So, I posed this question in my client-only Facebook group the other day:

What do you find most challenging about getting your hormonal health back on track?

And these are some of the responses I heard back…

“STRESS! STRESS, STRESS, STRESS! For sure stress & emotional changes! Nutrition/supplements/exercise are all easy for me, but stress just kills me.”

“I find that stressing over diet, supplements, exercise and trying to find balance is the most challenging… and to not stress over it all!!”

“I stress over trying to do all the ‘right’ things but if I don’t see improvements that stresses me further!”

And finally,

Nicole Jardim if you’ve got the fix/solution for stress, sign me up! :)”

As far as I’m concerned, stress and it’s manifestations are the biggest crisis facing women in the 21st century. I just don’t think our bodies are designed to function optimally in our modern, fast-paced world.

Do you know that women are more susceptible to the effects of stress than men because of our hormonal makeup? I know, I hate even admitting it, but it’s true. When you factor in the sheer number of hormones and their monthly ebbs and flows, it’s no surprise that excess stress can wreak havoc on a woman’s reproductive health.

This doesn’t even factor in the added stress of the holiday season. A friend of mine said today that she and her husband are going to visit both their parents for Christmas but their parents live 2 hours away from each other so they’ll spend 2 nights with her folks, then two with his, then they’ll go back to her parents for another night and then back to his for their last night. And then take the train back to where they live. LIKE WHAT?!

But this is what we women do – we over-give, over-provide, over-worry and over-think! Right? We’re actually programmed that way. Unfortunately, all this over-doing is magnified x 1000 during this time of year and seriously, nothing wrecks your hormones faster than this kind of runaway stress.

That’s because the stress hormone cortisol surges when you experience acute stress – hello December! The challenge for many women is this acute stage of stress never actually turns off so we’re constantly flooded with cortisol. This leaves us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, tired but unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, groggy in the mornings, and needing lots of sugar or caffeine to just get through the day.

While I know I can’t change all this with an 1100 word blog post, I can give you a list of my top supplements and herbal remedies to help you bring it down a notch during this crazy-ass time of year!

These are my top supplements & herbals for stress:

1. Omega-3 Fish oil

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[1] I recommend taking 2000mg of fish oil with a high-fat meal and in the evening, especially if you have a hard time winding down or falling/staying asleep. In addition to that, fish oil has been shown to prevent or help memory loss, depression, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s. My favorite fish oil products are, Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, Carlson Elite Omega-3NutriGold Triple Strength Omega-3 Fish Oil and NutriGold Krill Oil Gold.

2. Phosphatidylserine

Yeah, how the heck do you even pronounce that one right? Good thing you don’t have to be a good speller to reap the benefits of this phospholipid. There is now quite a bit of evidence showing that phosphatidylserine significantly dampens the effect of external stress on the HPA axis (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis – which determines how you handle stress), and helps you manage stress-related disorders. I recommend about 400-800mg a day of PS but start at 400mg and work your way up if you don’t see improvement in 2 weeks. Try Now Foods Phosphatidylserine or Integrative Therapeutics Phosphatidylserine.

3. B Complex

I think every woman on the planet should be taking a B complex vitamin daily. The first reason I suggest this is because unending high levels of cortisol actually depletes vitamins B1, B5, B6 and B12 and secondly, because each B vitamin plays an important role in the body and almost all of them help us combat stress. For instance, B1 & B2 have recently been shown to help PMS, B5 appears to reduce over-production of cortisol, B6 reduces PMS-related anxiety and both B6 and B12 are involved with serotonin production which controls your mood, appetite and sleep patterns. I love Thorne Research Basic B Complex or Integrative Therapeutics Active B Capsules.

Plant-derived adaptogens are very useful in combating the physical and mental rigors of our modern lifestyle.  Adaptogens work by modulating the levels and activity of hormones and brain neurochemicals that affect almost everything that happens in your body. This in turn helps the body adapt to, and mitigate the potential negative effects of stress. The following two adaptogens have proven to be particularly effective stress relievers:

4. Rhodiola

Rhodiola is a plant that grows primarily in Asia and Eastern Europe. It has been used for fatigue, memory loss and to increase productivity and mitigate the general effects of stress for centuries [2]. What’s even cooler is that rhodiola has been shown to be effective for adrenal fatigue, lack of ovulation and irregular/infrequent periods [3]! I recommend 200mg 1-2 times a day and you might want to try Gaia Herbs Rhodiola Rosea. If you choose another brand, make sure you’re getting Rhodiola Rosea that is standardized to contain rosavins and salidrosides.

5. Ashwagandha

This is the most commonly used herb in Ayurvedic medicine and has been used for thousands of years as a sleep-inducer.  More recently it has been found to be an effective anti-anxiety remedy [4] and can treat a variety of other conditions like fatigue, sleep disorders and endurance[5]. Interestingly, I’ve had a couple of clients with amenorrhea use it and their periods came back within a couple of months. Worth a try right? If you decide to give it a go, I recommend using Seeking Health Ashwagandha.

 

References:

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12909818

2. Lishmanov IuB, Trifonova ZhV, Tsibin AN, Maslova LV, Dement’eva LA. Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation. Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1987 Apr;103(4):422-4.

3. Brown R, Gerbarg P, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview. Herbalgram. 2002;56:40-52.

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/

5. http://www.realnatural.org/over-fifty-recent-studies-prove-ashwagandhas-potential-for-treating-a-myriad-of-conditions/