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Natural Stress Relievers

September 3, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

There was a time when stress was largely considered a nuisance and little more than that. You just coped with it by blowing off some steam in one way or another. That could mean having a “drink” or five at the end of a hard day. Or maybe your crutch was cigarettes. Judging by the current obesity epidemic, it now seems that junk food has claimed top spot in the comfort providing department. But what’s changed in recent times is the awareness of how stress hormones affect our physiology. It’s not just “all in your head” any longer.

Five recent studies illustrate the broad ranging damage that elevated cortisol, a stress hormone, can cause in the human body. You might be shocked by what you read. But no need to stress out! I also found five other studies that describe natural ways of lowering cortisol. The best part is that these solutions are all simple, free and safe.

The Bad News: The August 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism evaluated the effects of high levels of cortisol in a group of 861 senior citizens over a 6 year follow up period. Those with the highest 24-hour urinary cortisol levels “had a five times increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease”. The authors of the study concluded that, “high cortisol levels might be particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system”. (1)

The Good News: Belgian researchers report that napping and extended periods of recovery sleep can decrease cortisol almost immediately if you’re sleep deprived. Remember this tip, since inadequate sleep and stress often go hand-in-hand. (2)

The Bad News: New data from the University of British Columbia indicates that young women with high to normal cortisol concentrations have lower bone density than those with lower cortisol. Several indicators of skeletal integrity including “areal bone mineral density”, “hip bone mineral content” and “total body bone mineral content” appeared affected. What’s most disconcerting about this publication is its conclusion. “Cortisol within normal range appears to have a minor negative influence on bone density in healthy young women”. (3)

The Good News: Making positive changes in your work environment can significantly reduce stress levels. Adjusting the lighting and simply cheering up your work space was recently shown to improve “morning rise in cortisol” in a group of 60 workers exposed to “individualized cubicles with improved views and lighting”. (4)

The Bad News: It’s well known that stress can sometimes cause dry mouth. But did you know that it can also contribute to periodontal disease? It does according to research presented in the August issue of the Journal of Periodontology. Perceived stress and various stress biomarkers (choromogranin-A, cortisol, alpha-amylase and beta-endorphin) “were significantly correlated with clinical parameters of periodontal disease” and tooth loss in this current examination involving 100 patients with periodontitis. (5)

The Good News: Spending time with an animal companion can lower stress hormone levels in populations with predictably high cortisol, such as those living with autism. So says a paper presented in the latest edition of Psychoneuroendocrinology. In the trial, 42 autistic children were equipped “with a service dog to their family”. At baseline, researchers noted a 58% increase in morning cortisol in the children. This figured plummeted to only 10% when the service dogs were present. (6)

Exercise May Reduce Stress-Related Aging
Source: PLoS ONE 5(5): e10837. (link)

The Bad News: Diabetes is on the rise and elevated cortisol isn’t helping matters in the least. A trial conducted at the USC Department of Preventive Medicine reports that higher cortisol is linked to negative findings in relation to “acute response to glucose”, beta-cell function, fasting glucose and reduced insulin sensitivity in overweight adolescents and children. This signals a possible shift in how diabetes prevention may be viewed in the future. The mind-body connection should be a consideration in addition to a healthy diet and exercise regimen. (7)

The Good News: Simple activities such as watching “a joyful movie” can act as a distractor and reduce stress levels in children. German scientists were reminded of this while conducting a different kind of trial investigating the benefits of exercise for stress relief. The control/placebo group that viewed a enjoyable film surprised the scientists by outperforming exercise in terms of cortisol attenuation. (8)

The Bad News: When kids are chronically stressed, their hearts may be at risk. The July issue of Pediatric Research investigated a proposed link between morning cortisol levels of children and cardiovascular risk factors. In all, 223 children participated in the study. The two most striking findings were that high serum cortisol was positively associated with increased carotid intima-media thickness and systolic blood pressure – two predictors of elevated cardiovascular disease risk later in life. (9)

The Good News: Spending time with friends of the same gender may help to tame cortisol that is out of control. The August 2010 issue of Hormones & Behavior doesn’t directly apply to the children in the previous study, but one day it will. Researchers from the Netherlands discovered that men who spent time with other men exhibited a decline in cortisol levels. However, the opposite was true when these same men were asked to interact with women that they considered attractive. (10)

The take home message of all of these studies is not that cortisol or stress is always negative. Far from it. But when I look at my own life and the lives of those around me, I often detect too much tension. Mind you, I’ve never gone around and asked for blood samples to test cortisol levels. But I suspect they’re frequently higher than they should be. If that’s the case for you then you should do something about it. As you can see from the “good news” sections there are plenty of ways to stem the stressful tide. The real question is whether you think it’s an important enough issue to tackle. At long last, science is accepting the importance of cortisol/stress management. Now it’s your turn to accept it, if you haven’t already.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Dental Health, Diabetes, Mental Health

29 Comments & Updates to “Natural Stress Relievers”

  1. anne h Says:

    I am already a believer.
    Now – how to make it (stress) go away
    and leave me quietly in peace?

  2. Shazar Says:

    Great post thanks.. loved the way you flip between the good news and the bad news!! A couple of additional factors that could be mentioned as very helpful are regular exercise and some form of meditation.. both known to relieve stress and reduce cortisol levels.

  3. Deb Says:

    Is there some way that cortisol levels can be checked at home?

  4. JP Says:


    Yes. Some companies sell cortisol and DHEA combination saliva tests. One brand that is endorsed by Dr. Michael Murray is called Body Balance. But there are several others on the market for sale to the public as well.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:


    The best way, IMO, is to build up resistance to it by practicing regular stress management techniques (deep breathing, exercise, massage, meditation, etc.) and the realization that stress is largely our own creation. How we react to stressors is a big part of the equation.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, Shazar! I agree (about exercise and meditation)! 🙂

    Be well!


  7. Franziska San Pedro Says:

    Just discovered your blog (you found me on twitter and I followed your link), love it!

    Stress is such an un-measurable term but once we deal with all these things, we know it´s “stress-related.” So bottom line, it´s all about balance and common sense.
    Thanks for writing this ☼

  8. JP Says:

    Thank you, Franziska! 🙂

    Be well!


  9. Joel Gray Says:

    So helpful! Stress can kill you that’s why stress reduction measures should be done as much as possible. Keep posting! 🙂

  10. fransisca Says:

    taking a shower is the best stress reliever for me. mix between hot n cold shower, followed with body scrubbing feels like heaven. after that i can take a long sleep

  11. JP Says:


    An excellent way to refresh and relax! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Update 05/26/15:


    Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;22(1):43-9.

    Effects of bergamot ( Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) essential oil aromatherapy on mood states, parasympathetic nervous system activity, and salivary cortisol levels in 41 healthy females.

    BACKGROUND: Bergamot essential oil (BEO) is commonly used against psychological stress and anxiety in aromatherapy. The primary aim of the present study was to obtain first clinical evidence for these psychological and physiological effects. A secondary aim was to achieve some fundamental understanding of the relevant pharmacological processes.

    METHODS: Endocrinological, physiological, and psychological effects of BEO vapor inhalation on 41 healthy females were tested using a random crossover study design. Volunteers were exposed to 3 experimental setups (rest (R), rest + water vapor (RW), rest + water vapor + bergamot essential oil (RWB)) for 15 min each. Immediately after each setup, saliva samples were collected and the volunteers rested for 10 min. Subsequently, they completed the Profile of Mood States, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Fatigue Self-Check List. High-frequency (HF) heart rate values, an indicator for parasympathetic nervous system activity, were calculated from heart rate variability values measured both during the 15 min of the experiment and during the subsequent 10 min of rest. Salivary cortisol (CS) levels in the saliva samples were analyzed using ELISA.

    RESULTS: CS of all 3 conditions R, RW, and RWB were found to be significantly distinct (p = 0.003). In the subsequent multiple comparison test, the CS value of RWB was significantly lower when compared to the R setup. When comparing the HF values of the RWB setup during the 10 min of rest after the experiment to those of RW, this parameter was significantly increased (p = 0.026) in the RWB setup for which scores for negative emotions and fatigue were also improved.

    CONCLUSION: These results demonstrate that BEO inhaled together with water vapor exerts psychological and physiological effects in a relatively short time.

    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Updated 08/23/15:


    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:819183.

    Preliminary Evidence That Yoga Practice Progressively Improves Mood and Decreases Stress in a Sample of UK Prisoners.

    Objectives: In the first randomized controlled trial of yoga on UK prisoners, we previously showed that yoga practice was associated with improved mental wellbeing and cognition. Here, we aimed to assess how class attendance, self-practice, and demographic factors were related to outcome amongst prisoners enrolled in the 10-week yoga intervention.

    Methods: The data of 55 participants (52 male, 3 female) who completed a 10-week yoga course were analysed. Changes in pre- and postyoga measures of affect, perceived stress, and psychological symptoms were entered into linear regression analyses with bias-corrected and accelerated bootstrap confidence intervals. Class attendance, self-practice, demographic variables, and baseline psychometric variables were included as regressors.

    Results: Participants who attended more yoga classes and those who engaged in frequent (5 times or more) self-practice reported significantly greater decreases in perceived stress. Decreases in negative affect were also significantly related to high frequency self-practice and greater class attendance at a near-significant level. Age was positively correlated with yoga class attendance, and higher levels of education were associated with greater decreases in negative affect.

    Conclusions: Our results suggest that there may be progressive beneficial effects of yoga within prison populations and point to subpopulations who may benefit the most from this practice.

    Be well!


  14. JP Says:

    Updated 08/23/15:


    Complement Ther Med. 2015 Aug;23(4):509-15.

    The effects of music listening on psychosocial stress and maternal-fetal attachment during pregnancy.

    OBJECTIVE: While music listening has been studied as an intervention to help reduce anxiety in pregnant women, few studies have explored the effect of music listening on pregnancy-specific stress relief. This study examines the effects of music listening on psychosocial stress and maternal-fetal attachment during pregnancy.

    DESIGN: A randomized controlled trial was implemented. A valid sample of 296 pregnant women in their second or third trimester was randomly distributed into an experimental group (n=145) and a control group (n=151).

    INTERVENTIONS: The experimental group received routine prenatal care and music listening. The control group received routine prenatal care only.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Data were collected using a demographic form, Pregnancy Stress Rating Scale (PSRS), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and Maternal-Fetal Attachment Scale (MFAS).

    RESULTS: The post-test results identified a significantly lower level of psychosocial stress in the experimental group than in the control group, particularly in terms of the stresses related to baby care and changing family relationships and to maternal role identification. However, no statistically significant differences in terms of perceived stress and maternal-fetal attachment were found between the post-test results of the two groups.

    CONCLUSION: This study provides evidence in support of using of music in interventions designed to relieve psychosocial stress in prenatal women.

    Be well!


  15. JP Says:

    Updated 08/23/15:


    Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015 Jul-Aug;20(4):508-15.

    The effect of massage therapy on occupational stress of Intensive Care Unit nurses.

    BACKGROUND: One of the main causes of stress in the lives of people is their jobs. Occupational stress is causing a wide range of significant issues in health and community services. Nursing is the most stressful profession in the health services. Massage therapy is one way of coping with stress. This study was conducted to determine the effect of massage therapy on stress in nurses.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study was a clinical trial on 66 male and female nurses working in intensive care units (dialysis, ICU, and CCU) of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, in 2013. Participants were selected according to the aims and inclusion criteria of the study. Then, they were randomly divided into experimental and control groups. The Occupational Stress Inventory (OSI) (Osipow and Spokane, 1987) was completed by participants of the two groups before, immediately after, and 2 weeks after the intervention. General Swedish massage was performed on participants of the experimental group for 25 min in each session, twice a week for 4 weeks. Data were analyzed by descriptive and inferential statistics [Chi-square, t-test, and repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA)] using SPSS software.

    RESULTS: Results showed that the difference in overall mean occupation stress scores between experimental and control groups 2 weeks after the intervention was significant (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: According to the results, it is recommended that massage, as a valuable noninvasive method, be used for nurses in intensive care units to reduce their stress, promote mental health, and prevent the decrease in quality of nursing work life. Be well! JP

  16. JP Says:

    Updated 12/21/15:


    BMC Public Health. 2015 Dec 16;15:1245.

    Open and Calm–a randomized controlled trial evaluating a public stress reduction program in Denmark.

    BACKGROUND: Prolonged psychological stress is a risk factor for illness and constitutes an increasing public health challenge creating a need to develop public interventions specifically targeting stress and promoting mental health. The present randomized controlled trial evaluated health effects of a novel program: Relaxation-Response-based Mental Health Promotion (RR-MHP).

    METHODS: The multimodal, meditation-based course was publicly entitled “Open and Calm” (OC) because it consistently trained relaxed and receptive (“Open”) attention, and consciously non-intervening (“Calm”) witnessing, in two standardized formats (individual or group) over nine weeks. Seventy-two participants who complained to their general practitioner about reduced daily functioning due to prolonged stress or who responded to an online health survey on stress were randomly assigned to OC formats or treatment as usual, involving e.g., unstandardized consultations with their general practitioner. Outcomes included perceived stress, depressive symptoms, quality of life, sleep disturbances, mental health, salivary cortisol, and visual perception. Control variables comprised a genetic stress-resiliency factor (serotonergic transporter genotype; 5-HTTLPR), demographics, personality, self-reported inattentiveness, and course format.

    RESULTS: Intent-to-treat analyses showed significantly larger improvements in OC than in controls on all outcomes. Treatment effects on self-reported outcomes were sustained after 3 months and were not related to age, gender, education, or course format. The dropout rate was only 6 %.

    CONCLUSIONS: The standardized OC program reduced stress and improved mental health for a period of 3 months. Further testing of the OC program for public mental health promotion and reduction of stress-related illnesses is therefore warranted. A larger implementation is in progress.

    Be well!


  17. JP Says:

    Updated 12/30/15:


    Benef Microbes. 2015 Dec 21:1-12.

    Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota prevents
    the onset of physical symptoms in medical students under academic
    examination stress.

    This pilot study investigated the effects of the probiotic
    Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (LcS) on psychological,
    physiological, and physical stress responses in medical students
    undertaking an authorised nationwide examination for promotion. In a
    double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 24 and 23 healthy medical
    students consumed a fermented milk containing LcS and a placebo milk,
    respectively, once a day for 8 weeks until the day before the
    examination. Psychophysical state, salivary cortisol, faecal
    serotonin, and plasma L-tryptophan were analysed on 5 different
    sampling days (8 weeks before, 2 weeks before, 1 day before,
    immediately after, and 2 weeks after the examination). Physical
    symptoms were also recorded in a diary by subjects during the
    intervention period for 8 weeks. In association with a significant
    elevation of anxiety at 1 day before the examination, salivary
    cortisol and plasma L-tryptophan levels were significantly increased
    in only the placebo group (P<0.05). Two weeks after the examination,
    the LcS group had significantly higher faecal serotonin levels
    (P<0.05) than the placebo group. Moreover, the rate of subjects
    experiencing common abdominal and cold symptoms and total number of
    days experiencing these physical symptoms per subject were
    significantly lower in the LcS group than in the placebo group during
    the pre-examination period at 5-6 weeks (each P<0.05) and 7-8 weeks
    (each P<0.01) during the intervention period. Our results suggest that
    the daily consumption of fermented milk containing LcS may exert
    beneficial effects preventing the onset of physical symptoms in
    healthy subjects exposed to stressful situations.

    Be well!


  18. JP Says:

    Updated 1/18/16:


    J Music Ther. 2015 Fall;52(3):323-52.

    Coping with Work-Related Stress through Guided Imagery and Music (GIM): Randomized Controlled Trial.

    BACKGROUND: Long-term stress-related sick leave constitutes a serious health threat and an economic burden on both the single worker and the society. Effective interventions for the rehabilitation and facilitation of return to work are needed.

    OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to examine the effects of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), a psychotherapy intervention including relaxation, music listening, and imagery, on biopsychosocial measures of work-related stress.

    METHODS: Twenty Danish workers on sick leave were randomized to music therapy versus wait-list control. Data collection was carried out at an occupational health ward in the period 2008-2010. Changes in salivary cortisol, testosterone, and melatonin were explored, and self-reported data on psychological stress symptoms (perceived stress, mood disturbance, sleep quality, physical distress symptoms, work readiness, well-being, anxiety, depression, immediate stress) were collected. Data regarding sick leave situation and job return were collected from participants throughout the study.

    RESULTS: Significant beneficial effects of GIM compared to wait-list after nine weeks with large effect sizes were found in well-being, mood disturbance, and physical distress, and in cortisol concentrations with a medium effect size. A comparison between early and late intervention as related to the onset of sick leave showed faster job return and significantly improved perceived stress, well-being, mood disturbance, depression, anxiety, and physical distress symptoms in favor of early intervention. In the whole sample, 83% of the participants had returned to work at nine weeks’ follow-up.

    CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that GIM is a promising treatment for work-related chronic stress, and further studies are recommended.

    Be well!


  19. JP Says:

    Updated 03/27/16:


    J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2016 Jan-Feb;6(1):7-14.

    Association of yoga practice and serum cortisol levels in chronic periodontitis patients with stress-related anxiety and depression.

    AIM: Reducing the psychosocial stress by various methods can improve overall health, and yoga is now considered as an easily available alternative method. The present cross-sectional pilot study was conducted mainly to find the association of yoga practice with periodontal disease by measuring serum cortisol levels.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 70 subjects with age range of 35-60 years suffering with chronic periodontitis were divided into group I (with stress), group II (without stress), and group III (practicing yoga). Psychological evaluation was carried out using Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) and Zung Self-rating Depression Scale (ZSDS). Periodontal parameters like plaque index (PI), probing pocket depth (PPD), and clinical attachment level (CAL) at 5-8 mm and >8 mm were recorded. Blood samples were collected and serum cortisol levels were measured.

    RESULTS: Mean age, plaque scores, and number of teeth with PPD and CAL at 5-8 mm and >8 mm were similar in all the groups, except between group I and group III where a multiple comparison with Tukey’s post-hoc test showed significant difference in plaque index (P < 0.038) and the number of teeth with CAL 5-8 mm (P < 0.016). Serum cortisol levels and HAM-A scale and ZSDS scores showed highly significant value (P < 0.001) in group I subjects when compared with group II and group III subjects. CONCLUSION: Cross-sectional observation done among three groups showed that individuals practicing yoga regularly had low serum cortisol levels, HAM-A scale and ZSDS scores, and better periodontal health. Be well! JP

  20. JP Says:

    Updated 06/17/16:


    Panminerva Med. 2016 Jun 16.

    Effect of magnesium, probiotic, and vitamin food supplementation in healthy subjects with psychological stress and evaluation of a persistent effect after discontinuing intake.

    BACKGROUND: To describe the changes in subjects’ psychological stress intensity under the effect of dietary supplements of magnesium, probiotics, and vitamins after one month of intake.

    METHODS: Observational cohort study of subject complaining of psychological stress defined by a Perceived Stress Scale (PSS 10) score of more than 21.

    RESULTS: The study covered 242 healthy volunteers, 38.6 ± 13.6 years old, among whom 79.8% were women. Under the effect of the supplementation of magnesium, probiotics, and vitamins, the psychological stress of the subjects decreased significantly from 34.1 ± 4.5 to 26.2 ± 6.1 (p<0.0001), which corresponds to an average reduction of 22.7 ± 16.0%. Fatigue decreased even more significantly from 16.8 ± 6.4 to 8.7 ± 6.2 (p<0.0001), which corresponds to an average reduction of 45.0% ± 38.1%. Analysis showed that the psychological stress level was strictly similar one month after the treatment was discontinued and therefore clearly demonstrated that the psychological benefit was maintained over time.

    CONCLUSIONS: Stress and fatigue are significantly reduced by the intake of a food supplement with probiotics, magnesium, vitamins, and minerals and this effect is fully maintained one month after discontinuing the food supplement intake.

    Be well!


  21. JP Says:

    Updated 07/28/16:


    J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016 Apr 6.

    Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.

    Chronic stress has been associated with a number of illnesses, including obesity. Ashwagandha is a well-known adaptogen and known for reducing stress and anxiety in humans. The objective of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a standardized root extract of Ashwagandha through a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. A total of 52 subjects under chronic stress received either Ashwagandha (300 mg) or placebo twice daily. Primary efficacy measures were Perceived Stress Scale and Food Cravings Questionnaire. Secondary efficacy measures were Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, serum cortisol, body weight, and body mass index. Each subject was assessed at the start and at 4 and 8 weeks. The treatment with Ashwagandha resulted in significant improvements in primary and secondary measures. Also, the extract was found to be safe and tolerable. The outcome of this study suggests that Ashwagandha root extract can be used for body weight management in adults under chronic stress.

    Be well!


  22. JP Says:

    Updated 08/30/16:


    J Mol Biochem. 2016;5(2):63-70.

    The effectiveness of a stress-management intervention program in the management of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence.

    BACKGROUND: Obesity in childhood and adolescence represents a major health problem of our century, and accounts for a significant increase in morbidity and mortality in adulthood. In addition to the increased consumption of calories and lack of exercise, accumulating evidence suggests that childhood obesity is strongly associated with prolonged and excessive activation of the stress system.

    AIM: The aim of our study was to assess the effectiveness of a stress-management intervention program, which included progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, guided imagery and cognitive restructuring, in overweight and obese children and adolescents.

    METHODS: Forty-nine children and adolescents (mean age ± SEM: 11.15 ± 1.48 years) were prospectively recruited to participate in this randomized controlled study. Of those, 23 participants were assigned into the intervention group, while 26 participants represented the control group. Anthropometric measurements were recorded at the beginning and at the end of the study, and participants were asked to complete the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (S.C.A.R.E.D.), the Child Depression Inventory (C.D.I.), the Child Behavior Checklist (C.B.C.L.) and the Youth Self Report (Y.S.R.).

    RESULTS: The applied stress-management methods resulted in a significant reduction in the body mass index (BMI) in the intervention group compared with the control group [ΔBMI=1.18 vs 0.10 kg/m2 (p<0.001)]. In addition to BMI, these methods ameliorated depression and anxiety, and reduced the internalizing and externalizing problems in the intervention group.

    CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrated that the application of an 8-week stress management program could facilitate weight loss in Greek overweight and obese children and adolescents. Further larger studies are required to evaluate the effectiveness of stress-management methods in overweight and obese subjects.

    Be well!


  23. JP Says:

    Updated 10/28/16:


    Nutrients 2016, 8(10), 647

    Is Hypovitaminosis D Associated with Stress Perception in the Elderly? A Nationwide Representative Study in Korea

    Abstract: Hypovitaminosis D and stress are common problems among the elderly. The aim of this cross-sectional nationally representative study was to evaluate the association between hypovitaminosis D and stress perception using large-scale nationally representative data from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2012–2013). In our study, a total of 1393 elders (≥65 years old) were included to evaluate the association between hypovitaminosis D and stress perception. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were determined using radioimmunoassay, and perceived stress status was assessed by a self-reporting questionnaire. The association between hypovitaminosis D and stress perception according to sex was examined using logistic regression analysis. After multivariate adjustment for sociodemographic and lifestyle factors and comorbidities, hypovitaminosis D was significantly associated with perceived stress (odds ratio, 2.73; 95% confidence interval, 1.10–6.77; p = 0.029) among women; however, this association was not significant among men. Hypovitaminosis D was a risk factor for higher stress perception in older Korean women. Even though the role of vitamin D in stress perception is still unclear, we suggest screening for hypovitaminosis D among the elderly.

    Be well!


  24. JP Says:

    Updated 12/09/16:


    Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 16;6:36537.

    Tea-induced calmness: Sugar-sweetened tea calms consumers exposed to acute stressor.

    The food and beverage industry has been increasingly replacing sugar with non-nutritive sweeteners in their sweetened products to control or reduce total calories. Research comparing the effect of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners on emotional state of participants exposed to acute stressors is still limited. This study aimed to determine the effect of drinking tea sweetened with either a nutritive sweetener (sugar) or a non-nutritive sweetener (sucralose or stevia) on emotional state, in terms of calmness and pleasantness, of participants exposed to an acute stressor. Effects of acute stress on sweetness intensity and overall liking of tea beverages were also determined. Results showed that the possibility of tea-induced calmness, calculated as the difference between calmness ratings after and before drinking a tea sample, was established on stress session in the sugar-sweetened tea. Overall liking, but not the sweetness intensity, of the sugar-sweetened tea was affected by acute stress. In conclusion, this study provides empirical evidence that the consumption of tea sweetened with nutritive sweetener, but not with non-nutritive sweetener, has calming effect on consumers with acute stress, suggesting that this effect may not be due to the sweet taste of sugar, but due to the caloric nature of the sweetener.

    Be well!


  25. JP Says:

    Updated 01/24/17:


    Int J Microbiol. 2016;2016:8469018.

    Oral Administration of Lactobacillus plantarum 299v Reduces Cortisol Levels in Human Saliva during Examination Induced Stress: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial.

    Objective. To clarify the effect of Lactobacillus plantarum 299v on the salivary cortisol and salivary IgA levels in young adults under examination stress. Design. Forty-one students with an upcoming academic exam were included in a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The probiotic bacteria or the placebo product was administered in capsules once a day during 14 days. Saliva was collected and a perceived stress test was filled out at each sampling occasion. Saliva was collected for cortisol analysis by Electrochemiluminescence Immunoassay (ECLI) and salivary IgA was analysed by Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). Abundance of lactobacilli was evaluated by cultivation of saliva on selective medium and identification of L. plantarum 299v was done on randomly selected colonies by a random amplification of polymorphic DNA (RAPD) typing. Results. A significant difference in cortisol levels was found between the treatment group and the placebo group (P < 0.05), together with a significant increase in levels of lactobacilli in the treatment group compared with the placebo group (P < 0.001). No significant changes were found for salivary IgA. Conclusion. A probiotic bacterium with ability to reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) prohibited increased levels of the stress marker cortisol during the examination period. Be well! JP

  26. JP Says:

    Updated 05/25/17:


    Complement Ther Med. 2017 Apr;31:109-117.

    Effects of prenatal yoga on women’s stress and immune function across pregnancy: A randomized controlled trial.

    OBJECTIVE: The effects of prenatal yoga on biological indicators have not been widely studied. Thus, we compared changes in stress and immunity salivary biomarkers from 16 to 36 weeks’ gestation between women receiving prenatal yoga and those receiving routine prenatal care.

    DESIGN: For this longitudinal, prospective, randomized controlled trial, we recruited 94 healthy pregnant women at 16 weeks’ gestation through convenience sampling from a prenatal clinic in Taipei. Participants were randomly assigned to intervention (n=48) or control (n=46) groups using Clinstat block randomization.

    INTERVENTION: The 20-week intervention comprised two weekly 70-min yoga sessions led by a midwife certified as a yoga instructor; the control group received only routine prenatal care.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: In both groups, participants’ salivary cortisol and immunoglobulin A levels were collected before and after yoga every 4 weeks from 16 to 36 weeks’ gestation.

    RESULTS: The intervention group had lower salivary cortisol (p<0.001) and higher immunoglobulin A (p<0.001) levels immediately after yoga than the control group. Specifically, the intervention group had significantly higher long-term salivary immunoglobulin A levels than the control group (p=0.018), and infants born to women in the intervention group weighed more than those born to the control group (p<0.001).

    CONCLUSION: Prenatal yoga significantly reduced pregnant women's stress and enhanced their immune function. Clinicians should learn the mechanisms of yoga and its effects on pregnant women. Our findings can guide clinicians to help pregnant women alleviate their stress and enhance their immune function.

    Be well!


  27. JP Says:

    Updated 09/28/17:


    Psychiatr Danub. 2017 Sep;29(Suppl 3):416-421.

    Impact of Stress on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Management.

    BACKGROUND: Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is one among the major health and socioeconomic problems worldwide. It is, however, not a somatic illness for which just symptomatic treatment will suffice. Stress is an important factor in not only causing diabetes onset or exacerbation, but also in hampering proper treatment by interfering with the treatment adherence of patients. Hence, it becomes important for physicians to acquaint themselves with the effects of stress on T2DM in order to ensure proper treatment of the latter.

    OBJECTIVE: Documentation of effect of stress on the management of T2DM.

    SUBJECTS AND METHODS: The research was a cross-sectional study on the patients attending Sri Muthukumaran Medical College, Hospital and Research Institute, Mangadu. A total of 400 people, who werepre-established diabetic patients of the hospital of age greater than 30 years, were chosen for the study. The stress levels of the patients were assessed with the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and treatment adherence using a questionnaire prepared exclusively for the study. Based on the data, a statistical relationship was framed between the degree of control (treatment adherence) and the stress levels of the patients.

    RESULTS: The FBS levels were a direct reflection of the stress levels (P<0.05). Stress had a major impact on treatment adherence among the diabetic subjects: Increased levels of stress decreased the adherence (P<0.001). The glycemic index (HbA1C level) was found to be linked to both treatment adherence and stress. Increased adherence kept it at bay (P<0.05) while stress proved abysmal to glycemic control.

    CONCLUSION: T2DM is the result of an interplay between various factors; environmental, psychiatric and somatic. Hence, a holistic treatment approach is required, one that involves stress management, education and mental health awareness along with pharmacological treatment, to fully control the disease.

    Be well!


  28. JP Says:

    Updated 1/25/18:


    J Physiol Anthropol. 2018 Jan 24;37(1):3.

    Black tea aroma inhibited increase of salivary chromogranin-A after arithmetic tasks.

    BACKGROUND: Growing attention has been paid to the effects of food flavor components on alleviating negative brain functions caused by stressful lifestyles. In this study, we investigated the alleviating effect of two kinds of black tea aromas on physical and psychological stress induced by the Uchida-Kraepelin test, based on salivary chromogranin-A (CgA) levels as a stress marker and subjective evaluations (Profile of Mood States).

    RESULTS: Compared with the water exposure control, inhaling black tea aroma (Darjeeling and Assam in this study) induced lower salivary CgA concentration levels after 30 min of mental stress load tasks. This anti-stress effect of black tea aroma did not differ between the two tea types even though the concentration of the anti-stress components in the Darjeeling tea aroma was higher than that in the Assam aroma. However, Darjeeling tea aroma tended to decrease the tension and/or anxiety score immediately after the first exposure.

    CONCLUSIONS: Inhaling black tea aroma may diminish stress levels caused by arithmetic mental stress tasks, and Darjeeling tea aroma tended to improve mood before mental stress load.

    Be well!


  29. JP Says:

    Updated 01/05/19:


    J Affect Disord. 2018 Dec 21;246:619-626.

    A randomised placebo controlled clinical trial on the efficacy of Caralluma fimbriata supplement for reducing anxiety and stress in healthy adults over eight weeks.

    BACKGROUND: This study investigated the efficacy of a succulent, Caralluma fimbriata extract (CFE) in reducing anxiety and stress in healthy adults.

    METHODS: An 8 week double-blind randomised clinical trial, in which 97 adults self-reporting mild to moderate anxiety were given 500 mg b.d. CFE (n = 49), or 500 mg b.d. placebo (n = 48). Anxiety and stress were measured at baseline, week 4, and week 8 to investigate the timing of treatment effect using the GAD-7, Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), and salivary cortisol. Data were analysed using mixed ANOVAs on SPSS v.24.

    RESULTS: Results indicated a significant reduction in anxiety and stress in both groups at week 4 and week 8. The reduction in the CFE group was significantly greater (p < .05) than in the placebo group on the GAD-7 and PSS at week 4 and week 8, and in Negative affect at week 4. Improvement in Positive affect was greater in the CFE group than in the placebo group at week 8. Cortisol analysis indicated that CFE may act through the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, showing statistically significant changes in males, but not in females. LIMITATIONS: Self-reported instruments involve subjective interpretation thus salivary cortisol was employed as a more objective measure. The study would benefit from a larger sample and longer trial, and the inclusion of a wait-list group to allow comparison between treatment and no treatment. CONCLUSIONS: The findings indicate that CFE is superior to placebo in reducing subclinical anxiety and stress over 8 weeks. Be well! JP

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