Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid

BRAIN HEALTH

To help preserve mental function and protect against age-related cognitive decline including dementia and Alzheimer's disease, implement these healthy lifestyle, nutrition and supplement choices:

Lifestyle

  • Get 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Regular physical exercise, specifically aerobic exercise, can help slow memory loss and improve mental function.
  • Develop healthy habits in all aspects of life. Not smoking, drinking only in moderation, staying socially involved, managing stress, getting adequate rest, and cultivating a positive attitude and outlook - have all been associated with a lowered risk of Alzheimer's.
  • Keep an active mind. "Use it or lose it" applies to mental as well as physical health.  Do crossword puzzles, mind games, challenging reading, and take educational classes.

Nutrition

  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. It helps prevent inappropriate inflammation and counters the oxidative stress which may be linked to Alzheimer's disease. Focus on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, foods rich in vitamins C and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and the spices turmeric and ginger. Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid has more information and specific recommendations.
  • Eat berries. Blueberries in particular may improve motor skills and reverse age-related short-term memory loss, and may also protect the brain from stroke damage.
  • Use cooking methods that limit inflammation. Cook at lower temperatures to avoid the formation of AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which have been linked to Alzheimer's disease, and avoid cooking methods that require excessive fat, such as deep frying.
  • Focus on fish. Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring and black cod are excellent sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, yet are relatively low in potential environmental toxins. Diets rich in fish have been shown to alleviate depression and other mental-health issues.

Supplements

  • Daily multivitamin. A good multivitamin can provide optimal levels of folic acid and other B vitamins, compounds which help lower blood levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid linked to increased risks of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Ginkgo. Extracts of ginkgo tree leaves increase blood flow to the brain and have been shown to slow the progression of dementia in early onset Alzheimer's disease.
  • Phosphatidyl serine, or PS. This naturally occurring lipid is considered a brain cell nutrient and may have positive effects on memory and concentration. Research has suggested it can help slow age-related cognitive decline.
  • A daily low-dose aspirin. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease by mediating inflammation. Because NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation, they should always be taken with food.
  • Turmeric. This natural anti-inflammatory spice may have a specific protective effect against Alzheimer's disease.
  • DHA. This omega-3 fatty acid, which occurs naturally in cold water fish, is essential for normal brain development, has been linked to healthy cognitive function.
  • Acetyl L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid. When combined, as in Weil Juvenon Healthy Aging Support, this energy booster and antioxidant are an evidence-based combination that appears to provide improved mental alertness as well as increased energy.

VISION HEALTH

The eye is a highly complex and sensitive organ that requires a careful combination of nutrients, protection, exercise and rest for optimal function. Use the following tips to maintain visual health:

Lifestyle

  • Don't smoke, and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking can decrease blood supply to the eyes by causing blood vessels to narrow and blood to thicken.
  • Protect the eyes from the elements. Sunlight can damage the cells of the macula, which provides visual acuity. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that protect against at least 99 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Use safety eyewear when working around potential hazards to vision to help protect against injuries.
  • Stay active. Exercise promotes eye health by improving circulation and lowering the risk of diabetes.
  • Keep blood pressure in check. High blood pressure increases the risk of glaucoma. Consider medication if lifestyle changes can't bring pressures into the normal range.
  • Work in a well-lighted area. While dim lighting may not harm eyes, it can cause temporary eyestrain. When you do use artificial illumination, use full-spectrum light bulbs, which mimic natural light.
  • Keep your computer screen clean, at or below eye level, and about two feet away from your eyes.
  • Take frequent breaks. Look away from the computer screen or other reading materials every 10 minutes for about 10 seconds at a time. In addition, get up and move around or do some stretches every two hours or so.
  • Get enough sleep. Fatigue can increase eyestrain, while rest refreshes tired eyes.
  • See your eye doctor regularly. To catch potentially serious eye problems early, people ages 40 to 64 should have their eyes examined every two to four years and those who are age 65 and older should be tested every one to two years.

Nutrition

  • Follow a diet that is very low in saturated fat. Saturated fat (generally, the kind of fat that is solid at room temperature) can cause plaque to build up along the walls of blood vessels, including those in the macula, which impedes blood flow. Whole, organic vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole soy products, whole grains, and wild-caught fish such as Alaskan salmon are good choices that are low in saturated fats.
  • Eat antioxidant-rich berries and foods frequently. A lack of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, lutein, and zinc may increase the ability of plaque to stick to the blood vessel walls and promote macular damage. Berries, and blueberries in particular, can help provide some of these nutrients.

Supplements

  • Vitamin C. This potent antioxidant helps prevent free-radical damage to the eye, may delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), can lower pressure in the eye that's associated with glaucoma, and reduces the likelihood of developing cataracts.
  • Vitamin E. Along with vitamin C, zinc, and beta-carotene, vitamin E has been shown to prevent the development of macular degeneration.
  • Zinc. In supplement form this mineral may help slow the development of AMD, probably by combating free radicals that can damage cells in the eye.
  • Bilberry. An extract of this fruit, a close relative of the blueberry, provides concentrated flavonoid compounds that may help halt the progression of AMD.
  • Pycnogenol. This extract of the bark of the French maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) contains proanthocyanidins, which may be useful in maintaining eye health by supporting and maintaining the natural regeneration of rhodopsin, a purple pigment of the retina used for night vision.

HEART HEALTH

Simple preventive measures, including maintaining the right mix of healthy lifestyle habits, rather than drugs or surgery, are the best way to achieve optimal cardiovascular function. Use the following to promote the health of your heart:

Lifestyle

  • Exercise. Regular, moderate exercise helps maintain the health of blood vessels, strengthens the heart muscle itself, and can help reduce heart disease risk factors including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and stress. Aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity on most days of the week. For individual guidance, consult a personal trainer.
  • Lose weight. Even a modest amount of weight loss can significantly lower cardiovascular risks.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, and has negative health consequences for your entire body, from your taste buds to your energy levels to your skin. Seek support and guidance in quitting.
  • Manage stress. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and homocysteine levels. Practice breath work, meditation, guided imagery, visualization or another relaxation technique, and participate in regular moderate exercise (including yoga and T'ai chi), stay social, and laugh often.

Nutrition

  • Reduce intake of saturated fats. They can contribute to high cholesterol; avoid whole-fat dairy foods such as cheese, cream and milk, as well as red meat.
  • Limit consumption of trans-fats. Found in most margarines, snack foods, heavily processed foods and some cooking oils, these fats (often listed on food labels as "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oil) can reduce HDL ("good") cholesterol levels and raise LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels.
  • Eat some nuts every day. Nuts, especially almonds, walnuts and cashews contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
  • Substitute whole soy protein for animal protein. Excessive animal protein has been shown to raise homocysteine levels. Aim for two servings of whole soy protein, such as tofu or edamame, per day.
  • Use fresh garlic regularly. This traditionally medicinal herb has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. Use one or two raw or lightly cooked cloves a day.
  • Drink green tea daily. It provides EGCG, a polyphenol than may help to moderate inflammation and lower cholesterol.
  • Eat plenty of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber has a powerful cholesterol-lowering effect. Beans, legumes and whole grains are good sources.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates. A diet full of cookies, cakes, crackers, fluffy breads, chips and sodas can increase triglyceride levels and lower HDL.
  • Limit sodium intake. Excessive sodium has been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Avoid processed meals and canned foods, taste foods before you salt them and do not add salt while cooking, avoid foods that are visibly salted and read labels (aim for no more than 1,500 mg sodium per day).

Supplements

  • Fish oil. Several studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil with a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as lowered triglyceride levels and reduced blood pressure.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This is a powerful antioxidant that promotes the efficient utilization of energy at the cellular level and is especially beneficial to the heart muscle. It is a particularly important supplement for those who take cholesterol-lowering statin medications, which can inhibit the body's ability to synthesize CoQ10.
  • B vitamins. Low levels of B vitamins have been associated with increased blood levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid linked to heart disease risk.
  • Vitamin C. This antioxidant vitamin has been shown to help lower blood pressure in people with mild to moderate hypertension.

LUNG HEALTH

The ability to breathe properly is fundamental to good health. Don't take the health of your respiratory system for granted, even if you are not a smoker. Simple dietary and lifestyle steps can help promote healthy lungs - start today:

Lifestyle

  • Don't smoke. Tobacco addiction is the single greatest cause of preventable illness, greatly increasing the risks of developing lung cancer and respiratory diseases.
  • Get regular exercise. It helps promote healthy lung function and optimal oxygen delivery throughout the body.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises to increase lung capacity, improve respiratory efficiency, and promote general relaxation.
  • Maintain normal weight. Excess pounds tax both the heart and lungs. If you're overweight, you're more likely to experience shortness of breath.
  • Avoid exposure to environmental air pollutants. High ozone levels, smog, car exhaust, asbestos and metal dusts are unhealthy for lungs and can lead to lung disease. Use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter to reduce exposure to smoke and smog, and wear a protective mask when you are in close proximity to lung irritants such as drywall dust or fiberglass insulation fibers.
  • Limit exposure to toxic household cleaners. Chlorine bleach, petroleum distillates, ammonia, formaldehyde and nitrobenzene can harm the lungs.  Use safer alternatives for cleaning such as baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar.
  • Monitor your breathing. See your doctor if you have a prolonged dry cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Increase the quality of air you breathe. Consider investing in a HEPA-style air filtration system for your home and office.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
  • Practice good hygiene all the time, not just during cold and flu season. Regular, frequent hand washing may prevent upper respiratory infections, which are potential precursors to more serious lung issues. Soap and water are just as effective as antibacterial soaps, and are better for the environment.
  • Keep well hydrated. Maintaining proper fluid balance and moist respiratory tissues is critical for optimal respiratory functioning, immune surveillance, and oxygen exchange.

Nutrition

  • Eat more food with beta-carotenes. Peaches, melons, mangoes, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, winter squash and carrots all contain carotenoids - antioxidant compounds which may help minimize the risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Eat more apples. These pomaceous fruits promote overall lung health, likely due to their high concentration of anti-inflammatory flavonoids such as quercetin.

Supplements

  • Daily multivitamin. Look for products containing 15,000 IU of mixed carotenoids, including beta-carotene.
  • Vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin can provide additional protection against the oxidative effects of air pollution and smoke.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This powerful antioxidant can improve the use of oxygen at the cellular level.
  • Cordyceps and reishi mushrooms. These Chinese medicinal mushrooms may be useful in promoting optimal respiratory efficiency and protecting against chronic lung disease.
  • B vitamins. Especially B-6, may help protect against lung cancer by supporting immune function.
  • Vitamin D. This fat-soluble hormone may help prevent the cellular changes that promote lung cancer.
  • Aspirin. A daily aspirin may reduce the risk of lung cancer through its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Mullein. The flowers and leaves of this Mediterranean native can help relieve dry, bronchial coughs and help alleviate chest congestion.
  • Zhu ling (Polyporus umbellatus). This mushroom may be particularly useful in protecting against lung cancer: Research suggests it may help stimulate the body's immune response against lung tumors.

BONE & JOINT HEALTH

As we age, both men and women experience a loss of bone mass as well as normal wear and tear on the joints. Small preventive measures can help to protect joints and keep bones strong - use these suggestions:

Lifestyle
For Healthy Bones:

  • Get regular exercise. Weight-bearing exercise (walking, jogging or any exercise done on the feet) and strength training for muscles can help fortify bones and build bone mass.
  • Don't smoke and keep alcohol intake moderate. Both changes will help preserve bone and slow bone loss.

For Healthy Joints:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Losing just a few unnecessary pounds can alleviate excess mechanical stress on the affected joint(s).
  • Avoid intense activities that can injure or strain the joint cartilage.
  • Get exercise. Performed at a level that does not stress the affected joint(s), exercise can be helpful - it can strengthen surrounding muscles that support and protect the joint. Swimming, stationary cycling and light weight training are good choices, as are stretching exercises such as yoga and T'ai chi.

Nutrition
For Healthy Bones:

  • Get enough calcium. Non-fat dairy products (such as yogurt and non-fat milk); non-dairy, calcium-rich foods such as sardines and canned salmon (with bones); dark leafy greens; whole soy foods such as tofu; and calcium-fortified products such as soymilk and orange juice are good sources.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. Potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and beta carotene (found in fruits and vegetables) have been linked to higher total bone mass.
  • Eat magnesium-rich foods every day. Spinach, tofu, almonds, broccoli, lentils, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are good sources.
  • Watch protein intake. Excessive dietary protein can promote calcium loss from bones.
  • Cut back on caffeine, and decrease sodium intake. Too much of either can promote calcium excretion.

For Healthy Joints:

  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Focus on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold water, oily fish like salmon and sardines, and walnuts or freshly ground flaxseeds and spices like ginger and turmeric - all help reduce inflammation. Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid has more information and specific recommendations.
  • Eat foods rich in antioxidants. Found in fresh vegetables and fruit, antioxidants may help reduce tissue damage from inflammation.

Supplements
For Healthy Bones:

  • Calcium. People who don't get enough calcium may lose bone mass faster and fracture bones more easily. Taking half as much magnesium with supplemental calcium will help offset any constipating effects.
  • Vitamin D. It facilitates the absorption of calcium, helping to support healthy and strong bones. It also promotes bone mineralization.
  • Vitamin K. It helps activate certain proteins that are involved in the structuring of bone mass. Low intake of vitamin K has been linked to low bone density.

For Healthy Joints:

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin. These two supplements are from substances naturally found in healthy cartilage and appear to relieve pain, improve joint mobility, and slow osteoarthritis-related damage to the joints.
  • SAM-e. This naturally occurring molecule (S-adenosylmethioine) delivers sulfur to the cartilage, which helps build strong joints.
  • Evening primrose oil. A source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which may help maintain healthy joints.
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs. Ginger, holy basil, turmeric, green tea, rosemary, Scutellaria and hu zhang all have naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds that act as COX-2 inhibitors.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Use varieties that are molecularly distilled from the oil of fish or krill and contain EPA and DHA, which have been shown in studies to help maintain bone health and joint flexibility.

DIGESTIVE HEALTH

If you suffer from occasional indigestion, constipation, gas, irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive complaints, consider incorporating these simple, healthy strategies into your daily routine. Diet modification, stress management, regular exercise, and prudent supplementation can all be helpful:

Lifestyle

  • Exercise daily. Regular physical activity tones your intestines and is essential to regular bowel movements.
  • Manage stress. It can interfere with relaxation of the whole body, affecting how you digest food. Practice some form of relaxation technique daily, such as breathing exercises, biofeedback, or cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Avoid stimulants. Caffeinated beverages, coffee (including decaffeinated coffee), tobacco and other stimulants can irritate the GI tract.
  • Check your meds. Talk with your physician about over-the-counter and prescription medications you are taking, as some can affect digestion.
  • Don't eat right before bedtime. Give your meal adequate time to be broken down and digested.
  • Stop smoking. Tobacco smoking has been linked to several digestive disorders including heartburn, peptic ulcers, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. Strong spirits can irritate the digestive system. If you do consume alcoholic beverages, do so only with meals.

Nutrition

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help keep digestive systems running properly. Drinking fluids after, rather than during, a meal may help minimize symptoms of indigestion.
  • Eat a diet rich in fiber. Consume at least 40 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber a day, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep a food log. It can help you identify the causes or triggers of your digestive issues.
  • Eat small meals. Smaller portions place less demand on the digestive tract and are easier to digest than large meals.
  • Drink herbal tea. Pure peppermint-leaf tea, steeped for three to five minutes, is an excellent stomach soother. (However, it may worsen esophageal reflux by relaxing the sphincter where the esophagus joins the stomach.) Chamomile tea is an alternative.
  • Drink ginger tea. Also try candied ginger or take a 500 mg capsule of ginger root extract after a meal.
  • Avoid spicy foods. They can irritate the digestive tract and trigger indigestion.
  • Monitor how you eat. Don't chew with your mouth open, don't talk while eating and don't eat too quickly - all can contribute to indigestion.

Supplements

  • Probiotics. These products contain "friendly" bacteria that can stabilize the digestive tract and aid in digestion.
  • Plant-derived digestive enzymes. For example, bromelain, derived from pineapples, can help digest specific nutrients.
  • Artichoke-leaf extract. It may help with indigestion by increasing bile flow needed to digest fats.
  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). This herbal extract can soothe and protect the lining of the stomach and duodenum.

ENERGY

Persistent mild fatigue or a chronic lack of energy due to day-to-day stressors or hectic schedules can be addressed with simple preventive steps. Try the suggestions below:

Lifestyle

  • Get enough rest. Quality sleep and rest encourage optimum energy levels. Retiring one hour earlier will yield huge dividends in your overall productivity.  Try different amounts of sleep and see what works best.
  • Get regular exercise. Physical activity brings oxygen to the brain, resulting in a revitalized feeling. Aim for 45 minutes of some form of moderate exercise most days of the week.
  • Catch some sun. Expose yourself to natural sunlight every day. UV rays affect the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls the sleep cycle. 
  • Try the Stimulating Breath. Energize the mind and body with the Stimulating Breath: Sit with your back straight and place the tip of the tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind the upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. Rapidly breathe in and out through the nose for 10 seconds.
  • Cultivate a positive nature. Harboring anger, resentment, guilt and fear can deplete energy.

Nutrition

  • Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably organic) for their protective phytochemicals and micronutrients needed for optimal metabolism.
  • Become a grazer. A large meal can trigger the body to release more insulin, resulting in low blood sugar levels and a fatigue-inducing slump. Smaller meals or healthy snacks throughout the day can help keep blood sugar levels steady.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue - drink purified water or other healthy liquids throughout the day.
  • Snack right. Choose healthy snacks that contain some protein, carbohydrates, and beneficial fats or select whole foods that are low in fat. Good options include a handful of unsalted nuts, fresh or dried fruit, yogurt, vegetable sticks, and whole grain bread or crackers.
  • Eat more fiber. Navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils are all rich in fiber, which slows the release of insulin and helps maintain a steady supply of energy.

Supplements

  • Magnesium and calcium. Oral magnesium supplementation has been shown to help reduce symptoms of fatigue, especially for those with low magnesium levels.
  • Coenzyme Q10. This vital nutrient is involved in cellular energy production throughout the body.
  • Cordyceps. A traditional Chinese medicinal fungus that may help fight fatigue and boost energy levels. It is used as an energizing tonic and to help increase aerobic capacity and endurance.
  • D-Ribose. A five-carbon sugar used in the generation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), it helps maintain energy production in cells and can be especially beneficial for those with chronic fatigue.
  • Ginseng (American or Asian). Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are used for stimulant and adaptogenic (stress-protective) properties, respectively.
  • Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus). A woody shrub from northeastern Asia with properties similar to those of ginseng, it has a long history of use to maximize athletic performance. Studies show that eleuthero can help enhance mental activity as well. 
  • Arctic root (Rhodiola rosea). An adaptogenic herb that helps prevent fatigue, stress and the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation.
  • Vitamin B complex. B-vitamins act as cofactors in many metabolic reactions and assist in the metabolism of carbohydrates into energy.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

The immune system is your body's natural defense network - when it is weakened or compromised, you are more susceptible to disease and infection. You can encourage your natural healing response with these suggestions:

Lifestyle

  • Get regular exercise. It strengthens the immune system, in part by maintaining good circulation. Aim for 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity most days of the week.
  • Wash your hands frequently. Most of our contact with germs is with our hands, and scrubbing them with soap and water can ward off colds, flu, and other infectious illnesses. Make it a point to wash your hands often and when you are in a potentially infectious environment - antibacterial soaps aren't necessary, just use regular soap and water.
  • Make time for rest. Inadequate rest can have negative effects on your immune system, energy levels and mental alertness. Create a sleep and rest schedule and stick with it.
  • Learn to manage your stress. Increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol can weaken the immune system, leading to a host of health issues. Try writing out your thoughts in a journal, taking a "news fast" - avoiding the news on TV, the internet, papers and magazines - and practicing relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and visualization.
  • Get social and be positive. People who stay socially active and have a positive outlook tend to be healthier and live longer than those who are negative and isolated.

Nutrition

  • Eat plenty of fresh (preferably organic), whole fruits and vegetables. Aim for a variety of colors, from greens to bright reds and yellows. A synergistic mix of antioxidants helps boost the immune system and decrease the risk of illness.
  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. The regular consumption of inflammation moderating foods in combination with herbs such as garlic and cooked Asian mushrooms (shiitake, oyster mushrooms, maitake and enoki) can help support a healthy immune system.
  • Minimize your consumption of sugar and alcohol. It can impair the function of white blood cells and other immune issues.

Supplements

  • Take a daily antioxidant supplement. A quality supplement can help fill in any nutritional gaps in a healthy diet and support overall immune function.
  • Astragalus. This root of a plant in the pea family has antiviral and immune-enhancing properties and a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to ward off colds and flu.
  • Echinacea. The dried root and leaves of the purple coneflower can help stimulate immune activity and boost resistance against bacteria and virus.
  • Immune-enhancing mushrooms. Maitake, reishi, agaricus, and enoki all provide immune-strengthening benefits. Combination products are often more effective than individual species.
  • Arctic root or rhodiola. Also known as "golden root" or "roseroot," this is traditionally used in Eastern Europe as a general tonic and can help reduce the harmful effects of stress on the immune system.

STRESS

By identifying the problems and situations that create stress and learning to manage them by practicing general techniques of stress protection, you can begin to reduce stress, and lessen its impact on health. Try the following suggestions:

Lifestyle

  • Try mind-body exercises. Breath work, meditation, guided imagery, yoga and biofeedback can all help you gain perspective and control over emotions.
  • Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of psychotherapy can help you to recognize thinking patterns that lead to worry, and teach ways to address them with healthy coping skills.
  • Get a companion animal. Caring for a cat or dog that you love may benefit the activity of parasympathetic nervous system, which mediates stress-sensitive organs such as the heart, stomach and intestines.
  • Avoid stimulants. Caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants can exacerbate tension, nervousness and worry.
  • Get regular physical activity. A combination of aerobic exercises, strength training, and post workout stretching can lower stress hormones and increase mood-boosting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins.
  • Explore acupuncture. Traditional Chinese medicine can help address anxiety and chronic worry with interventions based on the flow of energy through the body.
  • Build a strong support system. People who are able to cope well with stress often have strong social support networks with family, friends and even companion animals.
  • Have limits. If asked to take on too much work or responsibility, say no, and don't feel guilty about it.
  • Laugh it off. Laughter is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress.
  • Take a media break or news fast. Research has shown that the emotional content of the news can negatively affect mood and aggravate sadness and depression. Avoid all media as much as possible for a week, or even just a few days, and see how you feel.
  • Check medications. Ask you doctor or pharmacist to discuss side effects of your meds. Many can aggravate anxiety or depression.
  • Make sure you set aside down-time or relaxation time every day.
  • Identify your stressors. Simply making a list of things that cause stress in your life can help you identify and avoid common stressors.
  • Learn to think of stressful situations as temporary challenges, and overcome the tendency to be pessimistic. Learn and cultivate optimism.

Nutrition

  • Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish such as salmon, black cod, or sardines, A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with increased anxiety and depression.
  • Avoid alcohol as a means to cope with stress. It is potentially addictive and not a healthy way to neutralize stress.

Supplements

  • Multivitamin. A daily multivitamin can help to counteract the negative effects of unhealthy stress on the body.
  • B-complex. B vitamins can help balance mood, calm the nervous system and alleviate stress, and increase the efficacy of prescription anti-depressants.
  • Omega-3 (fish oil) supplement. Either from molecularly distilled fish oil or from krill. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with increased anxiety and depression.
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). An extract from the root of this flowering perennial contains essential oils that have been shown to help some people more effectively deal with stress.
  • Calcium and magnesium. Both are essential for relaxation and may help support healthy sleep, and magnesium can help relax muscles.
  • St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum).  Extract of this flowering herb, indigenous to Europe, may help boost mood and maintain a healthy emotional outlook.