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Your Brain on Stress

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Everyone experiences stress within their lifetime. Stress is the body’s natural, general response to any experience that one perceives as a demand for adaptation (Selye, 1936). It seems that in this day and age, everyday stress is unavoidable. When stress is sustained over long periods of time, it can wreak havoc on our brain; it can alter brain structure, reduce brain size, and even modify the DNA within our brain.

This audiovisual explains the different areas of the brain that can be affected by chronic stress and what that means for overall health. However, this clip is not all bad news.

Evidence shows that:

  • exercise
  • meditation
  • even some supplements, such as phosphatidylserine

have helped reverse some damaging effects of stress.

While reversing the damage is beneficial, preventing damage is ideal. Adaptogenic herbs, including:

  • Holy Basil
  • Rhodiola
  • Eleuthero Root

are plant based compounds that help modulate the body’s stress response. To get a quick overview at the dynamics of stress and its effects on the brain, check out this insightful video:

 

Want to find out scientifically how stressed you are? Take this stress test to get an idea!

 

Supporting References

Czeh B, Perez-Cruz C, Fuchs E, Flugge G. (2008). Chronic stress-induced cellular changes in the medial prefrontal cortex and their potential clinical implications: does hemisphere location matter? Behav Brain Res., 190(1), 1-13.

Desbordes G, Negi LT, Pace TWW, Wallace BA, Raison CL, and Schwartz, EL. (2014). Effects of eight-week meditation training on hippocampal volume: a comparison of mindful attention training and cognitively-based compassion training. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(5), A24-A24.

Erickson KI, Voss MW, Prakash RS, Basak C, Szabo A, Chaddock L, Kim JS, Heo S, Alves H, White SM, Wojcicki TR, Mailey E, Vieira VJ, Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA, McAuley E, and Kramer AF. (2011). Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. PNAS, 108(7), 3017-3022.

Glade, MJ and Smith, K. (2015). Phosphatidylserine and the human brain. Nutrition, 31(6), 781-786.

Ohl F, Michaelis T, Vollmann-Honsdorf GK, Kirschbaum C, Fuchs E. (2000). Effect of chronic psychosocial stress and long-term cortisol treatment on hippocampus-mediated memory and hippocampal volume: a pilot-study in tree shrews. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 25(4), 357-363.

Selye, H. (1936). A syndrome produced by diverse nocuous agents. Nature, p. 32.

Sotiropoulos, I. (2014). The neurodegenerative potential of chronic stress: a link between depression and Alzheimer’s Disease. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 822, 221-222.

Stankiewicz AM, Swiergiel AH, and Lisowski P. (2013). Epigenetics of stress adaptations in the brain. Brain Research Bulletin, 98, 76-92.

Stansbury J, Saunders P, and Winston D. (2012). Supporting adrenal function with adaptogenic herbs. Journal of Restorative Medicine, 1(1), 76-82(7).

 

Clinical Contributor

[starbox id=”abennett”]

Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard graduated with honors from the University of California with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and graduated summa cum laude with a Master’s Degree in Health and Nutrition Education. She also holds a Standard Designated Teaching Credential from the State of California, is a California state-certified Nutrition Consultant and a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

Ramona has participated in nutrition education in both public and private venues, including high school and college presentations, radio and public speaking for the past 20 years. She is the owner of Radiance, a nutrition consulting company, the Director of Education for Sanesco International, and a medical technical writer.

Disclaimer: The information provided is only intended to be general educational information to the public. It does not constitute medical advice. If you have specific questions about any medical matter or if you are suffering from any medical condition, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

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