We all lead stressful lives. Of every 100,000 workers, approximately 1,500 will be suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety . In 2015, this meant 11.7 million sick days – or 23.9 missed days per person. Stress accounts for 37% of all work-related ill health and 45% of all lost days. It’s clear that stress is an issue that continues to take a toll. Could a fresh approach to taking supplements make a difference?
What is stress?
The NHS defines stress as the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure . A bit of stress is normal and can push you to continue to change or challenge yourself, but too much stress can take a physical and mental toll. Stress can affect how you think, feel and behave, as well as how your body works. In the short term, this can mean excessive sweating, chest pains and problems with memory and cognitive performance – the last thing you want when you’re in the middle of a big pitch at work. In the longer term, the impacts can be far ranging, including loss of libido, changes to your appetite, insomnia and heart problems.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), stress is particularly prevalent in those who work in the public sector – including teachers, healthcare professionals and the armed forces. In a government survey of UK workers, those suffering from work-related depression, stress or anxiety cited the pressure of higher workloads, tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support as some of the triggers behind their condition .
What is cortisol?
Familiar as the “fight or flight” response, when you experience stress your body produces a powerful cocktail of hormones to activate certain areas and shut down other functions that aren’t needed to combat the threat. Adrenaline gets your heart pumping and stocks up your energy resources.
Cortisol – otherwise known as the “stress hormone” – boosts your blood sugar, assigns more fuel to your brain and reallocates some of your body’s resources to repair any damaged tissues. However, it also stops anything that might hinder or not be useful in a crisis, diverting your immune system’s responses and suppressing digestion, the reproductive system and the processes needed for new cell growth to allow your body to have maximum capacity to deal with the perceived risk at hand. Once the threat has gone, your body should then return to normal, rebalancing its hormone levels. However, when you feel stressed your body continues to act as though it’s under attack. Continuously raised levels of cortisol caused by stress can put you at increased risk of heart, digestive and mental health problems.
How can serotonin help?
A number of studies have demonstrated that there is a link between higher levels of cortisol and lower levels of serotonin in the brain . Serotonin is a chemical that acts as the messenger between nerve cells, passing signals that have a particular effect on your mood, emotions and sleep. After carrying a message, serotonin is usually reabsorbed by the nearest nerve cells (known as “reuptake”). You may be familiar with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a common type of antidepressant drug used to help depression and anxiety. It works by blocking the reabsorption process so more serotonin is available to transmit more messages.
In the fight against the symptoms of stress, the idea is that by boosting your serotonin levels the effects of excessive cortisol in the body can be cancelled out. A common symptom of stress is poor sleep, including insomnia or oversleeping. Serotonin is essential in the production of melatonin – a chemical that regulates your body clock.
How brain feed combats stress
5-htp has been used for over 30 years to treat depression (as used by Hollywood actor Jim Carrey), thanks to its molecular make-up as a chemical precursor to serotonin. It works to boost your mood by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which is thought to in turn improve the way your brain processes emotions and regulates sleep . In a study of people experiencing stress from relationships (such as going through a break-up) 5-htp appeared to help them with their psychological symptoms by boosting their serotonin levels .
brain feed’s 5-htp supplements are the smallest yet most nutrient-dense tablets available on the market. The UK’s premium supplier, brain feed put your health and wellbeing front and centre of product design, using 100% naturally derived ingredients to drive results grounded in science. Made from the highest quality extracts taken from sustainable sources – in this case, from griffonia seeds – they are twice the strength of 5-htp available from Holland & Barrett and MyProtein, helping you to relieve your anxiety in an easy-to-swallow, reliable and consistent tablet.
5-htp works on the serotonergic pathway which regulates sleep, appetite and stress so it is more than simply an option for a depressed mood. It’s great for those wishing to maintain health and enhance performance. To find out more about 5-htp click here