Which Supplements for Relaxation are Right For Me?

supplements for relaxation
Reading Time: 10 minutes

In this day and age, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everyday stressors. Unhealthy coping mechanisms, like alcohol or comfort food, leave us feeling worse, perpetuating negative feelings. Perhaps it’s time to choose a healthier support. Why not reach for something that works now, and supports long-term health? We’ve got some suggestions in the form of research-based nutrients and supplements for relaxation support.

Metabolic Maintenance® is now offering four different formulations of supplements that can help with occasional anxiety and stress. We will describe each in detail below, to help you make the most educated choice, based on your needs.

Overview

  • If you’re looking for an everyday supplement to support restorative sleep, a balanced mood, and an increased sense of well-being, you may want to try Metabolic Maintenance®’s MetaCalm®
  • If you are interested in sleep and relaxation support as a supplement to your regular multivitamin, our new Ashwagandha Plus formula may be the right choice.
  • If you’d like to try taking ashwagandha daily within a one-a-day multivitamin formula with extra immune support, try Balanced Response stress and immune support.
  • If you’re experiencing a heightened level of worry, or unease, and feel as though you could use herbal support to calm the mind and body, Stress Maintenance may be a beneficial addition to your supplemental regimen. Stress Maintenance (GABA and Botanical Blend) was formerly branded as “Anxiety Control Plus”. If you are wondering where that product went, it’s still here, just with a new moniker.

While you should always discuss supplements with your doctor before adding them to your daily routine, we would like to note that some of these supplements can complement one another. You may find a combination of ashwagandha and other herbals (for example) aids in your rest and relaxation better than taking one product alone.

Why might MetaCalm® be the right choice for you?

MetaCalm® is a full-spectrum nutritional product (a daily multivitamin) formulated to fill common nutritional gaps in the diet, while also encouraging relaxation of the central and peripheral nervous system.

MetaCalm® provides the amino acid building blocks and the necessary vitamin and mineral cofactors to help the body synthesize both mood-enhancing and calming neurotransmitters. 

For example, amino acids like L-theanine can help induce an alert state of relaxation without drowsiness, while GABA and glycine can soothe the effects of excitatory neurotransmitters. 5-HTP is a building block of serotonin, an important mood and stress-regulating neurotransmitter. 

Vitamins in MetaCalm®

Research links oxidative stress to neuropsychological challenges [1-4]. Vitamin C is a well-known, powerful antioxidant, and vitamin C deficiency is widely associated with stress-related disease [5]. The vitamin C in MetaCalm® helps to reduce oxidative stress and limit action of the stress hormones. Vitamin C can boost mood and provide some relief from occasional anxiety [5].

Pyridoxine, or vitamin B6, is involved in the synthesis of both neurotransmitters (including GABA, serotonin, and dopamine) and amino acids. B6 supports healthy serotonin levels and can ease occasional anxiety during the premenstrual period [6]. Vitamin B6 likely has other stress-reducing mechanisms, including healthy blood pressure support and attenuating the effects of stress hormones [7].

Folate, or vitamin B9, is a nutrient that helps synthesize and repair DNA, and participates in the synthesis and processing of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Clinical research has found a strong connection between folate levels, mood, and energy balance [8]. Many people are unable to process synthetic folate (folic acid) efficiently. MetaCalm® contains L-methylfolate, the form of folate that can be absorbed and used by all bodies.

Vitamin B12 insufficiency can also lead to difficulties with mood balance and memory [9]. 

Although technically a “pseudovitamin”, inositol shares qualities with many B vitamins as a stress mitigator and mood lifter. Inositol can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, where its receptors are found abundantly on the amygdala: the portion of the brain responsible for emotion in mammals [10]. 

Inositol has been shown to support a balanced mood and may complement the benefits of other mood treatments [11]. It also assists in communication between nerves, gene expression, and signal transduction for insulin [12]. 

Amino Acids in MetaCalm®

MetaCalm® also contains a proprietary blend of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), taurine, inositol, 5-HTP, and L-theanine. GABA is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that controls brain activity in a variety of ways and regulates muscle tone throughout the body. Your body synthesizes GABA from glutamate in a process that requires vitamin B6. 

Unlike other neurotransmitters, GABA has an inhibitory function: it slows down neuron firing. Most other neurotransmitters (such as adrenaline) have an excitatory function and tend to stimulate neuron firing. Without enough GABA, neurons can fire too easily and too often. 

GABA supplementation may promote a natural calming effect. It may reduce feelings of occasional anxiety and fear by decreasing neuronal excitability [13]. GABA receptor activation supports sleep onset, physical comfort, mediation of various emotions, and neuronal growth and development [13]. Unfortunately, we tend to produce less GABA naturally as we age. 

Taurine is an amino acid and GABA agonist, meaning that it causes more activity at GABA receptors, especially the thalamus brain region. The thalamus is involved in transitions between sleep and wakefulness. 

L-Theanine is an amino acid from green tea. It can alter levels of various neurotransmitters, producing a calming effect that helps counter the stimulating action of the caffeine in tea. At the same time, it works with caffeine to pro­mote concentration and “alert calmness”. L-Theanine exhibits its calming effect on the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier and supporting production of both GABA and dopamine [14]. 

5-hydroxytryptophan, better known as 5-HTP, is a precursor for the production of serotonin, a precursor to melatonin. Experts recommend supplementing 5-HTP in combination with GABA to improve sleep, as these two chemical messengers appear to have a synergistic effect on both the quality and duration of sleep [15].

Minerals in MetaCalm®

Magnesium is also important for the function of GABA, enhancing GABA sensitivity on nerve receptors [16]. This action explains part of magnesium’s role as a natural muscle relaxant. 

Magnesium insufficiency can cause a wide range of problems, including occasional anxiety and trouble sleeping [6]. Unfortunately, the amount of magnesium recommended daily for bodily requirements is greater than what the average American consumes. At least 50% of Americans do not get the daily intake of magnesium experts recommend [17]. 

There are many forms of magnesium that are poorly absorbed by the body. Mental, emotional,  environmental stressors, some drugs (diuretics, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, insulin, cortisone), heavy exercise, dysregulated blood sugar, and gastrointestinal issues, can all contribute to poor absorption of magnesium from the diet. MetaCalm® contains magnesium as magnesium glycinate, a highly absorbable form of magnesium that is gentle on the gut.

Zinc is an essential element that interacts with both GABA and glutamate receptors in the central nervous system. Probably due to this relationship, zinc exhibits effects on both mood and locomotor activity in a dose-dependent manner [18]. Homeostasis requires a minimum intake of zinc, daily, as the body has no specialized way to store it. 

Why might Stress Maintenance be the right choice for you?

When comparing the supplemental facts between MetaCalm® and Stress Maintenance, you will notice some similarities and some differences. Stress Maintenance is our most powerful GABA support product, and GABA has been combined with the potent botanicals Melissa officianalis and Passiflora incarnata, as well as a synergistic mineral and amino acid blend. 

Our Stress Maintenance formula focuses on GABA support, as the GABA pathway is central to supporting a calm and relaxed sense of being in the face of daily stressors [19].

Use this product during the day to stay centered through a busy schedule. In the evening, ingredients like magnesium and glycine help quiet the mind, relax muscles, and improve sleep quality.

GABA

As described earlier, GABA is a powerful, naturally occurring brain chemical that functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, balancing out the excitatory brain activity caused by stress hormones. By decreasing neuronal excitability, GABA is thought to have a natural calming effect, decrease fear and worry, improve mood, promote quality sleep, and attenuate premenstrual challenges.

Our Stress Maintenance supplement not only contains a much greater dose of GABA than the amount found in MetaCalm® but also a wide variety of nutrients that support the natural production of GABA by the brain and the actions of GABA throughout the body. 

Although it is still unclear whether dietary GABA molecules cross the blood-brain barrier, its precursor, glutamine, and the catalyst for its biosynthesis, vitamin B6, can be transported to the brain. Both of these nutrients can be found in the Stress Maintenance supplement. 

Minerals in Stress Maintenance

As described in detail above, magnesium is also an essential player in GABA receptor sensitivity and mood. The form of magnesium found in Stress Maintenance is highly bioavailable magnesium citrate.

Herbal extracts in Stress Maintenance

Passiflora incarnata (a.k.a. purple passionflower or maypop) is an herbal ingredient that enhances the action of GABA in the brain [19]. Passiflora incarnata is also a sleep inducer, speeding up the onset of sleep [20].

Melissa officianalis, or lemon balm extract, can help to balance inflammation as well as mood [21]. Its effects are thought to occur mainly due to its phenolic and flavonoid constituents, whose properties include supporting normal inflammatory balance and immune health as well as calming and neuroprotective actions in the body [21]. It may support calm feelings, relaxation from stress, as well as restful sleep [22]. 

Amino Acids in Stress Maintenance

Glycine, an amino acid found in the Stress Maintenance supplement, has been implicated in the reduction of brain hyperactivity [23]. It may even have a regulatory function in the pathology of some mental health conditions [24]. Glycine supports cognitive performance and the CNS by regulating the metabolic synthesis of certain nutrients that the brain and nerves require for energy. 

Because it is connected to both nerve and neurotransmitter function, glycine may aid in the improvement of sleep quality (without causing fatigue), strengthen cognitive performance, heighten bodily sensations, balance mood, and support memory [23-26]. 

Why Might Ashwagandha Plus be right for you?

Ashwagandha is one of the most popular dietary supplements on the market in the US right now [27], but has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as a “Rasayana”, or rejuvenator herb. Rasayana herbs rejuvenate the body and promote the health of all tissues by eliciting a complex network of changes throughout the body [27]. One of many benefits backed by modern science, however, is helping the body respond to stress and anxiety. Regular supplementation with ashwagandha can actually reduce the activity of the HPA axis in response to stressors [28,29]

Aside from its benefits to stress and anxiety, ashwagandha can support healthier glucose (sugar) and triglyceride (fats) levels in the circulation, promote focus and memory, stimulate female sexual function and male fertility, maximize the effects of exercise, balance immune response, and promote healthy inflammatory response [30,31]. 

Ashwagandha does not elicit one specific pharmacological mechanism. The processes it catalyzes in the body are holistic and complex. Adaptogens, like ashwagandha, support stress resilience through balance.[28].

Shoden® Ashwagandha Extract

A recent review summarizes about 140 specialized compounds isolated from ashwagandha [28]. Half of the compounds on this list are withanolides, a complex group of steroidal lactones. 

Root and leaf extracts of ashwagandha, including the withanolides, have been shown to promote anti-stress and anti-anxiety effects in both human and animal studies [31]. Shoden® ashwagandha extract in Ashwagandha Plus has been standardized to 35% withanolides, making it the most potent ashwagandha extract on the market. Studies show that Shoden® ashwagandha extract is more bioavailable at lower doses than other products on the market, and so is effective at a lower dose level [32].

Ashwagandha Plus goes further than most ashwagandha supplements in another way. It also provides relaxation and stress-recovery support through L-theanine and magnesium bisglycinate.

Suntheanine® L-Theanine

L-Theanine is an amino acid isolated from green tea. It’s the calming, soothing chemical that balances tea’s caffeine (and the reason you’re less likely to get shaky after tea vs coffee). Whereas ashwagandha’s anti-stress benefits take regular supplementation to build up, L-theanine’s effects are immediate [33].

L-Theanine is structurally similar to glutamine and glutamate and has been proven to cross the blood-brain barrier [33]. In the brain, L-theanine exhibits its effects through the modulation of glutamine, GABA, glycine, and dopamine [33]. Together, these neurotransmitters create a feeling of calm well-being in the body and mind. 

Magnesium Bisglycinate

Magnesium is the second most abundant cation found in intercellular fluid, yet commonly lacking in the Western diet and quickly depleted in stress states [34]. One of the hundreds of roles magnesium plays in the body is its regulation of stress hormones, norepinephrine, and cortisol. It also participates in the relaxation of muscles throughout the body.

The magnesium in this formula is chelated with two molecules of glycine, another calming amino acid. Magnesium bisglycinate is significantly more absorbable in the intestines than other forms and may be better for rebalancing magnesium levels than other types of supplementary magnesium [34].

Why Might Balanced ResponseTM Be Right for You?

This formula is an Elderberry and Ashwagandha multivitamin, but its benefits are complex. 

When we are faced with stress, it weakens the immune system [35], reduces the absorption of necessary nutrition from the diet [36], and negatively impacts our ability to find calm and focus. The intention behind the design of Balanced ResponseTM is to bolster your body’s immune and stress response systems, and provide essential balanced nutrition, so you can bounce back quickly from whatever surprises life may throw your way. 

By providing both essential nutrients and supportive herbal extracts, Balanced ResponseTM is sure to be a popular one-a-day answer to a full spectrum daily multivitamin/mineral supplement with extra reinforcement in the stress, mood, and immune categories of health.

Adaptogens and Herbals in Balanced ResponseTM

Shoden® Ashwagandha

Like Ashwagandha Plus, Balanced ResponseTM contains Shoden® ashwagandha, standardized to 35% withanolides and delivered at a dose relevant to efficacy in clinical trials [32].

Elderberry (Extract of Sambucus nigra L.)

Yet another powerful herbal extract is that of elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Its benefits can be credited to the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant pigments it contains called anthocyanins, belonging to the flavonoids class of naturally-occurring chemicals [37]. Our elderberry extract has been standardized to 15% anthocyanins.

Like ashwagandha, elderberry has a long history of use as a medicinal plant, specifically for immune health. Modern science has provided data to support these applications.

Numerous clinical studies have investigated the effectiveness of elderberry in support of immune and respiratory health [38]. Elderberry extract activates and maintains the healthy function of immune cells [38]. No serious adverse events after elderberry extract consumption were reported in any of those studies [38]. 

Together, these findings all suggest elderberry extract is an excellent herbal supplement for immune support, especially in the face of stress.

Vitamins and Minerals in Balanced ResponseTM

A daily multivitamin does not negate the need for a healthy diet. There are countless physiological processes occurring constantly throughout the body, and each of them requires certain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other chemicals found in food to function properly. When those nutritional puzzle pieces are missing, your physiology can suffer. 

This is where your multivitamin/mineral formula comes in to serve as a nutritional safety net or insurance policy. By providing potent doses of the nutrients often lacking in the diet, a multivitamin can ensure your body has what it needs to respond to the physical and mental demands of the day.

In addition to their general benefits to homeostasis, taking a daily multivitamin can benefit your mental health. A recent study concluded that those who took a daily multivitamin were less likely to suffer from anxiety than those taking a placebo [39]. Vitamins play a role in the synthesis and signaling of neurotransmitters necessary for mental health, but stress states quickly deplete these vitamins. It follows that extra nutrition circulating the body can benefit this mental aspect of well-being. 

Metabolic Maintenance offers numerous multivitamin/mineral blends, each slightly different in potency or formula, with the intent to support a certain aspect of health. 

Balanced ResponseTM is an elderberry and ashwagandha multivitamin and mineral formula. Aside from the two herbal extracts, it also includes vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, B-complex vitamins (including folate as L-methylfolate), and zinc. These are some of the most important nutrients for proper immune function.

Vitamin A

Innate immunity depends upon vitamin A, for the healthy maintenance of mucosal barriers, and for the proper function of immune cells such as neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells [40].

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a highly effective antioxidant that protects cells from damage by free radicals [41]. Regular supplementation of vitamin C supports immune cell function in both the innate and adaptive immune systems [42].

Vitamin D

Recent experiments have shed a brighter light on the immune-enhancing properties of vitamin D, specifically its role in innate immunity and vitamin D-dependent immune proteins  [43]. Although vitamin D can be made in the body in response to sun exposure, supplementary vitamin D may be most important during the winter months when there are fewer hours of sunlight and colder temperatures, keeping people indoors or limiting the skin’s exposure to sunlight with warm clothing when outdoors.

Zinc

Adequate zinc status is needed for a healthy immune response. Zinc is essential to the development and function of immune cells important to the innate immune system, our body’s quickest immune response [44].

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