Best Supplements To Take When Stressed, According to Dietitians
Whether you've found yourself dealing with career headaches, family issues, or have just found the past year particularly tough (and who hasn't?), everyone finds themselves feeling overwhelmed by stress from time to time.
While there are many ways to help relieve some of that stress on a day-to-day basis, from exercising regularly to getting more sleep, if your go-to stress relievers aren't helping, there may be some hope closer than you think—in the supplement aisle. Read on to discover the best supplements to take when you're feeling stressed, according to dietitians. And for more great choices from the supplement aisle, check out the Best Supplements for Reducing Inflammation, Say Dietitians.
If you want to help relieve some of your stress, adaptogens like astralagus root may be able to help.
"Adaptogens are supplements that contain compounds that improve brain health and function. Most adaptogens have a gastrointestinal benefit as well, which has a simultaneous brain health effect," explains Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. "Astragalus root is one adaptogen in particular that has been observed to improve gut microbiota diversity and health," says Best, citing a 2019 study published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy.
"Because the gut and brain are so strongly connected through this system, the body's stress response can be altered by an imbalance or poor gut health. The neurons lining your gut can play a major role in your mood. These neurons produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to mood," Best adds. For more ways to improve your microbiome, check out the 20 Best Foods for Gut Health.
Even if dairy doesn't play much of a role in your diet, experts say that liposomal bovine colostrum—a type of lactation fluid produced before a mammal produces milk post-giving birth—can make a major difference in your stress level.
"Any supplement that can help balance the gut can possibly help with stress. Bovine colostrum is a supplement that contains lactoferrin, which is shown to have a positive impact on the body's stress response," says Heidi Moretti, RD, resident nutritional advisor to Sovereign Laboratories, citing a 2018 study published in Biomedical Reports.
"Additionally, bovine colostrum contains immune factors as well as prebiotic which encourages a healthy balance of the gut microbiome. Studies have shown the link between the brain and gut, and the role a balanced gut microbiome plays in reducing stress," Moretti adds.
The name may sound like the ingredient you use in pesto, bruschetta, and other dishes, but it's actually a different plant from the same genus—and one that can help you relieve your stress.
"Adaptogenic herbs like holy basil are great for reducing stress," says Moretti. "Holy basil is often used as a tea but can be taken in a capsule form to help combat stress. In fact, research shows that holy basil reduces stress better than a placebo does." (Read more: Teas for Weight Loss That Combat Stress.)
Ashwagandha, an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, may be an effective stress reliever, Moretti says.
"Ashwagandha is able to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and also feelings of stress," Moretti explains. In fact, a 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that, among a group of 64 study subjects with a history of chronic stress, those who took high-concentration ashwagandha had improved resistance to stress and reported an improvement in their quality of life.
If you want to feel less stressed out on a regular basis, popping a 5-HTP might just be the ticket.
"5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is the precursor of both serotonin and melatonin, both of which help calm the brain and exert happy feelings and restful sleep," says Moretti, who notes that for maximum benefit, many people combine it with tyrosine to help balance dopamine levels.
Better yet, a 2010 trial published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that a combination of 5-HTP and GABA supplementation reduced the amount of time it took study subjects to fall asleep and improved both the quality and duration of their sleep. And for more great ways to hit the hay more easily, check out the Best Supplements for Sleep, According to Experts.
Read this next: