Clinical anxiety and stress are serious health issues around the world. Not only is stress negative for a person’s mental health, it is also a major contributing factor for many chronic diseases. Conditions such as cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, autoimmune syndromes, memory and concentration impairment, headaches and even diabetes all have a connection back to stress and anxiety.1,2 Taking a closer look at the numbers from around the world we can see that stress is not something to be taken lightly:
Clinical anxiety affects 10% of the people in North America, Western Europe and Australia/New Zealand.3
Stress is a top health concern for U.S. teens in grade 9-12; psychologists say if they don’t learn healthy ways to manage that stress now, it could have serious long-term health implications, according to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” 2018 report.
Stress levels in the workplace are rising, with 6 in 10 workers in major global economies experiencing increased workplace stress, with China (86%) having the highest rise in workplace stress, according to The Regus Group.
Approximately 13.7 million working days are lost each year in the U.K. as a result of work-related illness, at a cost of £28.3 billion per year, per the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
Prolonged stress will have a negative impact on many areas of the body. The cycle that stress triggers is like a wheel that can spin out of control. When the body is “stressed,” the adrenal glands produce adrenaline and cortisol, which are often referred to as the “stress hormones.” Adrenaline increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boosts energy supplies.4 Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugar in the bloodstream, enhances the brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also alters immune system responses5 and suppresses the digestive system and the reproductive system.6
Learning to manage stress is a multipronged approach in which supplements and functional foods can play an important role. Granted, no food or supplement is going to remove the underlying cause for someone’s anxiety, i.e., finances, death of a loved one, work, family problems, etc., but they can play a role in how the body feels and responds to the stress. Adding supportive ingredients into functional products and then combining with counseling (if needed), exercise, relaxation techniques, etc., can make a huge impact on how people adapt to stress and have a positive impact on other health challenges that may have their root based on chronic stress.
Formulating products that address and support the multiple areas in which the body responds to stress is key. An example would be to combine ingredients that have unique actions—i.e., adaptogenic plus calming plus a replacement of key nutrients used while under stress (magnesium, B vitamins, etc.). The sky is the limit on the availability of sound and clinically researched ingredients that can be incorporated into foods and supplements.
With chronic stress being a global issue and no end to it in sight, it is becoming ever present that this market offers an area to make a huge impact on health. The link between stress and debilitating, life-threatening conditions contributes to the need for more innovative and effective supplements and functional foods. Focusing on the root areas, such as the cascade that begins in the brain and then filters throughout the body, is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to address the nutritional shortcomings that contribute to stress while incorporating scientifically backed nutraceuticals to have the greatest chance of success. This success will lead to customer loyalty, improved health and a better bottom line.
David Foreman is a registered pharmacist, author and media personality known to consumers internationally as “The Herbal Pharmacist.” A background in pharmacy and natural medicine put Foreman in an elite class of health experts who can teach integrative medicine practices. He helps consumers achieve health and vitality through his four pillars of health: diet, exercise, spirituality and supplements. Foreman is a graduate of the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, currently serves on Organic & Natural Health Association’s (O&N) scientific advisory board and is the author of “4 Pillars of Health: Heart Disease.”
- Mariotti A. “The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication.” Future Sci OA. 2015 Nov;1(3):FSO23.
- Salleh MR. “Life Event, Stress and Illness.” Malays J Med Sci. 2008 Oct;15(4):9–18.
- Baxter AJ et al. “Global prevalence of anxiety disorders: a systematic review and meta-regression.” Psychol Med. 2013 May;43(5):897-910.
- Goldstein D. “Adrenal Responses to Stress.” Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2010;30(8):1433–1440.
- Morey J et al. “Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function.” Curr Opin Psychol. 2015 Oct 1;5:13–17.
- Nepomnaschy PA et al. “Stress and female reproductive function: a study of daily variations in cortisol, gonadotrophins, and gonadal steroids in a rural Mayan population.” Am J Hum Biol. 2004 Sep-Oct;16(5):523-32.