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Which of the following is an antioxidant?
Vitamin E
Vitamin B

 Nutritional Programs: Anti-Stress Nutritional Program 

For people with elevated stress levels, I suggest a variety of stress-reducing activities to minimize the dangers of this underlying cause of disease.


  • Have more fun. Do things that you enjoy and that help you to relax.

  • Express your feelings. Emotions need regular venting, and unexpressed emotions are the building blocks of stress, pain, and illness.

  • Get good sleep. Poor sleep or sleep habits do not let your body really rest, discharge tensions, and recharge.

  • Learn relaxation exercises. These can help a great deal in reducing stress through letting go of mental stresses and experiencing moments of inner peace. This quiet, "nothing happening" space is where, I believe, the healing process begins.

  • Exercise. Regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to clear your tensions and feel good, with more energy and a better attitude toward life.

  • Develop good relationships. It is important to have friends in whom you can confide and find support. Those who love and accept you and will advise but not judge you are your true friends. It is also very meaningful to be a true friend to another.

  • Experience love and satisfying sex. A primary relationship that is loving, sensual, and sexual can also be a major stress reducer. Having an understanding, accepting, and warm being (most often human) to receive your hardworking body and mind can be the best therapy available. However, if you do not have this in your life, there are many other therapies that are helpful. Often, an intense relationship can also be a stressor. It is important to find a balance in all you do, in each endeavor and in your life as a whole.

  • Change perceptions and attitudes. When ideas or views are not serving you, it is wise to examine and adapt them. It is important to learn to respond to life’s situations and not react. This is a true response-ability! Hanging onto frustrations, holding grudges, and accepting the victim-blame game are not in your best health interests. It serves you to look at the big picture and step out of the little struggles. Ask why you might need to experience these challenges and try to view them as opportunities for growth and learning. Applying more spiritual principles to life is very useful and often helps solve many of the conflicts involved in finding greater peace of mind and heart. Find and experience self-love, self-respect, and self-worth.

There are many positive things to do with regard to diet and nutrition, as well as many things to avoid. This program is designed to counteract and reduce the negative biochemical and physiological effects of stress and to minimize the specific stressing agents, such as the wide variety of drugs, both street and prescription. Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol are all irritating drugs. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs may also cause physiological problems and irritate us physically or mentally.

A diet of high-nutrient foods is essential for people under stress, because stress increases cellular activity which leads to increased nutrient usage. The resulting depletions may aggravate the damaging effects of stress. Also, less food may be consumed during times of stress, as the digestive tract may be a little upset; and the higher nutrient foods make up for lower consumption. However, some people who are stressed tend to push themselves and not take good care of themselves, avoiding meals, especially wholesome ones, and snacking on quick-energy or fast foods. They may be martyrs who feel that they must serve the cause and there is no time for such things as eating properly, or they may just be too busy and forget to eat. These people are usually not overweight; on the contrary, they need to be reminded to eat. This unrelenting push without feeding the stomach (and every cell) can lead to acid irritation of the digestive organs and ulcers. Then the cycle of antacids starts and further poor digestion and assimilation is the final outcome.

Probably the best type of diet for the fast-track people with intellectual performance anxiety is three to five small but wholesome meals a day, like the Warrior’s Diet discussed in Chapter 9, Diets. Lots of water is important to keep us well hydrated and to help counteract stress by circulating nutrients. Avoiding stress around meals is very important. Try to rest and relax before and after eating, even if just for a minute or two of placing your body in a receptive state for the nourishment coming in—rather like clearing the computer of its active program so that it can receive new information. If there is time to take 10–15 minutes before and after meals, that is even better, especially after large meals. Listening to relaxing music also helps.

A detoxification-type diet may be useful at times of intense stress, and it is often a natural response to these increased demands. Drinking lots of liquids, such as water and juices, and reducing heavier meals that may not be handled well can help us lighten up when life gets "too heavy." A response of overeating and food abuse can only make matters worse. Juices, soups, and salads, for example, can nourish us well without creating great demands on our body and digestion, which may not be working well at the time. Our energy level and productivity may rise with lighter eating as well. A lighter, cleansing diet may help us through times of short-term stress. Some food intake may enable our body to assimilate the supplements that can also be of value. A good supplement plan is imperative to our Anti-Stress program. Stress depletes so many of our body’s nutrients that it is difficult to obtain the levels we need from food alone unless we spend eight hours a day shopping, preparing food, and feeding ourselves—and that is not too realistic.

Nutrients that are commonly depleted by stress include the antioxidant vitamins A, E, and C, the B vitamins, and the minerals zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur, and molybdenum. Because of increased metabolism and use of energy, our stressed body utilizes more carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, especially the fatty acids. Unrelenting stress, however, is not the basis for a healthy weight-loss program.

The B vitamins and vitamin C are the main constituents of many antistress formulas. They are all significantly depleted by stress and the stress-related problems may be compounded by deficiencies resulting from poor nutrition prior to the time of increased stress. All of the B vitamins are important here. Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, may well be the most important antistress nutrient of the B complex. Along with folic acid and vitamin C, it is necessary for proper function of the adrenal glands. Niacin, enough to generate the niacin flush, may be useful in counteracting some of the biochemical effects of stress. Vitamins B1, B2, B6, biotin, and PABA are also helpful. I recommend taking higher than the RDA of all of the B vitamins, spread out in two or three portions, all taken before dark, since they can be stimulating; it is wise to let the mind and body relax as it gets toward bedtime. I suggest more minerals in the evening, as they tend to help in relaxation. However, if evening work is important or there are evening meetings, a good B complex supplement can be taken after dinner. The B vitamins may even have a relaxing effect on some people, and they could be used by them in the evenings to calm the nerves. A regular B vitamin, with 25–50 mg. each of most of the Bs, for example, will be used and eliminated by the body within a few hours. Such tablets or capsules can be taken several times daily. Time-release B vitamins, which do not have to be taken so often, are also commonly used. Many people do better with hypoallergenic or yeast- and wheat-free B vitamins. Although our body will utilize some of the B vitamins taken at any time, most vitamin and mineral supplements are best assimilated after a meal.

Vitamin C supplementation is also very important for stress. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, may indeed be the single most essential antistress nutrient. It offers cellular protection, immune support, and adrenal support to produce more cortisone and epinephrine. Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant that helps protect against fat peroxidation, including restoring vitamin E after it is oxidized. Vitamin C is very rapidly utilized and minimally stored in the body. Therefore, regular usage, even four to six times daily, is ideal. A dosage of 1–2 grams per day is recommended, although as much as 8–10 grams may be used for severe problems related to stress. One or two of the vitamin C dosages taken each day should contain the bioflavonoid C complex, including rutin and hesperidin.

In addition to extra B vitamins and C, I suggest an antioxidant program such as described for the Anti-Aging program. Vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamin E and selenium, and the amino acid L-cysteine are all part of this. As with vitamin C, these antioxidants sacrifice themselves (through oxidation) to balance out the free radicals.

Minerals are also important, with potassium, calcium, and magnesium heading the antistress list. Potassium is essential for most crucial physiologic activities. Calcium is vital to nerve transmission and regular heartbeat as well as immune function. It aids both relaxation and muscle tone. Magnesium is a tranquilizing mineral that helps balance the nervous system and supports heart function. An Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath (with 1 cup) can be very relaxing. In general, a dosage of 600–1,000 mg. of calcium and 400–800 mg. of magnesium daily, in addition to diet, is recommended, with most of it being taken in the evening before bed.

Calcium and magnesium can also be used to balance the stomach acid. For acute or early stress with hyperacidity, these alkaline minerals taken before meals can be a helpful antacid. With chronic stress, when stomach acid is more often low, taking them before bed is better. Pancreatic function is often low as well with chronic stress, and additional pancreatic enzymes after meals may be helpful.

Minerals that are helpful for their immune and enzyme support, such as superoxide dismutase, include zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. Chromium may be useful in allaying sugar cravings, while potassium is important to prevent heart irregularities and muscle cramps and to balance the hypertensive effects of sodium when salt is used in excess. Like vitamin C and the Bs, minerals are best taken in several portions for optimum absorption and utilization. Taking the important ones such as calcium, magnesium, iron, or zinc by themselves will reduce competitive absorption between them and produce higher levels of each in the blood.

Supplemental amino acids may allow better protein utilization and energy balance, especially when digestion is poor. The powdered, L- form amino acids are easily utilized by the body, much more easily than steak, though the meat has other nutrition (and possibly other toxins). The antioxidant amino acid, L-cysteine, promotes liver function and detoxification. L-glutamine is helpful for proper brain function, especially with stress. Methionine may also be protective against stress through its support of fatty acid metabolism and other functions. L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine may help reduce stress-induced high blood pressure, while L-tryptophan can be used for relaxation and sleep.


Vitamin C,* 500–1000 mg. (helps mineral absorption)
Calcium, 500–750 mg.
Magnesium, 350–500 mg.
Potassium, 300–500 mg.
L-Tryptophan, 500–2,000 mg. (if available)
Relaxing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, vervain,
catnip, hops, or linden flowers

Begin with just the C, calcium, and magnesium. If that doesn’t work, add 500 mg. of L-tryptophan, increasing the dosage if necessary by 500 mg. every three days, up to 2,000 mg. If you still have no relief, try an herbal sleep-inducing formula, beginning with one or two capsules and building up if needed. Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime tea has helped many people. Drinking a warm cup of it or another nighttime relaxant tea is a helpful addition to a calming-down routine. Some people also enjoy a warm cup of whole milk before bed for its tranquilizing effect, if the digestion will handle it.
*A mineralized ascorbic acid powder with calcium, magnesium, and potassium can be used in a drink.
(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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