Almost all of us deal with stress on a daily basis. Its clammy, familiar grip wrecks havoc on our insides: our hands get sweaty, our heart races, our stomach gets tied up in knots. None are immune. At home, at work, at school, worry can overwhelm us because stress-induced biochemical reactions are often beyond our control. They are an automatic response to some internal or external stimuli that puts our bodies on high alert. And in our hectic world, worry is all around us.
A modern malady
Like most bodily functions, stress has a positive, or at least protective, role to play in our lives. When we are in harm’s way, powerful stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin are released from the adrenal glands to give us the strength and energy we need to survival an ordeal. Called the fight-or-flight response, it has served humankind well – until now, that is. Why the sudden change?
Some experts believe that the frantic pace of modern life and all the stressors we are subjected have put us in an endless emergency state; one where stress hormones are coursing through our bodies when we don’t need them. This prolonged period of chronic stress can have both short and long-term effects on our health. One of them is the increased risk that we will develop an anxiety disorder.
The most common mental illness in America, more than 40 million adults suffer from an anxiety disorder. Most receive treatment in the form of powerful prescription medications designed to treat depression and related disorders. Although popular, these mood-altering drugs have a laundry list of serious side effects, including toxicity. In fact, nearly 30 percent of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involve prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications! With numbers like those, it’s no wonder a growing group of anxiety suffers are embracing natural supplements.
What is phosphatidylserine?
Clearly, we need to find a way to manage our stress that does not involve addictive, potentially-deadly prescription medications. Both exercise and meditation have proven effective at inducing the release of hormones that reduce stress. However, they cannot combat the stress hormones that are already in our systems. To control cortisol and adrenalin from within, we need to fight it from without, through nutrition. One popular and effective treatment option is a nutritional supplement called phosphatidylserine. How does it work?
A vital chemical that is in every cell of the human body, phosphatidylserine plays a key role in maintaining cellular structure, especially in the brain. By keeping the billions of nerve cells in our heads healthy and secure, the nutrient helps them complete their signal-transmission functions. One of the many benefits of this action is enhanced memory, which can be compromised with age, injury, or disease. Because the body does not make enough of the chemical on its own, we must get phosphatidylserine from other sources, such as food and dietary supplements.
Well-tested for stress reduction
In addition to memory enhancement, clinical trials also found that phosphatidylserine helped alleviate mental and emotional stress. This unexpected discovery suggested that the supplement might be helpful in treating anxiety disorders. Of course, more testing was needed. At last count, there have been at least 3,000 research papers and 60 clinical trials on the benefits and function of phosphatidylserine, making it one of the most studied supplements around.
After cognitive benefits, the most common finding was a positive effect on mood when test subjects were put in stressful situations. These reports and observations were confirmed by significant reductions in stress hormones by subjects who were taking 400 mgs a day of phosphatidylserine. In particular, one study found that the nutrient helped reduce stress in young adults because it helped them better regulate fluctuations in cortisol levels. (The link between elevated cortisol levels and a reduction of stress-relieving hormones and neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, has been firmly established.)This observation was corroborated by another study that found that phosphatidylserine kept cortisol levels induced by exercise and muscle stress comparatively low.
Because elevated cortisol levels over protracted periods can result in numerous health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, it behooves us to regulate them when under stress. Although its mechanism of action is poorly understood, testing has confirmed that phosphatidylserine can help lower cortisol levels, which may help alleviate anxiety by inducing the release of stress-relieving chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
Dosages and side effects
As we mentioned, the nutrient is found in every cell of our bodies, making it completely safe for regular consumption. The only reported side effects are mild stomach issues from users who took more than the recommended dosage, which is 400-600 mgs daily, according to most sources. It should also be noted that there are natural food sources for phosphatidylserine, including herring, tuna, soft-shelled clams, and white beans. However, the average American gets far less than the recommended dosage – just 75 to 184 milligrams a day, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, supplementation is an attractive option for most folks.
A safe, natural, and ostensibly effective treatment for anxiety, phosphatidylserine is an increasingly popular alternative to powerful prescription medications. By regulating cortisol to healthy levels, the nutrient can help prevent a whole host of health issues, from heart disease to diabetes and high blood pressure. Not to mention the fact that phosphatidylserine acts as a neuroprotective in the brain, enhancing memory and recall in patients with cognitive impairment. All of this makes phosphatidylserine supplementation a no-brainer… Pun intended!