“S” is for stress, sleep & sex
Having problems with one, two or three of these issues? Natural health products can help.
IT’S one of those days. An argument with your partner left you tossing and turning through the night. Then, in your sleep-deprived stupor, you blasted through a Pacific-sized puddle cycling to work, drenching you from the knees down. And now you find yourself standing under a useless hand dryer in the washroom trying to dry your socks while your boss waits to conduct your quarterly “performance review.”
Welcome to Stressville. Population: You.
Our busy lifestyles often leave little time to re-centre and focus on improving our health. Lack of sleep can make any day difficult to get through and has been associ- ated with serious health problems including cardiovascular disease, obesity and even early mortality. A sleep-deprived brain can make dealing with stressful situations dif- ficult, clouding our judgment and reducing
our decision-making capacity. And then there’s sex. Arousal and performance in the bedroom, although a taboo subject, is signifi- cantly impacted by the stresses we experience throughout our daily lives.
So how do we deal with sleep, stress and sex naturally? Luckily, there are some science- based, natural health products that may remedy these three S’s, and help you get back on top of your game.
Nature’s rhythms can be seen in the change of the seasons and with the rising and setting of the sun. One of the most obvious rhythms is sleep.
We spend approximately a third of our lives wrapped in the embrace of slumber. Our bodies have an internal clock partially controlled by melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain which is released in response to dim light, inducing drowsiness and carrying us off to sleep.
Melatonin is a natural health product, and it has been shown to safely and naturally improve sleep. Consuming between 1-5 mg/day can help people with disordered sleeping fall doze off faster, rest longer and have higher quality sleep. The side effects of melatonin are few, particularly when com- pared with prescription sleep meds, which can lead to dependence.
Getting a solid night’s sleep is essential for optimal brain functioning, and helping you deal with the stresses of each day. Conversely, reducing stresses in your life may help you to achieve better sleep.
Having elevated stress hormones for extended periods of time can lead to long-term health effects such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. An intriguing area of research is the role that our gut ecosystem plays in influencing neural signals of the brain, and that probiotic foods and supplements may actually reduce rates of anxiety and depression.
It’s estimated that we have 100 trillion bacterial cells living in our intestines, out-numbering our human cells 10 to 1, and that our health is intricately linked to the health of our gut bugs.
Chronic stress can reduce the populations of good bacteria in the gut and increase the growth of pathogens including E. coli. Correcting the levels of these good bugs by supplementing with probiotics has been shown to reduce anxiety and decrease urinary cortisol levels (a potent stress hormone).
The mechanics of the brain-gut connection are still being explored by researchers, but studies show that having a healthy bacterial population in the gut is essential for overall physical and mental well-being.
Although enhancing the contents of your intestines might improve your overall mood, it might not put you in the mood. For a natural solution to enhancing libido, look no further than the fibrous, fleshy root known as ginseng.
Panax ginseng, also known as red ginseng, is a slow-growing medicinal root with a wide range of health benefits for conditions includ- ing stress, cardiovascular disease, physical performance and erectile dysfunction.
The most popular and potent type of ginseng, Panax ginseng, is harvested after six years and then steamed and dried. This processing increases the availability of active compounds, called ginsenosides. Panax ginseng has been shown to be particularly effective in men with erectile dysfunction. It is thought that the ginsenosides increase the amount of nitric oxide in the blood vessels, allowing muscle relaxation and subsequent engorgement.
Although there is little research available to assess how Panax ginseng might impact female sexual enhancement, one study found that menopausal women had increased sexual arousal after taking a Panax ginseng supplement. Current research is too varied in its dose (anywhere from 400 mg to 5000 mg) and duration to draw firm conclusions.
Melatonin, probiotics and Panax ginseng are just a few of the NHP’s that have shown a number of health benefits listed above. With all of the potential of natural health products to address some of these issues, you should speak with your health care practitioner about which products are right for you. Having a deep, healthy sleep cycle allows you to deal with the stresses that life throws at you with vigour and energy. And having a bit of extra energy can work wonders in the bedroom. Z
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Author: Blair Cameron holds a Master of Science in Human Health and Nutritional Sciences from the University of Guelph where he specialized in micronutrient nutrition and science journalism.