Hello my friends! With September upon us we welcome Fall, and, for many of us, the return to school. University, college, trade school, online classes… whatever it may be, school and all the learning, studying, and growth that comes along with it can be quite taxing on our body, brain, and our mental health.
In January 2016, I went back to school, taking full time studies, for the first time in nearly 5 years. I went into my classes with total positivity. I had always been a good student, I knew I could do this. Yet, as the months wore on, my body and mind began to suffer the consequences of the high stress situation. I wondered if my mental health could sustain this… Could my brain possibly hold this much information?
Until one magical day, a favorite teacher of mine (also a naturopathic doctor) suggested that I find the right supplements to support myself. I knew he was right. Throughout my studies, I tried and tested different vitamins, supplements, and herbs until I discovered exactly what worked for me. Using these supplements as support, on top of a clean diet, I felt sharper and better equipped, and my anxiety decreased drastically!
Now, I’d like to equip you with my list of top supplements for students!
Remember, the number one thing you can do to support yourself throughout school is a clean, healthy diet that works for you (hint- your brain on sugar is not conducive to learning!). On top of that, these supplements can help support the body and mind throughout the school year, keeping you on the ball and a whole lot calmer.
Remember that every body is different, and I do suggest speaking to your healthcare provider before beginning a new supplement regime. These are the supplements that worked for me:
B vitamins play tons of roles in the body. Major roles include energy production and regulation, mood regulation and stability, and offsetting the negative effects of stress. Having a sufficient level of B vitamins improves mental clarity and memory retention, and supports brain health. When you are studying, your brain fires through B vitamins quickly, increasing the need to replace them in the body.
Supplement brands & dosage: I used AOR Advanced B Complex.
A trusted brand will have the accurate level of each B vitamin to take per day. Note that B vitamins can cause some stomach upset if taken on an empty stomach, so always take your B vits with food!
Fish Oils (EPA + DHA)
Fish oils, particularly EPA and DHA, are a healthy fat which support cognitive health and brain function. Consider this- more than half the brain is made up of fat (nearly 30% DHA), so feeding our brains fat for fuel makes sense! Not only that, EPA and DHA have a positive effect on your mood, and have been shown to reduce depression. As a bonus- these fish oils are well studied for their anti-inflammatory effect, which improves overall body health.
Best food sources: …Fish. 🙂 All fish, with SMASH fish having the highest levels. Salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring.
Supplement brands & dosage: Look for a ratio of 2:1 EPA to DHA. I use professional brand NFH Trident Sap 66:33, which is a blend of 660 mg EPA and 330 mg DHA per capsule (2 a day). Best retail brands include Nordic Naturals (best) and Ascenta NutraSea High-Potency (most cost-effective).
Herbal Adrenal Support (Adaptogens)
Assignments, tests, deadlines, etc. = stress. I could tell you to “minimize stresses” in your life, but let’s be honest- that isn’t always an option. Although, the way we look at stress and the way we deal with stress makes a difference on how stress affects our body and mental health. So finding ways to deal, such as meditation, exercise, or whatever works for you, are particularly important. However, if you haven’t quite found the tools to deal with stress, or if you’re doing all the things and still feel overwhelmed, why not level up and give your body some extra support?
Enter adaptogens, a category of herbs which help our systems adapt to stress. They act as an adrenal tonic to support our adrenal system, helping us feel less stressed and overall more calm. My favorite adaptogens are siberian ginseng, licorice root, ashwagandha, and holy basil.
Nervine tonics pair nicely with adaptogens, as they strengthen, feed, and restore the nervous system. Examples include oat seed, St. John’s wort, and blue vervain. Note that certain herbs will counteract with certain conditions and medications, so you will have to do your research and speak to a healthcare provider to find a blend that will work best for your body!
Best food sources: If you’d prefer to add dried, powdered herbs (such as ashwagandha) to your smoothie in the morning, this is definitely an option. However, most adaptogens are fat soluble so they will function most optimally as a tincture (a liquid form which is added to water and drank cold).
Supplement brands & dosage: I used Adrenal Tincture from Finlandia Pharmacy (in Vancouver), which is a blend of oat seed, gotu kola, siberian ginseng, licorice root, blue vervain, and ashwaganda. Strest by St. Francis is a great tincture as well, containing rhodiola, holy basil, ashwagandha, eleuthero, milky oat seed and schisandra.
Another blend I like (although not a tincture and it contains some non-herbal supplements) is Stress Formula by Veeva (lemon balm, ashwagandha, rhodiola, theanine, choline, inositol, 5-HTP, black pepper, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon). Again, you will have to find the right blend for your body, and a trusted brand will have appropriate dosage information.
There you have it! Those are my top supplements for students. If you find you have a weaker immune system (get sick frequently), you may consider taking vitamin C or other immune supporters (such as echinacea or mushroom extracts) during school as well. When the body is under stress, it prioritizes dealing with the perceived stress over other bodily functions, such as fighting off viruses and bacteria.
Let me know if any of these suggestions help you throughout the school year. To everyone who is choosing to pursue their studies, their dreams, their passions- please remember to be gentle with yourself and take time for self care. You’ve got this! <3
*Note- This article is meant for adults; these supplements are not recommended for children. Regardless of age, always consult your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any new supplements.
**If you would like help finding the right diet and supplement regime for your body, I would be happy to work with you! Contact me here.