Are you stressed out at work? … If so, it may be due to one or more of the top 15 health nutrient (orthomolecular) and naturopathic syndromes that affect body system function at a physical and mental level.

The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on Nutritional and Naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both the physical and mental functioning.  Here we discuss the treatment approach and body-mind-link associated with aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive upset, food intolerance, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, and cancer and chronic disease prevention.  Fall 2014 blog themes will rotate between the topics of sleep, tiredness, and stress.  Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.

Workplace Stress (Part 1): Stress Nutrients

Workplace Stress: Effects on Your Physical & Mental Health

In a fast paced society many people are stressed out and respond poorly to life situations.  Stress extends its effects on kids and adults.  Things that cause stress are called stressors.  Today a significant array of stressors exist including balancing life with work, earning money, striving for career success, exposure to environmental toxins, economic and political trends, traffic congestion, parenting, relationships, family conflict and disease.

Workplace Stress – A Three-Part Blog Series

We have divided ‘Work Stress’ blogs into three subtopics: i) combating stress with stress nutrients, ii) combating stress by optimizing thyroid and adrenal function, and iii) lifestyle approaches to combat stress.  The human body has about 15 top syndromes associated with stress that affect physical and mental health.

Stress Nutrient Deficiencies: A Cause of Workplace Stress?

Can we combat stress with stress nutrients?  Yes.  Nutrient intake via diet and/or supplementation is often one of the most overlooked treatments for stress.  The most influential stress nutrients are B vitamin deficiency, vitamin C deficiency and magnesium deficiency.

B-Vitamins: Stress Nutrients

B-complex vitamins are a staple item for most anti-stress protocols.  All B vitamins help to convert food to fuel to produce energy, and cells that have energy are more efficient at combating stress.  Individual B vitamins may also be needed in higher doses.  Of particular note for stress are the following B vitamins: B3, B5, B6, and B12.

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

Niacin is a stress buster because it is involved in taming over-production of neurotransmitters (e.g. adrenaline) when they are released reflexively during stress.  Often vitamin C is needed as well to prevent the breakdown of excess neurotransmitters into forms that are not useful and/or toxic.  Niaicn in ADD and schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress can be very helpful.

The BodyMindLink:  Niacin deficiency is associated with physical symptoms/issues such as high cholesterol, heart disease, poor circulation, poor appetite, headaches, blood sugar imbalances, and dizziness.  From a mental health perspective niacin is associated with stress, irritability, depression, insomnia, nervousness, ADD, and schizophrenia.

Vitamin B5 (pantethenic acid) 

Vitamin B5 is nourishing to the adrenal glands and can help regulate the stress hormone cortisol.  It is also involved in blood sugar regulation, energy production, and the formation of acetylcholine and red blood cells.

The BodyMindLink:  Pantethine deficiency is associated with physical symptoms including fatigue, burning sensations of the feet and hands, muscle cramping, numbness/tingling, clumsiness, low blood sugar, diarrhea, vomiting, and water retention.  From a mental health perspective pantethine deficiency is associated with irritability, apathy, depression, insomnia, restlessness, nervousness, and stress.

Vitamin B6  (pyridoxine)

Pyridoxine is considered the vitamin to help you withstand stress as it is intimately involved in the functioning of the central nervous system and the brain.  It is involved in protein manufacturing at a basic level which helps the body make stress regulating neurotransmitters.  It is also needed for the absorption of B12.  Zinc works with B6 to produce proteins so zinc is also considered a stress fighting nutrient.

The BodyMindLink:  B6 deficiency is associated with physical symptoms including muscle weakness, tingling, numbness, PMS, carpal tunnel syndrome, dry skin, flaking skin, tongue inflammation, and cracks in the corner of the mouth.  From a mental health perspective B6 deficiency is associated with poor short-term memory, nervousness, poor dream recall, insomnia, difficulty concentrating and confusion, seizures, irritability, depression, and stress intolerance.

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

B12 along with folic acid, betaine (TMG), B6, and zinc are involved in methylation, a process that allows you to make neurotransmitters on demand as needed during times of stress.  When B12 is low we often see either megablastic anemia or high homocysteine.  With megablastic anemia, red blood cells are so large that they no longer easily pass through small capillaries to deliver oxygen to cells; oxygen is the fuel for cells to make energy molecules.  Homocysteine essentially cuts the lining of blood vessels rendering them prone to repair scenarios that can ultimately result in high blood pressure and/or the release of a blood clot to the heart or brain.

The BodyMindLink:  B12 deficiency is associated with physical symptoms including tiredness, poor stamina, heart attacks, heart palpitations, strokes, nerve damage/numbness/tingling, poor appetite, menstrual problems, shortness of breath, and headaches.  From a mental health perspective B12 deficiency is associated with stress, poor cognition, poor memory, depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): A Key Stress Nutrient

Your adrenal glands which regulate stress response have high concentrations of vitamin C.  Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant involved as a cofactor in the efficient production of the adrenal stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline.

The BodyMindLink:  Vitamin C deficiency is associated with physical symptoms including immune system compromise (especially viral), lethargy, fatigue, muscle/joint pain, bruising, weight loss, cancer, dental and gum health, easy bruising, anemia, and skin health.  From a mental health perspective vitamin C deficiency is associated with quick mood vacillations, irritability, and poor stress response.

Mineral Deficient Stress

Mineral deficient stress in kids and adults is common.  The link between stress and minerals is extensive so we will concentrate on Magnesium here.  Zinc is the next most important mineral, a topic for future blogs.

Magnesium, a Key Stress Nutrient

In humans, magnesium deficiency although rarely considered important, is one of the biggest deficiencies known.  Magnesium is released during periods of stress and high adrenaline levels are associated with magnesium loss.  Magnesium helps us to maintain optimal energy levels.  Magnesium and B6 often work together.  Magnesium deficient metabolism is influential from both a physical and mental health perspective.

The BodyMindLink:  Magnesium deficiency is associated with physical symptoms including muscle cramping/stiffness/twitching, tics, constipation, pelleted stool, painful stool, hemorrhoids, seizures, migraines/headaches, lethargy, chronic fatigue, tremors, and heart arrhythmias.  From a mental health perspective magnesium deficiency is associated with stress, inability to stay asleep, depression, anxiety, behavior disorders, ADD/ADHD, and OCD.