You may hear the word ‘STRESS’ and immediately think of the mental and emotional aspects along the lines of feeling overwhelmed, overly busy, and/or anxious.
In reality, the body actually encounters different forms of stress every day and is always working to restore equilibrium.
Your body is literally constantly being bombarded by stress – even when you don’t feel stressed!
Here are some examples of common, daily stressors:
- EXERCISE – yep, it’s good for you, but it’s a form of stress the body has to deal with!
- LACK OF SLEEP
- PAIN – like headaches and their negative impact on your body and your life
- TOXINS – like exposure to environmental pollutants, heavy metals, and chemicals in personal care and cleaning products
- ANXIETY – which can be caused by stress or exacerbates existing stress
Decreasing stress is critical for good health. Too much stress can cause increased inflammation, poor digestion, accelerated cellular ageing, hormonal imbalances including adrenal dysfunction – your adrenals are responsible for your body’s response to stress.
Ugh, pretty bleak. But there is good news! There are plenty of ways to reduce the impact of stress in your life, including:
- Getting enough sleep
- Keeping up with a regular exercise or movement routine
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of whole foods
- Increasing mindfulness
- Practicing tried and true stress relief techniques (hello meditating, journaling, and deep breathing!))
Yes, these are simple solutions and you’ve likely seen them suggested over and over again. But there is a reason for that – they work. So before you write them off as not working, ask yourself if you are actually consistently implementing them.
But, if you’re looking for something to naturally supplement your diet with, in a way that can minimize the impact that daily stressors have on your body, you might want to consider adding an ADAPTOGEN (or two) to your health plan.
What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens – or Adaptogenic Herbs – are plant-based supplements (usually in pill or powder form) that do just what they sound like: they can help your body adapt to the stressors of your personal environment.
Adaptogens have a long history of use in ancient medical practices, like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic practices.
Current research has found that adaptogens boost mental function, attention span, and energy during times of stress and reduce the overall production of inflammatory stress hormones, like cortisol.
Here are 5 common adaptogens:
- ASHWAGANDHA – decreases anxiety, calming effect
- ASIAN GINSENG – decreases fatigue, calming effect
- MACA – boosts energy levels, balances hormones
- RHODIOLA ROSEA – boosts energy and immune system function
- SCHISANDRA FRUIT – enhances energy and cognitive function
How do Adaptogens work?
The molecular pathways involved in the body’s stress response are pretty complicated!
The 3 glands responsible for regulating stress hormones:
Surely you’ve heard of adrenal fatigue but the title of this condition is a misnomer. Think of heartburn – we use this term casually but it is neither a medical term nor does the condition have anything to do with the heart. It is usually due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) but we rarely say this.
Because as a society, we are all stressed and know of the connection between stress and the adrenals, it became increasingly popular to talk about a condition called adrenal fatigue. But, in this condition, your adrenal glands are not fatigued. What’s more accurately happening is hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation.
Your stress response is largely ruled by the HPA axis and not how nuts your family is driving you. Stress triggers the HPA axis to send a chain of biochemical messages to release things like hormones. Over time, there is a change in production of these messages and hormones as your HPA axis has been endlessly triggered
Research has found adaptogens help support these three glands in achieving equilibrium or homeostasis – a fancy way of saying that they help stress hormones get back into balance.
Unlike caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs, adaptogens can gently help reduce stress hormones, decrease anxiety levels, and prevent fatigue without any crazy spikes or crashes in energy.
How do you take Adaptogens – and are they safe?
Adaptogens are available in pill or powdered form, of which powders can easily be added to teas, smoothies, soups, and other recipes – see the recipe at the end!
The best part about these herbal supplements is that it’s not necessary to take every adaptogen every day, and choosing just one to add to your routine can still provide health benefits.
It’s recommended to rotate between adaptogens, using one at a time for several weeks and then switching to another, if desired, to reap the benefits of several varieties.
You should follow the dosing instructions on the product label or consult with a Natural Health Practitioner for specific adaptogen recommendations related to the health conditions that you may be experiencing.
It’s important to note, though, that while most adaptogens are generally safe for nearly everyone, please supplement with awareness!
- ¾ cup almond or other dairy-free milk
- ¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled (preferably organic)
- 1 banana, frozen in chunks
- 3 tbsp hemp hearts
- 1 handful spinach
- 1 tsp maca powder (can work up to 2 tsp per day)
- 1 tsp - 1 Tb cacao powder, raw & unprocessed (non-Dutch)
- Optional: 2 tsp raw cacao nibs
- Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender.
- Blend until frothy and desired consistency.
- Add in cacao nibs for last 10 seconds of blending for added texture. Crunch with benefits!
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2017: Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals