View Full Version : 5 Natural Stress Busters from Dr. Northrup

12-10-10, 11:40 AM
Article from Vital Choices Newsletter (http://newsletter.vitalchoice.com/e_article001951885.cfm?x=bhNTKfL,bkpq4f6M)
May 13, 2010
by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Today, women run from task to task trying to do more and be more than at any other time in history. At first, we push ourselves, relying on an adrenaline rush, the boost of cortisol, and maybe some extra caffeine to address today’s crisis (real or perceived).

Initially, we recover quickly from the additional demands that we have placed on our bodies and our minds. But when we call upon these stress hormones to boost us to heroic heights time and again, our bodies can do nothing else but operate in fight-or-flight mode 24/7. This sets the stage for all kinds of medical problems—and a very unhappy life.

We feel stress when we believe we must do something that contradicts our core values. Think of a new mother who would rather stay home with her baby, but has to work to help support her family. It’s important to monitor our decisions to make sure we aren’t doing too many things, on a day-to-day basis, that go against what we hold important.

Stress also occurs when we wish that something were different from what it is! That’s why books such as Loving What Is, by Byron Katie, and The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle are so helpful. They help us stay in the present where our power is.

We also feel anxious and overwhelmed when we have too many things to do. My advice? Don’t fall into the trap of being Superman or Superwoman. Lower your standards a bit. Delegate. And just let it go.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn, is a visionary pioneer, beloved authority in women’s health and wellness, and the author of ground breaking New York Times bestsellers, including the newly revised Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause. Her third book, Mother-Daughter Wisdom, was voted Amazon’s #1 book of the 2005 (in two categories). Her latest books, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause and The Secret Pleasures of Menopause Playbook, teach how to experience joy, pleasure, prosperity, fulfillment, and vibrant health. Following a 25-year career in both academic medicine and private practice, Dr. Northrup now devotes her time to helping women truly flourish on all levels through tapping into their inner wisdom. For cutting edge articles on health and wellness, visit DrNorthrup.com and sign up for the Women’s Wisdom Circle.

I know it’s easier said than done, so here are Five Natural Stress Busters (I’ve got a lot more, but this will get you started) to help you feel better—Get enough vitamin D, supplement with magnesium, breath to calm the senses, do something that you enjoy, and take Rescue Remedy.

Stress Buster #1: Get More Vitamin D

There’s a connection between natural light and vitamin D levels—and vitamin D literally enhances the health of every cell in your body. Having optimal levels of vitamin D can protect your musculoskeletal, immune, and cardiovascular systems and reduce the likelihood of certain cancers. Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce stress and naturally increase the feel-good chemical serotonin, a hormone known to reduce anxiety. Despite all these benefits, most people don’t get nearly enough vitamin D! The best way is by exposing your body to the sun every day from three to fifteen minutes depending on your skin tone and also the time of year. Just don’t let your skin burn, and use sunscreen on your face and hands.

Since this isn’t always practical, make sure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D daily through supplements or fatty seafood such as tuna, sardines, and salmon. I recommend at least 1,000 IU per day. If you have any doubts about your vitamin D status, get a blood test to find out what it is. Know that you’re practicing preventive medicine when you do this—which should also put you at ease.

Stress Buster #2: Increase Your Levels of Magnesium

Magnesium is another medical wonder. It supports the cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems, modulates blood sugar levels, and lessens the occurrence and severity of pain, cramping, and headaches. Unfortunately, many people have low levels of magnesium; chronic emotional and mental stress is associated with this deficiency. This occurs because the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline release magnesium from the cells.
Carolyn Dean, M.D., explains in her book The Magnesium Miracle that we don’t get enough magnesium from our foods due to common farming practices. (She also points out that the rate of depression has gone up every decade since these practices began after World War II. This is not a coincidence.)

Magnesium supplements come in several forms, including magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, and chelated magnesium. Make sure to get 500–800 mg per day. Magnesium and calcium intake should be balanced, too, in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio. If you take 1,000 mg of calcium a day, you pair that with a minimum of 500 mg. Epsom salts are mostly made of magnesium. So soak in a tub with 1/2 cup of Epsom salts and you will be replenishing your magnesium—delightfully.

Stress Buster #3: Do Something Pleasurable Every Day

It’s true that laughter is the best medicine—taking time for pleasure and fun decreases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Commit to a minimum of fifteen minutes of true enjoyment every day. Not only will you feel better, you’ll be able to approach arduous tasks with more energy and a better outlook.
I suggest you come up with five simple things that make you feel relaxed. Make sure that two or more are free (or at least inexpensive), easy to do, and don’t involve food. Some examples are taking a bubble bath, reading a novel that transports you to another place and time, watching a romantic comedy, talking to a friend, doing easy stretches, meditating, listening to music, or writing in your journal. Entering a blissful state every day (even for a short amount of time) will help you create a healthy stress-free life.

Stress Buster #4: Always Breathe Deeply and Fully

Breathing in fully through your nose instantly engages the rest and restore parasympathetic nervous system and helps the body metabolize stress hormones. Put Post-it notes on your phone, your computer, and your bathroom mirror. Write BREATHE in beautiful letters that uplift and remind you to breathe fully.
Mindfulness meditation and techniques like those found in Herbert Benson’s The Relaxation Response have been used successfully to reduce stress and stress-related medical conditions. If you prefer an audio program, I recommend Buddhist Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield.

Stress Buster #5: Let Flower Essences Calm Your Nerves

I have used and recommended flower essences for many years. Flower essences are a form of homeopathic medicine that help the body restore itself to a desired emotional state. One of the best known flower essences is Rescue Remedy. Made by Bach, Rescue Remedy is a blend of Cherry Plum, Clematis, Impatiens, Star of Bethlehem, and Rock Rose flower essences that calms the nerves. Rescue Remedy is useful during times of acute stress, such as before taking a final exam, after a heated argument, during a frightening thunderstorm, or while waiting for a medical procedure. (It has no known side effects and is even safe for pets.) In short, any time you feel fear, anger, or stress just put a couple of drops in water and then drink it. (Rescue Remedy comes in spray form, too.) Most people experience an immediate sense of relief. But don’t wait for stress to occur. You can take Rescue Remedy every day—just a couple of sprays in your mouth or drops in water will do.

One more thing: It’s common to feel more stress when our bodies are operating sub-optimally. And sometimes we may feel trapped in a vicious cycle. Don’t worry! Just review the list above and start somewhere, knowing that even small changes can greatly reduce your stress level.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

For more cutting edge articles on health and wellness, visit www.drnorthrup.com and sign up for the Women’s Wisdom Circle.

12-10-10, 11:58 AM
Much wisdom here. Delegate — wish I could do that! If I just had an eighth grader every day for 30 minutes....

I'm serious. Back in the day when my dance card was often too full, I'd pull one of the kids aside and say, "I need you to give me 30 minutes." Then it was, Put this here, take those there, bring these upstairs, run that down cellar, carry this to the compost, get the mail, oh and pull the Virginia Creeper out of the perennial bed. And set the table. Then I could draw a deep breath because things were back to a state where I could handle them.

Yeah, delegate. That's a big one. Now, who will clean the litterboxes for me? :D

12-10-10, 12:28 PM
Same problem here! I am a committee of me, myself and I!

Please if anyone on the forum has an attack of "I must be Martha Stewart because if the dinner/house/gifts/cards aren't perfect the world will end as we know it" come here-we'll talk you down and prescribe wine, chocolate, etc. until it passes.....;)

12-10-10, 12:48 PM
When I first read this one, I was thinking that although the nutritional advice, magnesium, etc. was quite good, the advice to delegate is just more "blame the victim" stuff. These "experts" do not seem to realize that most of the women under great stress are precisely those to whom much has been delegated by others. We are not the ones who are holding ourselves to a "higher standard". Others are providing these demands and judgments for us. Sometimes these are communicated to us subtly, but the consequences for failure to adhere to these higher standards rarely are subtle. Ignore them at one's own peril!

05-30-11, 07:00 AM
Not sure where to put this, so here goes. I have had an awful lot of stress this year. I had to evacuate my house for three days in February because of a horrendous bushfire (in Western Australia). Then I had a car accident - total write off. Had to borrow money to get a reasonable replacement. I have had problems communicating with my (small) family, and don't see my grandchild as often as I would like. I have a close bond with her, as I looked after her from six months, one day a week, so it really hurts not to see her.

But the worst thing was the ecovillage project I have been involved in is now in receivership, so I have lost the money I invested in it. I have spent 10 years in meetings, making friends with the other people etc. This was to be my future - now I have to rethink. Meanwhile, I have not bothered making more friends where I live, and people I knew have moved on, so I feel quite isolated.

I didn't intend this to be one long moan! I follow much of the advise mentioned above, but am feeling anxious and on the verge of depression. Don't want to go down the antidepressant route - been there, done that. Does anyone have any advice re anti-anxiety medications? I don't like the long-term effects of most medications, but as a therapist pointed out, long-term anxiety can have ill effects also. Does anyone have experience with 5HTP? It seems to be fairly benign.

Sorry for the long post, but this is not a 'take a walk in the sunshine and you'll feel better' situation!

05-30-11, 09:24 AM
Thanks for voicing that Maurya.

05-30-11, 09:44 AM
@Juilianne-are you still in pain from the accident? Low-grade pain and aches will mess up your sleep cycle and wreak havoc with mood/emotional health alone, not to mention the financial stress of an auto accident. You also have had a lot of life issues coming at you all at once.
I think trying 5HTP would be a good idea-I take it at bedtime and it seems to help me sleep if I need it.
My husband when he was on chemo was getting massive doses of steroids and that made him anxious and restless. We followed Dr. Ray Sahelian's protocol for LOW DOSE SAME-e and it really helped him. You can read more here:

Also with your history of osteoporosis, digestive issues, increased inflammatory markers such as CRP and now some mood changes-I have seen these same symptoms clear up on a gluten-free diet over and over with myself and others.

05-30-11, 10:05 AM
Julianne, I have nothing helpful to add, I just wanted to give you hugs for all you have been going through, and still are. No wonder you're knocked out! Especially since these are all beyond your control.

I do find that knocking back a couple of double shots of dark rum seems to take the edge off.

Kidding! How about magnesium (the powdered kind that you can make into a lovely warm soothing tea)...and maybe setting aside a chunk of time during the day when you can shut off the phone, relax, and meditate or do something that gives you pleasure without guilt? We all need that!

05-30-11, 04:14 PM
There have been some good suggestionshere Julieanne. I would add Omega 3 oils to these suggetsions if you are not already taking them.

05-30-11, 04:36 PM
[QUOTE=Maurya;20097] These "experts" do not seem to realize that most of the women under great stress are precisely those to whom much has been delegated by others.[QUOTE]
I think that's a good point. This also applies to many kids I know. Many of my children's friends are completely burned out before they even hit high school. The majority are either in therapy and/or medicated. Some cut. Many struggle with depression. They don't get enough sleep. They eat garbage "food." They spend the majority of their lives in a stressful school environment. They go home exhausted and do two hours of homework. And then their parents (under the guise of discipline) delegate to them them housework/chores that they themselves are too overwhelmed to do. I think if you can't manage to do something yourself then you need to think carefully whether it really must be done because everybody else is already carrying their own burdens. Many women just take more and more and more because we often feel guilty if we don't and we often love the person doing the delegating. We don't want to disappoint.

Once I hit the wall with stress I started saying no which led to quite a few fights and still I kept saying no. Now, they don't ask so much any more. I looked carefully at what makes me happy (not what should make me happy) and I try really hard to focus on that. If the husband wants lunch and I want to lay in the sun I go to the sun. If the dishes are piled in the sink and I don't want to wash them I don't. If it bothers anyone then they can wash them. Favorite shirt dirty? You know where the laundry is. I might make it to the mailbox once per week...maybe. My first question to a client is "Is this on a short deadline." I refuse all rush jobs and refuse to work with jerks. I wish all women could come to this place early in life before their health fails.

05-30-11, 11:37 PM
Thank you all for your support and suggestions, I really appreciate them. As I mentioned, I do a lot of the things suggested in the article - I take magnesium, etc, and have gone back to the fish oil after stopping the CMO. I'll have a look at SAME-e and see what it might have to offer.

Is there a test to show if you are gluten intolerant? How can I tell? I have eaten wheat products all my life without apparent problems - I am now 73. I am so glad I came onto this site - after 'that other' site , where there was often more criticism than support. I hope some time to be able to contribute more, rather than asking for advice!

05-31-11, 09:10 AM
Juliane, I had no symptoms either. How I found it: after retirement I had an adrenal test done, looking for adrenal fatigue. My then doc, very young, had never heard of this test and did not know how to interpret it other than to say the results were negative. Mellowsong asked to see it so I mailed a copy to her. Not only did she explain it, she poiinted out what my doctor had missed: it also showed a super-high functioning immune system and a moderately high antigliadin. Gliaden is the protein in wheat that reacts to gluten.

I've been gluten-free for 14 months. It wasn't a big change for me because I had already cut out most starches in order to control my diabetes without meds. I don't see any changes in me at all; I just have to trust that damage was being done and that it isn't being done any more. Oh, and I just turned 70.

And I'll add that Mellowsong knows more than a lot of doctors I've seen. A lot more.

05-31-11, 10:31 AM
Islander, you did say your digestion issues had cleared up?

05-31-11, 10:51 AM
There are different kinds of tests for gluten sensitivity-blood, saliva, gene and stool tests.
Here is a link to the ones Dr. Fine uses in his practice:
There are people who show negative on tests but feel better off of gluten-they are saying now testing misses 30% of gluten sensitive persons.

Honestly, the best test is just stopping gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt-also foods such as beer, soy-sauce, and processed foods) for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.
Watch your digestion, sleep and mood. If it improves, then eat a pizza and see what happens.

05-31-11, 11:42 AM
Islander, you did say your digestion issues had cleared up?
Can you remember what I might have said? Because I never had digestion issues. Once in a great while I got that bloated feeling in my tummy but I never could correlate it with anything. And I have had itchy rashes come and go intermittently, and again, have been unable to correlate them with anything I ate. Or touched. Totally random is what it seems like.

05-31-11, 02:28 PM
About the 5-HTP, this is a great supplement, but perhaps not so much when taken at bedtime, as it is known to increase cortisol, not exactly what we want to induce good sleep. Perhaps L-tryptophan, which is closely related, might be a better choice.

05-31-11, 04:31 PM
There are people who show negative on tests but feel better off of gluten-they are saying now testing misses 30% of gluten sensitive persons.

I am one of those who had negative tests yet I feel much better not eating gluten. I am positive though for the HLA-DQ8 gene which is one of the genes associated with gluten intolerance.

06-01-11, 03:03 AM
Maurya, unfortunately, trytophan is banned in Oz, like a lot of things that you folks in the US can buy. I haven't read that 5-HTP increases cortisol - that would probably be a good thing for me, as I suspect I have adrenal issues and possibly low in cortisol. Maybe taking it in the am would be better? Ray Sahelian's site had a lot of info.

The only gluten-free flour I could see in my local supermarket was maize and soya, so may have to wait till I get to a health store. I did buy a bread mix, and hope this will do instead - it has tapioca and maize. I'm dying to make the garlic and cheese thingies from the '10 Best recipes' article!

06-01-11, 11:37 AM
About the 5-HTP, this is a great supplement, but perhaps not so much when taken at bedtime, as it is known to increase cortisol, not exactly what we want to induce good sleep. Perhaps L-tryptophan, which is closely related, might be a better choice.

Cortisol and 5-HTP
L-5-hydroxytryptophan induced increase in salivary cortisol in panic disorder patients and healthy volunteers.
Psychopharmacology 2002.
Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Brain and Behaviour, Maastricht University, AB Maastricht The Netherlands
Hypersensitivity of brain serotonin receptors has been proposed as a causal mechanism in the pathophysiology of panic disorder. This theory can be tested, using serotonergic stimulation of the HPA axis. Up to now, plasma cortisol has generally been used as the outcome measure in such studies. Assessment of salivary cortisol is a non-invasive alternative to measure HPA axis activity. Salivary cortisol levels were measured in 24 panic disorder patients and 24 healthy volunteers, following ingestion of 200 mg L-5-hydroxytryptophan or placebo. A significant rise in cortisol was observed in both patients and controls following ingestion of L-5-hydroxytryptophan. No such effects were seen in the placebo condition. The results show that L-5-hydroxytryptophan stimulated salivary cortisol is a useful probe of serotonin function in healthy volunteers as well as panic disorder patients, and provide some evidence against a serotonin receptor hypersensitivity in panic disorder.

I'm not finding good information on L-tryptophan and cortisol in a quick search but it does seem that in animals, it reduces salivary cortisol but NOT plasma. Not sure how to interpret this :)

06-01-11, 02:37 PM
Halp! Patty, can you please translate the above into layman's terms? What is L-5-hydroxytryptophan? What is the HPA axis? And how does that answer Maurya's question? Thank you...sorry for being so slow...

06-01-11, 03:25 PM
Mellow is busy this afternoon, but HPA is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The HPA axis is the major neuroendocrine system that regulates stress, and is also involved in digestion, the immune system, mood, emotions, etc.
If I read this study right, 5-HTP elevates salivary cortisol in both patients with panic disorder and healthy controls, which the authors think negates the theory that there is a serotonin receptor hypersensitivity in panic disorder.

06-01-11, 03:37 PM
Halp! Patty, can you please translate the above into layman's terms? What is L-5-hydroxytryptophan? What is the HPA axis? And how does that answer Maurya's question? Thank you...sorry for being so slow...

I'm sorry Islander....I meant to put a commentary and forgot. I knew about 5-HTP and increased cortisol but her comment about L-tryptophan got me wondering if that also raised it. Basically, I was simply citing evidence of what Maurya said about 5-HTP raising cortisol which, for most people, is something you definitely don't want at bedtime. This study showed the increase in both "normal" people and those with panic disorder meaning that the cortisol rise would happen in just about everyone. I should have trimmed that post a bit more. L-5-hydroxytryptophan is the full term for 5-HTP.

06-01-11, 05:02 PM
Thanks. I should have figured out that last one. Duh!

06-01-11, 08:50 PM
Spot on, Mellowsong and Reesacat!