Shawn Peters, Naturopathic Medical Student
Life as a student can be a very exciting time, though not without it’s challenges. This is true for any student and, in particular, those in demanding programs or experiencing the difficulty of student life. I felt it during my undergraduate degree and, as a naturopathic medical student, I feel it now. With student life comes greater amounts of stress and demands on one’s body and brain, as well as their corresponding effects. In order to support students best, I believe most could benefit from the addition of a few key supplements and principles.
As always, before using any herb or nutrient consult with a professional about any potential effects or contraindications.
For students themselves, or for the parents of students looking for extra help, here is my list of key supplements for every student:
- Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids: Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are those healthy lipids that the body itself cannot produce and as such must be acquired from food or supplement. What makes EFAs so important for students is their role in both brain health and nervous system health. EFAs (docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA) particularly) are key components of both brain tissue and nerves (myelin sheath).1 EFAs can be found in fish, chia, flax, many nuts and seeds, and algae, as well as in supplement form.
- B-Complex (particularly B5): B-vitamins play a critical role in many bodily processes, including many energy pathways. B-vitamins also play a role in supporting our ability to deal with stress, particularly vitamin B5 which is thought of as the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin.1 B5 also helps to support proper adrenal function.1 As many students are under constant stress, a B-complex supplement is an important part of helping students deal with stress.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is known for its role as an antioxidant, particularly against free radicals.1 Many free radicals can be produced during times of stress and vitamin C can help to stop free radicals and support stress via proper adrenal gland function.1
- Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo is known for i’s ability to improve blood circulation, particularly to the brain.2,3 As such, it is known to improve both brain function and concentration.2,3
- Ashwagandha or Bacopa: Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Bacopa monnieri (Bacopa) are both adaptogens.2,3 Herbs that are adaptogens help the body deal with stress by normalizing responses to stressors; adaptogens help us to moderate stress.3 Ashwagandha also helps to support proper adrenal gland function.3 Bacopa specifically helps with short and long-term memory, as well as assisting general cognitive abilities, such as concentration and learning.3
In order to get the most from our bodies and minds, as well as generally maintain good health during periods of excess stress, it is important to work in exercise, proper sleep, and a varied diet. While it is at times difficult, doing so will pay off not only in one’s health but in one’s mental performance. As a student, I know that working smarter is working better.
With an interest in nutrition, I both attended and instructed at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in Calgary. I practised natural nutrition and worked in health food stores for the better part of a decade before I decided to actively pursue naturopathic medicine. The Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine was a natural choice for me and I am loving it. I am deeply passionate about environmental stewardship, intentional communities, and philosophy, including animal rights.
- Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts.
- Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
- Marciano, M., Dr. (n.d.). The Naturopathic Herbalist. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from http://thenaturopathicherbalist.com/