefrontal cortex, confirming the impact of dietary change on signals to and from the intestine to the brain.

Probiotics were associated with enhanced stress management, with the benefits popularized by journalist Michael Pollan.

For those unenthusiastic about foods containing probiotics, supplements may complement vitamins in a stress-containment program.

-*How effective have you found probiotics, vitamins, and reduced internet usage to manage stress?
-*What approaches do you use to initiate and sustain habit change for stress management?

RELATED POSTS

Motivation to Manage Stress

Mindful Attention (Part 2)

Social Support (Part 3)

Music (Part 4)

Nature

Sleep

Organizational Roles, Practices

Look for related posts on:

  • Mindful Attention (Part 2)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Music (Part 4)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

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