You know stress hurts. You worry, you feel anxious… you lose sleep. That’s old news. But now, we can actually measure the effects of stress. And the wear and tear is more distressing than we even imagined. It goes all the way to your DNA.
Researchers at the University of California discovered that stress makes your cells die before their time – and produces all the terrible effects we think of as aging.
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!1
The cellular markers they used are “telomeres.” Telomeres are the “time keepers” attached to every strand of DNA. As they get shorter, 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.2 Therefore, the older we get, the more important it is to control the stress in our lives.
It’s not just women. An Ohio State University study linked shorter telomeres to high-stress occupations such as long-term caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. The Alzheimer’s caregivers showed a four to eight year shortening of life span.3
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 make your body 10 years younger.
Today I’ll give you the supplements you can take to help your body overcome stress. Plus, I’ll give you a way to repair the damage that stress has already done to your cells.
Slow Telomere Shortening with Antioxidants
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 behaviors affected their ability to fight off free radicals. Not surprisingly, behaviors such as smoking and drinking lowered their bodies’ antioxidant ability. But the researchers found that psychological stress had the same effect.4
Scientists at Tokyo Medical and Dental University got similar results when they tested three groups of workers at a drug company. When the men were subjected to stress – making a speech in front of company executives – their bodies produced higher levels of a certain free radical. 5
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.6
Specifically, the study pointed to vitamins B12, C, and E for maintaining telomere length.
Vitamin B12 – I recommend taking at least 100 mcg per day. Although, I have advised my patients to take as much as 500 mcg per day or more for improving things like brain function and energy levels.
Vitamin C – based on my own experience, taking up to 3,000 mg per day is a good amount if you’re currently in good health. I always recommend pregnant women get at least 6,000 mg per day. And in times of stress or sickness, you can take up to 20,000 mg.
You also want to make sure that you get the natural form of vitamin C and not the synthetic form. In one particular study, natural vitamin C was 148% more effective than the synthetic form. And it stayed in the test participants’ systems longer. 7
Vitamin E – There are actually eight forms of vitamin E, divided up into two groups: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Studies show the tocotrienols and the alpha tocopherol protects telomeres.8 But in a multivitamin, you want “mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols” because the alpha tocopherol is more absorbable and bioavailable when it’s in this natural mixed form.9
I recommend 200 to 400 IU of mixed tocopherols a day and 15 mg of mixed tocotrienols a day. Unlike vitamins B12 and C, vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it needs fat to get absorbed in your body. So be sure to take it with food.
Besides fighting off the effects of stress with antioxidants, you can also help your body adapt to stress. That’s where herbs come in.
Adaptogens: Your Secret Weapon against Stress
In my experience, natural alternatives are usually superior to drugs. And my patients tend to agree. Herbs and other natural supplements are usually more effective and more economical than prescription drugs. And they rarely have the dangerous side effects.
Best of all, 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.
This is the situation with some herbs called “adaptogens.” These herbs help your body adjust to stress – including psychological stress. And two of the best adaptogens are panax (Asian) ginseng, and Ginkgo biloba.
Both are approved for use by Commission E, the German government’s official natural medicine committee. And with good reason, too. They are effective in fighting stress. Better yet, this helps protect your telomeres.
For example, an animal study in India compared the effects of Ginkgo biloba and panax ginseng. The study found that both herbs show powerful stress-fighting properties. And ginseng was particularly effective against chronic stress – the kind of relentless pressure that’s so common in our society. 10
In one study the treated a type of endothelial cell with ginkgo. The ginkgo prevented the cells from dying due to stress by protecting the telomeres and keeping them from shortening.11
What all this means to you is that you can get relief from stress, even if you can’t avoid it.
I advise my patients to take 120 mg of Ginkgo biloba and 200 mg to 500 mg of Panax ginseng daily if they are feeling stressed.
1. Epel E, Blackburn E, Lin J, Dhabhar F, Adler N, Morrow J, Cawthon R. “Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004;101(49):17312-5.
2. Parks C, et. al. “Telomere length, current perceived stress, and urinary stress hormones in women.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18(2):551-60.
3. Damjanovic A, et. al. “Accelerated Telomere Erosion Is Associated with a Declining Immune Function of Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Disease Patients,” The Journal of Immunology. 2007. 179, 4249 -4254.
4. Lesgards J, et. al. “Assessment of lifestyle effects on the overall antioxidant capacity of healthy subjects.” Environ Health Perspect. 2002;110(5):479-86.
5. Yamaguchi T, et al. Psychological stress increases bilirubin metabolites in human urine. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 2002;Volume 293, Issue 1, 26, Pages 517-520.
6. Xu Q, Parks C, DeRoo L, Cawthon R, Sandler D, Chen H. “Multivitamin use and telomere length in women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1857-63.
7. Vinson J, Bose P. “Comparative Bioavailability of Synthetic and Natural Vitamin C in Guinea Pigs.” Nutrition Reports International, 1983;27, no. 4.
8. Tanaka Y, Moritoh Y, Miwa N. “Age-dependent telomere-shortening is repressed by phosphorylated alpha-tocopherol….” J Cell Biochem. 2007;102(3):689-703.
9. Burton G, et. Al. “Human plasma and tissue alpha-tocopherol concentrations in response to supplementation…” Amer J of Clin Nutr, Vol 67, 669-684
10. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines, M. Blumenthal, et al., eds. (Austin, TX: American Botanical Council, 1998) pp 124, 136, 138.
11. Dong X, Hui Z, Xiang W, Rong Z, Jian S, Zhu C. “Ginkgo biloba extract reduces endothelial progenitor-cell senescence through augmentation of telomerase activity.” J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2007;49(2):111-5.