Of course, stress exposure varies greatly from person to person—imagine life in Syria versus life in San Diego, as an example—and everyone's stress response varies based on factors such as personality, genetics, and even social status. But it's safe to say that most of us can, at some point, benefit from adding a little stress-management support to our supplement regimen. This seems to be especially true for women, who are disproportionately affected.
Below, medical professionals weigh in on the supplements they recommend for managing unrelenting stress and its many side effects. Once you've talked them over with your doctor and decided which one's right for you, think of them as amplifiers for your anxiety-reducing meditation routine or shaking it out at The Class.
Keep reading for a rundown on the best supplements to take for stress, according to doctors.
For patients with elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, renowned heart surgeon and inflammation expert Steven Gundry, MD, swears by a supplement called Relora. "This [has] reliably lowered cortisol levels to normal in well over 1,000 patients in my practice," he explains. (When cortisol's out of balance, it can lead to reproductive hormone imbalances, immune issues, and digestive problems—you can test your levels at home.) "Moreover, it promotes sleep."
When it comes to taking this combination of magnolia bark and phellodendrum amurense, Dr. Gundry recommends a dose of 300mg, two or three times a day.
Dr. Gundry also recommends ashwagandha—an adaptogenic, anti-stress herb used in Ayurvedic healing practices—taken on its own or in tandem with Asian ginseng to battle stress. "I use 500 mg, once or twice a day," he says.
Nutritionist and Pure Life founder Charles Passler, DC, also recommends ashwagandha, particularly for patients suffering from what he calls "adrenal burnout". (Basically, that translates to a severe case of adrenal fatigue, wherein the adrenal glands become overtaxed and we feel exhausted as a result.) "These patients have been under stress for long periods of time, and will almost always present with dizziness when going from a sitting to standing position," he explains.
He specifically suggests a supplement called Adrenal Energy Formula, which mixes ashwagandha with holy basil. "Long-term use of these herbs has been shown to help rejuvenate burned-out adrenal glands," he says. Passler likes to pair this one with the adaptogen rhodiola rosea. "Many patients with burnt out adrenals also have some mild-to-moderate short-term memory issues," he explains. "Rhodiola has been documented to help protect the memory center of the brain from excessive cortisol production related to stress."
If you're more in the adrenal fatigue zone—as opposed to in full-on burnout mode—Dr. Passler will likely prescribe you a supplement called Adreset. "It contains cordyceps to increase energy production in your cells and oxygen transport from your lungs to your brain," he says.
Quick primer: Cordyceps is a mushroom that's not only known to help the body adapt to stress, but has also been studied for its immune-boosting and cancer-fighting properties. You can find it in all sorts of food and drinks now, but for a more concentrated dose, supplements are the way to go.
For patients he describes as “stressed and wired"—type-A personalities who often present with super-red tongue tips—Dr. Passler recommends a supplement called Serenagen. "It's a traditional Chinese botanical combination," he says. "Its main ingredient is rehmannia, an herb that's been shown to be helpful in blunting the stress hormone cortisol." Good to know now that summer's coming—AKA peak cortisol season. (No, really.)
No matter where you sit on the stress spectrum, you're likely in need of a magnesium supplement—most of us aren't getting enough, after all. But it becomes more important the more frazzled you are. "Highly stressed individuals utilize more magnesium than do those with calmer lifestyles," Dr. Passler says.
Plus, taking this mineral can actually help alleviate the symptoms of stress. "Magnesium relaxes the muscles, supports cardiovascular function, and controls cortisol levels," says Dr. Passler. No wonder it's so great for insomnia.
After stressful events, Dr. Passler prescribes NuSera as a "rescue remedy" to help patients chill out. "It contains protein hydrolysate, which is the same ingredient in warm milk that calms you down, only in a more concentrated form," he explains. That said, since it's derived from milk, you'll want to avoid this one if you're vegan or strictly dairy-free—maybe consider this breathing technique instead.
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