From shopping for presents to attending Christmas parties and dealing with family members, the holidays can be difficult for many people. What’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year can actually be the most stressful — and that state can wreak havoc on your health. In fact, it’s been reported that 75 to 90 percent of doctors visits are stress-related, whether that stress manifests as headaches, anxiety, skin issues or digestive problems. And, while practices like yoga and meditation can certainly help decrease stress levels, one of my favorite ways to achieve fast results is with supplements.
Because supplements bridge the gap between your body’s nutritional needs and what it’s actually receiving through your diet, you’ll often find that taking supplements for vitamins and minerals you’re deficient in will help regulate and improve your mood. So, not only can supplements boost your health, but some of them can also help you de-stress and relax, enabling you to truly enjoy the holiday season.
[See: 8 Ways to Relax — Now.]
Read on for my five favorite natural supplements that will help you make the most of this festive time of year:
1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is one of the leading nutrient deficiencies among adults around the world, which is particularly troublesome since a lack of B12 can leave you feeling tired, cranky or unfocused, and it can also cause depression and anxiety. In short, this is not a vitamin you want to be short on during the holidays.
Vitamin B12 is a major factor in the production of the compound known as SAM, which is crucial for neurological function and dealing with stress. So when B12 levels are normal, you can look forward to a reduction in mood disorders. The good news is that B12 supplements are considered safe and non-toxic because our bodies have the ability to flush out any excess that’s not needed.
2. Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important for optimal brain health and the regulation of our moods. And if you’re not eating fresh, wild-caught fish on the regular, fish oil supplements — which are also chock-full of omega-3s — are your next best bet.
Fish oil is known to ease anxiety; in fact, one study found that fish oil reversed all anxiety- and depression-like behavior changes in rats. It’s also effective in reducing depression and, thanks to the omega-3s, can improve the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other mental health problems.
When you’re purchasing a fish oil supplement, I recommend finding one that’s in a triglyceride form and contains antioxidants like astaxanthin, which will help keep the fish oil from going rancid.
Magnesium plays a massive role in our bodies, affecting everything from digestion and heart health to preventing osteoporosis and migraine headaches. Unfortunately, though, it’s estimated that 80 percent of American adults are deficient in this crucial mineral.
For starters, magnesium is necessary for optimal function of the amino acid gamma-amino butyric acid, or GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that produces “happy hormones” in our brains. In fact, hormones regulated by magnesium are crucial for calming the brain and promoting relaxation. Magnesium supplements can also relax your muscles and quiet your mind, allowing you to get a better night’s sleep. The only thing to watch out for with magnesium supplements is a potential laxative effect — minimize this risk by having no more than 300 to 400 milligrams of the mineral at once.
You’ve probably already know tryptophan as the culprit for making you so sleepy after eating too much turkey on Thanksgiving, but that’s actually not tryptophan’s main function. Also called L-tryptophan, this essential amino acid works like a natural mood regulator by allowing our bodies to produce and balance hormones naturally.
Supplementing with tryptophan can lift your mood and protect against depression, anxiety and high stress levels, and many studies have found that it actually converts to the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which eases tension and increases positive feelings. As for that sleepy turkey feeling? Thanks to its natural sedative effects, tryptophan can help you rest better at night. It can also reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, improve mood the day after and decrease sleep apnea — all without the potentially risky side effects of some prescription drugs.
5. Valerian Root
While it sounds like something out of “Game of Thrones ,” valerian root is a real plant — and one that’s fantastic at helping you relax. It’s often found in sleep-promoting tea blends, but it’s a terrific aid on its own.
Like magnesium, valerian root increases the amount of GABA in the brain, thus regulating nerve cells and easing anxiety. It also promotes quality sleep with little drowsiness, making it perfect for catching up on some much-needed zzz’s during the busy holiday period. And, since you’ll be less anxious and sleeping better with valerian root, it’s likely that stress levels will go down, too.
You can find valerian root in capsule form, as a tea or sold as a fluid extract. Don’t be put off by the smell — the taste isn’t terrible, and with all the benefits you’ll experience, I’d say it’s worth it.
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5 Natural Supplements That Will Help You Relax This Holiday Season originally appeared on usnews.com