Can stress cause deficiencies?
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that our bodies need to function properly Without the right amounts of vitamins and minerals, we can feel tired and depleted and are more inclined to experience poor health. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to the development of serious diseases such as diabetes heart disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer. Low levels of vitamins and nutrients can also cause us to experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
But is there a link between vitamins, minerals and stress? What deficiency causes stress? Are we more likely to feel stressed if we have low levels of vitamins or minerals? Does stress cause the depletion of essential vitamins and minerals like iron, B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and magnesium?
In this article, we examine the connections between essential vitamins and minerals and stress.
Can Stress Cause Vitamin Deficiencies?
Stress is the body’s natural reaction to any type of stimuli that it finds threatening. The stress response is caused by our primitive ‘fight or flight’ reaction to any type of danger or threat. Stress is a normal response and allows us to react quickly to dangerous situations and stay motivated to complete pressing tasks.
When we experience stress, the brain floods the central nervous system with hormones such as cortisol, adrenalin and dopamine. Our heart rate rises, blood pressure levels go up, and we experience a heightened mental state as our brain becomes hyper-alert. The body draws resources away from non-essential functions like the reproductive and immune systems towards our muscles, our eyesight, and our reaction levels. We feel tense, uneasy, and anxious.
While stress normally comes and goes quickly, a continued state of being stressed can be highly damaging to our physical and mental health. This is known as chronic stress. The toll that chronic stress can take on our brains and bodies is considerable. Evidence from various studies from the NCBI, NLM, NIH, and other bodies shows that stress can impact micronutrient concentrations in the body and result in significant micronutrient depletion.1
So, when we’re stressed, the levels of essential vitamins and minerals in our bodies drop. If we don’t take action against this, we can become more likely to get sick, develop diseases, and experience mental health issues. Let’s look at exactly what vitamins and nutrients can be depleted during states of stress.
Can Stress Cause an Iron Deficiency?
Iron is an important element that enables our bodies to effectively manage metabolic processes such as transporting oxygen, synthesising DNA, and transporting electrons. Most of the iron in our systems is found in our blood as haemoglobin.2 If we don’t have enough iron in our systems, then we can become anaemic, which can cause fatigue, weakness, chest pain, heart issues, dizziness, and other symptoms.
Chronic stress can deplete the levels of iron in our bodies. Stress causes us to feel anxious and high levels of anxiety have been linked to nutritional deficiencies, in particular, lower iron levels. One NIH study found that when subjected to constant stress rats had difficulty absorbing iron.3 It is assumed that human beings face similar issues when under chronic stress.
Can Stress Cause a B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in keeping us fit and healthy. Vitamin B12 supports our bone health, helps us to maintain energy levels, helps our nerve cells to function properly and assists in red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis.4,5
A Vitamin B12 deficiency can impact our sense of balance, cause memory loss, increase feelings of weakness and fatigue, exacerbate depression, and cause anaemia. According to some studies, there seems to be a link between B12 deficiency and stress.6 Being under chronic stress can severely deplete the body’s reserves of B vitamins.
Can Stress Cause a Vitamin C Deficiency?
We all know that Vitamin C is heralded as being highly effective against the common cold and influenza. Vitamin C also plays other roles in our bodies. We need Vitamin C to help our immune system fight off infection and disease. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant which helps our bodies keep harmful free radicals in balance. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce significant amounts of the hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. Producing these stress hormones requires the body to use higher than normal amounts of Vitamin C.
Can Stress Cause a Vitamin D Deficiency?
Vitamin D helps us to absorb calcium which creates strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D is also crucial for our muscles and nerves and promotes cell growth in the body. When we don’t get enough Vitamin D, we can feel depressed, overly fatigued and tired, and more susceptible to serious diseases like cancer.7,8 The excess amounts of cortisol that the stress response shoots through the body blocks our receptors for Vitamin D. When we’re stressed, our bodies can’t absorb Vitamin D as well as they normally would.
Can Stress Cause a Zinc Deficiency?
We only need small amounts of zinc, but it is hugely important for our health. Zinc is necessary for crucial enzymes in the body and helps to create DNA, build proteins, grow cells, and heal damaged tissues. Zinc is also vital for our immune systems. When laboratory rats were placed under conditions of chronic stress, it was found that their zinc absorption abilities were severely depleted.13 While there have not been many studies on the effects of stress on humans, those that have been completed show that stress does reduce the levels of zinc in our bodies.14
Magnesium Deficiency and Stress
Magnesium helps our bodies to keep our nerves, muscles, and bones healthy. We need magnesium to facilitate enzymatic reactions, for the breakdown of fatty acids, protein synthesis, and our DNA and RNA metabolism.
While the results are not definitive, many studies have pointed towards a conclusion that our bodies lose magnesium during times of high stress.
Can a Vitamin Deficiency Cause Stress?
While stress can cause our bodies to lose vital nutrients and vitamins, being vitamin deficient can also bring on stress.
Vitamin C and Vitamin B12 are antioxidants. Antioxidants help the body keep the levels of free radicals in balance. If the body has too many free radicals, it can go into oxidative stress. If you have low levels of these vitamins, then you are more likely to experience oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to the development of serious health issues and neurodegenerative diseases.9,10,11 Being in a state of oxidative stress heightens feelings of anxiety and depression which can lead to chronic stress.12
During the stress response, our brains send out hormones and divert resources from other areas. Our bodies require higher levels of vitamins and nutrients to function in this heightened state. The longer the state of stress continues, the more vitamins and minerals we use up. Chronic stress leads to the depletion of vitamins and minerals which results in conditions that prolong stress. Without action, we can find ourselves in a highly damaging state of chronic stress that seemingly feeds upon itself.
How to Maintain Nutrient and Vitamin Levels When Stressed
When we are in a state of chronic stress, our bodies use more vitamins and nutrients and don’t absorb them as well. The best way to ensure that you get the nutrients and vitamins you need is to maintain a healthy diet that is full of fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and nuts.
Try and choose foods that are known to be high in antioxidants and rich in vitamins, such as dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables, and citrus fruits. Lean meats are also high in nutrients as are fatty fish that are high in omega-3s. When you’re exceptionally stressed, make sure to up your intake of healthy foods.
Some people may find that they require additional vitamin supplements or health supplements to boost their nutrient levels. Try and look for all-natural products from reputable manufacturers. Get advice from your doctor and only use as directed by the manufacturer.
As well as watching your diet, there are physical things you can do to manage your vitamin and nutrient levels. Exercise regularly and ensure that you get enough sunshine to boost your Vitamin D levels. Try and practice mindfulness techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises to lower your stress levels. Avoid excess consumption of alcohol or foods that are excessively fatty or have high levels of sugar.
If we have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, it not only makes it more likely that we will experience chronic stress but that our stress will last for a longer period of time. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can result in conditions that bring on stress. The stress response can deplete our stores of vitamins and minerals and make it harder to absorb them. When we are stressed, we need to take extra care to boost our intake of vitamins and minerals.
You can also mitigate the effects of stress by using products containing Lactium®. Lactium® is a hydrolysed milk protein that is a natural stress reliever. Non-addictive and with no side effects, Lactium® is a proven way to lower your stress without medication.