Add 10 years to your life.
We all know stress is not a fun place to be. We worry, we feel anxious, we lose sleep. We’ve known that for many years. But now, through the discovery of telomeres, we can actually measure the effects of stress on our body, and it is not good news.
Researchers at the University of California discovered that stress speeds up aging. It makes our cells die before their time, and makes us age prematurely. They compared women who felt a lot of stress, to women under little stress.
Using certain cellular markers, they discovered the high-stress women were up to 10 years “older” than women with low stress levels! The cellular markers they used are “telomeres.” Telomeres are the “time keepers” attached to every strand of DNA. As they wind down, you get older and your body breaks down. What’s more, the effects of stress on telomeres get worse with age.
A North Carolina study found that stressed women over 55 had significantly shorter telomeres. Therefore, the older we get, the more important it is to control the stress in our lives, and it’s not just women. An Ohio State University study also linked shorter telomeres to high-stress occupations.
That’s why it’s so important for you to get rid of stress. “Toughing it out” could be the biggest mistake you ever make. But stopping stress in its tracks can help you add 10 years or more to your life.
Slow Telomere Shortening with Antioxidants
So what can you do to help when yourself?
When you’re under stress, your body needs more antioxidants. Researchers in France studied the lifestyles of a wide range of men and women. They were looking to see which behaviours affected their ability to fight off free radicals. Not surprisingly, behaviours such as smoking and drinking lowered their bodies’ antioxidant ability, but the researchers found that psychological stress had the same effect. Perhaps more importantly, the French researchers also linked lower antioxidant capacity to a higher risk of cancer and heart problems. So building up your antioxidants when you’re stressed is particularly important.
A natural multivitamin and mineral supplement is a good place to start. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who took a multivitamin daily had 5.1 percent longer telomeres than non-users. Specifically, the study pointed to vitamin B12, at least 100mcg a day , Vitamin C, at least 3,000 mg a day and 200-400mg of mixed tocopherols of E for maintaining telomere length. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it needs fat to get absorbed in your body. So make sure you take it with food.
Also get plenty of organic fruits and vegetables in your diet, because nothing beats Nature’s own source of healthy nutrients.
Adaptogens: Your Secret Weapon Against Stress.
Besides fighting off the effects of stress with antioxidants, you can also help your body adapt to stress. That’s where herbs come in.
According to Dr Al Sears, natural alternatives are usually superior to drugs. Herbs and other natural supplements are usually very effective, and they rarely have the dangerous side effects. These natural alternatives don’t just mask symptoms the way most drugs do, instead, they strengthen your body’s own natural defenses and that means you’re dealing directly with the problem, not just covering it up.
Adaptogens help your body adjust to stress, and three of the best adaptogens are Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng (eleuthero) and Ginkgo biloba.
All three herbs are approved for use by Commission E, the German government’s official natural medicine committee, and all three are effective in fighting stress.
An animal study in India compared the effects of Ginkgo biloba and panax ginseng and it found that both herbs show powerful stress-fighting properties. Ginseng was particularly effective against chronic stress, the kind of relentless pressure that’s so common in our society. European researchers also found that Ginkgo normalized the levels of stress hormones in rats exposed to stressful situations.
According to a recent article in Current Clinical Pharmacology, Siberian ginseng lowers levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone. So you can get relief from stress, even if you can’t avoid it. Extracts of all three of these herbs are widely available and Dr Al Sears MD suggests taking 120 mg of Ginkgo biloba and 200-500 mg of Siberian ginseng and Panax ginseng daily.
WARNING: If you have high blood pressure you should avoid Siberian Ginseng.