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2 Jun 2020

How Vitamin B Can Help With Your Stress

2 mins to read
B-group vitamins are essential to the body's stress response. Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12 help to maintain a healthy nervous system that allows the body to effectively fight the symptoms of stress. Other B vitamins are needed for energy production to aid the body's stress response.

Do you feel stressed?

We often tell ourselves that a little bit of stress is good for us – but healthy challenges shouldn’t be confused with feeling stressed. When you successfully meet a challenge, you should feel satisfied and relaxed.

But if you feel exhausted, and like challenges just can’t be met, it’s more likely there’s a problem.

Workplace stress has been steadily increasing in Australia. There has been a rise in the number of stress-related work cover claims, and more people needing to take time off work to cope with stress.

Getting into the office early and staying late can also lead to poor food choices. Most of us are familiar with that urge to reach for the pastry rather than nuts or fruit to get through a particularly heavy afternoon slump. This can make stress even worse, as the body has a lower capacity to deal with stress if we have a poor diet.

It’s not just those with office jobs that are feeling stress. Balancing all the demands of modern life can be hectic – rushing kids from A to B, supporting older family members and maintaining a social life can sometimes leave us feeling drained.

How is vitamin B related to stress?

There are eight different B vitamins, all of which your body needs for general wellbeing. Each one has its own name, like folate (vitamin B9) and thiamine (vitamin B1).

Each B vitamin serves a specific function in the body, from supporting blood production to promoting DNA repair.

Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12 help to maintain a healthy nervous system. This is partly where stress relief comes in - a strong nervous system is essential to being able to effectively fight the symptoms of stress.

Certain B group vitamins are required for energy production, which is needed to support the bodily systems that respond to stress.

Can vitamin B help with stress relief?

Studies suggest there is a link between vitamin b and stress levels. In one study, 215 healthy males who took a B complex (a supplement containing a combination of the B vitamins) for 33 days. Participants reported significant improvements in self-perceived stress, general health and vigour.

In another trial, 60 participants took either a B complex or a placebo for three months. The group that took the B complex reported significantly lower personal strain and a reduction in confusion and dejected mood than the placebo group. 

Other studies suggest additional benefits that can be gained from vitamin supplementation. One found that B complex supplements are a good approach to preserving brain health in the absence of an optimal diet. Others point to links between vitamin supplementation, including B vitamins, and a healthy mood.

How can you get enough vitamin B?

Luckily, there are plenty of foods rich in B vitamins . Good sources include wholegrain cereals, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, fish, milk, legumes and fresh vegetables.  

However, apart from folate and B12, the body has a limited capacity to store B vitamins for when they are most needed. To ensure you have the levels you need to adequately deal with stress, try to top up your levels with dietary sources every day if you can.

7 more top tips to stress less

Here are a few tips on how to be more mindful and calm in your everyday life, which can also help to reduce stress. They’re quick and easy, designed to be easily incorporated into your already busy schedule.

1. Meditation

Spend a couple of minutes each day meditating. This can lower your heart rate and make you more present in the moment. This relaxation technique may also help you to be aware of the levels of stress in your body as you continue your day. Find out more about the mind-body connection.

2. Be active

If walking is your exercise of choice, 10,000 steps a day has been determined a reasonable target for healthy adults.

3. Fresh air

Get some fresh air to clear your head and remind yourself to take deep breaths, as you do when meditating. Read more tips for spending time in nature.

4. Plan ahead

If you know what activities, meetings and social events your day will include, it is easier to say no to the things that will simply be too much to take on that day. 

5. Recharge each day

Make some time for yourself to read a book, call a friend, or simply just relax on the couch. This will make a huge difference and give you an opportunity to clear your head and get some extra energy for a new day.  

6. Sleep more

Research suggests strong links between lack of sleep and stress. Aim for at least seven hours a night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

7. Healthy, balanced diet

Making healthy food choices is important to providing nutrients to our central nervous system, which regulates our stress responses. It can be tough to make good food choices when you feel stressed, but just remember that it will be worth it.

Use this overview to guide you to make sure you get enough vitamin B in your daily life. Whether it’s through vitamin B rich foods or through a supplement, you now know which life situations might require you to reach for an extra intake of B vitamins to help you with stress relief.

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