Stressed? You Could Be Low in These Nutrients

When you’ve been under a lot of stress, your body feels it. Being in survival mode takes a lot of energy. Your adrenals pump out stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which increase your heart rate, tense your muscles, and ramp up motivation and fear, preparing you for “fight or flight”. This can quickly drain your energy resources and leave you feeling depleted.

One of the negative effects of prolonged stress is that it can deplete your body of nutrients. Stress increases your body’s nutritional demands, gobbling up crucial vitamins and minerals to support the body’s stress response. Stress can also disrupt digestive processes and interfere with the absorption of nutrients from your food. All this can deprive your body of key nutrients that impact your energy, mood, sleep, immune health, and more.

If you’ve been feeling stressed and fatigued, you could be low in nutrients. Here are some of the most common vitamins and minerals that can be depleted by stress:

Magnesium

High levels of stress and low levels of magnesium tend to go hand in hand, and the connection seems to work in both directions. Magnesium helps regulate your body’s stress response, but it can also be depleted by stress. Low magnesium then makes you even more vulnerable to heightened stress levels, creating a vicious cycle.[1]

Research shows that nearly half the U.S. population doesn’t get enough magnesium to begin with.[2] If you’ve been stressed out, there’s an extra good chance your magnesium reserves are running low. You need magnesium to support a calm mood, help muscles relax, improve sleep quality, and support cellular energy production, among other functions. These are things that will help you recover and feel more like yourself after a period of stress.

Vitamin C

We don’t normally think of vitamin C as a stress vitamin, but it does play a big role in your body’s stress response. Vitamin C is highly concentrated in the adrenal glands, where it is used to help produce stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This means that whenever your stress response is activated, your body is using up more vitamin C.

Most animals can produce their own vitamin C, and when they are under stress, their vitamin C production naturally increases. Humans, however, can’t produce their own vitamin C, and must get it from food or supplements. If we don’t increase our vitamin C intake during periods of stress, it can easily become depleted. Lack of vitamin C puts your immune system at a disadvantage, which is just one reason why stress can weaken your immune system. If you’ve been under stress, make sure to replenish this important vitamin.

B Vitamins

B vitamins play many important roles in the body that support healthy stress management, including nervous system support, mood support, and energy production, a crucial part of the body’s stress response. Vitamins B5 and B6 are particularly important for healthy adrenal function and are used up more quickly during periods of stress.[3] They support the production of stress hormones and also help regulate the stress response to keep it in balance.

Stress increases your need for B vitamins and can easily deplete them if they aren’t replenished. Since B vitamins are not stored long-term in the body, they must be replenished regularly. Studies have found that taking B Complex vitamins can benefit those under stress and help support a healthy mood.[4][5]

Zinc

Zinc is best known as an immune support nutrient, but it also plays a role in stress management. Zinc helps regulate cortisol levels,[6] but it can also be depleted by excessive stress.[7] In fact, there is an inverse relationship between zinc and cortisol levels in the body: when one increases, the other decreases.4

If zinc is depleted, it can lead to higher levels of cortisol, keeping you in stress mode. Low zinc can also weaken your immune defenses. Research suggests that many of us already don’t get enough of this mineral, so it’s important to replenish it, especially if you’ve been under stress.

Iron

Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which slows down digestive processes in order to divert energy for survival. It reduces stomach acids and disrupts the microbiome, inhibiting your ability to break down food and absorb nutrients. Over time, this can impact your nutrition, especially for nutrients that are often more difficult to metabolize, such as iron. Research shows that increased stress levels are linked with a decrease in blood iron levels.[8]

Iron is crucial for making healthy red blood cells that transport oxygen to your brain and body, keeping you energized and alert. If you’re low in iron, you may feel weak, spacy, and low energy. Women are already vulnerable to low iron during menstruation, and stress can easily exacerbate this. If you’ve been feeling stressed and fatigued, it’s a good idea to have your iron levels checked. In the meantime, a daily multivitamin can help maintain normal iron levels.

Prolonged stress affects your health in many ways and can deplete your body’s resources, leaving you less prepared for the next challenge. Nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins can help you manage your stress and maintain a balanced mood, while vitamin C and zinc can support your body and your immune system during stress and illness. You can also help keep your everyday nutrition levels healthy by taking a daily multivitamin.

References:

[1] Pickering G, Mazur A, Trousselard M, Bienkowski P, Yaltsewa N, Amessou M, Noah L, Pouteau E. Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients. 2020 Nov 28;12(12):3672. doi: 10.3390/nu12123672. PMID: 33260549; PMCID: PMC7761127.

[2] Rebecca Costello, Taylor C Wallace, Andrea Rosanoff, Magnesium, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 7, Issue 1, January 2016, Pages 199–201, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.008524

[3] 5 Vital Nutrients Depleted by Stress.” Nutri Advanced, Feb 2021.

[4] Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, Spong J, Myers S, Downey LA. The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2011 Oct;26(7):470-6. doi: 10.1002/hup.1229. Epub 2011 Sep 8. PMID: 21905094.

[5] Young LM, Pipingas A, White DJ, Gauci S, Scholey A. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and 'At-Risk' Individuals. Nutrients. 2019 Sep 16;11(9):2232. doi: 10.3390/nu11092232. PMID: 31527485; PMCID: PMC6770181.

[6] Brandão-Neto J, de Mendonça BB, Shuhama T, Marchini JS, Pimenta WP, Tornero MT. Zinc acutely and temporarily inhibits adrenal cortisol secretion in humans. A preliminary report. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1990 Jan;24(1):83-9. doi: 10.1007/BF02789143. PMID: 1702662.

[7] Lopresti AL. The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence. Adv Nutr. 2020 Jan 1;11(1):103-112. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz082. PMID: 31504084; PMCID: PMC7442351.

[8] Wei C, Zhou J, Huang X, Li M. Effects of psychological stress on serum iron and erythropoiesis. Int J Hematol. 2008 Jul;88(1):52-56. doi: 10.1007/s12185-008-0105-4. Epub 2008 Jun 11. PMID: 18543064.