Detoxify Your Life Series: Chronic Stress, Part I Foods and Supplements for Stress Reduction
If you're like me, you want to do everything in your power to prevent a cancer occurrence.
If you've already been affected by cancer, adopting the main principles of the anticancer lifestyle—a healing and empowered mindset, a nutrient dense diet, daily movement, and reduction of toxins—is of even greater importance.
In this multi-part series we explore the not so wonderful world of toxins; where they are and how to boot them out of your life for good.
The main sources of toxins can be sorted into the following categories:
- Chronic stress and habitual negative thought patterns
- Food, including cooking utensils and storage
- Personal and body care products, including cosmetics
- Environment, including cleaning supplies
this series I share strategies that
you can begin implementing today.
Let's get started!
Toxin: Chronic Stress and Habitual Negative Thought Patterns, Part I
Sources of stress can be physical or psychological. Infections or injuries, as well as environmental toxins found in food, water, cleaning supplies, and personal care products, all of which will be discussed in subsequent parts of this series, cause physical stress.
Psychological stress is defined by the English Oxford Dictionary as "a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances." Though we're often led to understand that emotional stress is purely psychological, in reality even psychological stress can have its origin in physical causes, notably nutrient deficiencies.
In my coaching practice, Module 1 of my six month signature program for those living with cancer, Mastering Remission, is typically the module titled Strategies for Attitude Adjustment and Stress Management. In light of the stressful diagnosis of cancer, helping my clients address stress and mindset right off the bat gives them the necessary tools and strategies for coping with the inevitable emotional stresses they face in interacting with medical personnel, making treatment decisions, and in coping with the diagnosis itself. Addressing stress and mindset help release psycho emotional blocks such as fear, doubt, worry, and anger, and create an empowering attitude of I've got this!
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 90% of doctor's visits are a result of stress.[i] While short term stress can actually be beneficial by strengthening the immune system, chronic stress creates toxic situations in our bodies, reducing the body's immune function and setting the stage for a host of chronic diseases as well as increase in cancer growth or metastasis.[ii] All the more reason a person affected by cancer would be well served to implement strategies for stress reduction and attitude adjustment on a daily basis.
Foods and Supplements for Stress Reduction
It's not "all in your head."
In a world where our food is denatured, over-processed, grown in nutrient-depleted soils, and lacking in necessary nutrients, nutrient deficiency is a major cause of stress and anxiety.[iii] All the positive thinking, meditating, and yoga in the world will not correct nutrient deficiencies that are known to cause emotional imbalances.
Would you like to improve your adrenal function, neurotransmitter and stress hormone production, reduce inflammation, support your nervous system and immune function, improve blood sugar metabolism and increase your energy?[iv] Look no further than what you put into your mouth.
Food and supplements have a huge impact on the management of stress and anxiety. Addressing the physical cause of what's getting you down is the first step in releasing stress, anxiety, and limiting thoughts and feelings.[xv]
Deficiencies of the two nutrients below, the first of which it is estimated that 80% of us suffer, are known to disrupt
neurotransmitters and increase the production of stress hormones:
- Magnesium:[v] If you aren't already supplementing with magnesium and eating magnesium rich foods such as raw spinach and chard, squash and pumpkin seeds, yogurt or kefir, almonds, black beans, mackerel and salmon, lentils, avocados, figs, dark chocolate, and bananas, I encourage you to start doing so today; it could mean the difference between a rosy outlook on life and a grim one.
In addition to consuming magnesium rich foods, a pleasant and relaxing way to up your magnesium intake is by having a warm bath. Magnesium sulfate, aka Epsom salt, is rich in magnesium; soaking in a bath with 2-3 cups of Epsom salt for a minimum of 12 minutes, 3 times a week has been found to be an easy way to increase magnesium levels in the body.[vi] In addition to Epsom salt, magnesium chloride, often sold in a water suspension by the name Magnesium Oil, which is not a true oil but has the feel of an oil, is another form of magnesium that works well for transdermal (through the skin) application. Magnesium chloride can be purchased in the liquid form or in dry flake form. The flakes can be added to bathwater just as the Epsom salts are, or can be mixed with water and stored in a spray bottle to spray onto the body.
Oral magnesium supplements can be beneficial as well, but be aware that they can cause gastro-intestinal distress and can be poorly absorbed.
- Vitamin B Complex: This group of 8 related vitamins, considered coenzymes (non-proteins which are required for enzymes to function), are responsible for a host of metabolic processes and cell functions and are necessary in optimal doses for proper brain function. The neurological and psychological symptoms associated with a deficiency of any of these eight vitamins include depression, cognitive decline, dementia, and nerve disorders such as neuropathy and orthostatic hypertension.[vii]
- Foods rich in B12, from the highest to the lowest include beef liver, sardines, mackerel, lamb, wild salmon, nutritional yeast, feta cheese, grass-fed beef, cottage cheese, and eggs.
- Foods rich in folate: Garbanzo beans, liver, pinto beans, lentils, raw spinach, asparagus, avocado, beets, black eyed peas, and broccoli.
- Foods rich in B6: Turkey breast, grass-fed beef,
pistachios, tuna, pinto beans, avocado, chicken breast, blackstrap molasses,
sunflower and sesame seeds.
When purchasing a vitamin B complex supplement, choose one that contains methylcobalamin rather than cyanocobalamin, and which contains natural folate rather than folic acid, which is synthetic. This is especially important if you have a MTHFR gene mutation.[viii]
Adaptogens to the rescue!
Adaptogens are herbs common to Ayurvedic medicine[xiv] which help your body adapt to both physical and psychological stress, and normalize body functions.
My favorite adaptogens are:
Also known as holy basil (botanical name Ocimum Sanctum), this powerful adaptogenic herb makes a lovely, aromatic tea that calms the mind, body, and spirit. In the traditional Indian healing system Ayurveda, holy basil is prized as the Queen of Herbs for its broad spectrum of benefits. In addition to its use as a calmative and restorative tonic, it has powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-diarrheal, anti-cataract, and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also demonstrated its ability to protect against cancer and radiation. Additionally, holy basil protects the kidneys, brain, heart, and central nervous system.[xiii]
How to add tulsi to your diet:
My favorite way to use tulsi is as a tea. You can also find tulsi/holy basil in capsules.
Side Effects, Interactions, and Warnings:
Tulsi can prevent conception; avoid while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. There are no contraindications for drinking tulsi while breastfeeding. Tulsi may slow blood clotting. Be aware if using medications such as aspirin, heparin, warfarin, and other anti-clotting medications as it may increase the chances of bleeding and bruising.
Withania Somnifera, the botanical name for ashwagandha, is also known as Indian ginseng. Its common name translates from Sanskrit to "smell of a horse," a nod to the odor emanating from the roots of the plant. Ashwagandha, a member of the nightshade family, is beneficial for treating stress and anxiety,[ix] as well as depression.[x] Ashwagandha is found to have anti-cancer,[xi] anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-bacterial properties, and also increases blood production, which could benefit patients whose counts are reduced due to chemotherapy treatment.[xii]
When Shopping for an Ashwagandha Supplement:
Look for an ashwagandha extract with the highest standardized amount of withanolides, the active components of ashwagandha. You can find this in capsules or in bulk powder form. Follow dosage recommendations on the product you purchase.
Side Effects, Interactions, and Warnings:
Ashwagandha may increase the sedative effects of the class of drugs benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan, and Xanax), and may also interact with immunosuppressant medications. Speak with your medical professional before taking ashwagandha. Pregnant women should avoid ashwagandha as it may induce hormonal effects harmful to the fetus.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Stay tuned for Part II of the Toxin: Chronic Stress and Habitual Negative Thought Patterns series, where we will explore sleep.
[i] Killer Cure, Bewley, Elizabeth L.
Impact of stress on cancer metastasis, Myrthala
Moreno-Smith, Susan K
Lutgendorf, and Anil K Sood
Future Oncol. 2010 Dec; 6(12): 1863-1881.