Individuals prone to stress or fatigue tend to reach for stimulants for energy. But little do we know the effects coffee can have on our health. Substituting with adaptogens can be a solution for many individuals leading a high stress life.
These are key questions I ask my client as a certified Naturopath to identify how your response to stress is affecting your overall body systems:
- Can you rate your stress levels on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.
- Rate your energy levels upon waking up in the morning?
- How is your sleep quality?
- Do you experience symptoms of anxiety?
- How many cups of coffee are you having?
If you’re indeed by the above, you may be associated with high cortisol levels, which are your stress hormones. If you are experiencing these symptoms, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with adaptogens. But first, let’s understand the term stress in a little more detail.
Positive Stress Vs. Negative Stress
Stress is caused when we are faced with pressures – internal or external – causing changes within our physiological, psychological and emotional response. The truth is we need a balanced amount of stress, always.
Positive changes can be positive stress. For instance, when we learn new skills, challenging ourselves to perform better at work; this produces chemicals inside our brain, such as cortisol, to help us cope with different situations. The feelings behind such positive stress are motivation, inspiration and having a sense of accomplishment. In a positive stress situation, there is a break of the stress cycle which enables our nervous system to calm down, lowering our blood pressure & promotes digestion of food, known as rest & digestion.
Without a break from the stress cycle, it leads to an overproduction of the cortisol hormone which then tilts to a becoming a negative stress response. For instance, in a normal stress response, our cortisol levels are highest in the early morning, lower in the afternoon, and slowly decline to their lowest in the nighttime. In individuals with prolonged stress, cortisol does not drop at night and sometimes even increases in the evening leading to the inability to fall asleep. Other symptoms of prolonged stress include anxiety, fatigue, hormonal imbalance & weight gain. This is where adaptogens can help lay the foundation to assist with the symptoms associated with prolonged stress.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens have a long history of use amongst Traditional Chinese Medicine and the world of Ayurveda. The word adaptogen refers to a group of herbs which:
- Acts as a thermostat in the body. This means that if certain hormones are too high, adaptogens help to bring them down, and if hormones get too low, adaptogens help to bring them up
- Has a normalizing effect on the body while strengthening body systems compromised by stress
- Is non-specific, meaning it works holistically in a way that adaptogens support not only one body system but also various other body systems. Adaptogens support the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is our central stress response system. It simultaneously modulates the immune system by increasing the activity of T-cells and B-cells, which are directly linked to healthy immunity
- Enhances your liver function, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Improves digestion
So now you can see that adaptogens have a comprehensive effect on the entire body system. It helps lay the foundation to help us adapt to environmental challenges & resilience to stress.
5 Adaptogens You Should Choose
- Ashwagandha – Known as the king of Ayurvedic herbs. Helps with anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia & fatigue and is one of the most calming adaptogens. It works by building tonic due to the high iron content supporting individuals with a weak constitution (state of being). Ashwagandha assists in the restoration of the hormonal system, promotes restful sleep, and helps modulate the immune system. To begin consumption in power format 2.9 to 4.8g a day is the recommendation
- Rhodiola – Helps improve physical & mental performance, aids in concentration and memory, especially when under stress. It has an energizing effect on the body as it uplifts the mood and gives resilience to stress. To begin, start at 6 to 12g a day
- Schisandra Chinensis – A five-flavoured berry. Improves overall physical and mental performance, especially for those that are experiencing stress & fatigue, affecting the sleep or libido. It acts as an antioxidant that regulates the mood & supports liver health. In powder form, begin at, 3.0 to 5.0g per day
- Reishi – A medicinal mushroom, helps to modulate the immune system. It is helpful for individuals that are experiencing stress, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep issues. It helps to achieve a calm state long-term and promotes peace. Powder of 20 to 27g a day is the recommendation
- Holy basil – An aromatic herb that acts as an internal diffuser – meaning that it helps to warm up the body by increasing circulation specifically for those with cold hands & feet, dryness associated with the digestive system, while uplifting the mind. For powdered basil, 250mg to 1g is the recommendation
So, How Do You Use Them?
Adaptogens come in powder form, capsules, tea, and in the form of tinctures. However, the most potent form of taking them would be either in powder form or herbal tinctures. You can add powders to your smoothies or a warm cup of tea, starting with two teaspoons and increasing dosage when required.
Contraindications: Adaptogens can increase the effectiveness of some conventional medications such as antibiotics, antidepressants, and hypoglycemics agents. On the other hand, adaptogens can also reduce the side effects of certain medications. If you are on any of these medications, check with your practitioner before using them. Overall, they are a safe, effective, and versatile group of herbs used to treat various body systems associated with high-stress levels
What Is The Best Adaptogen?
No amount of adaptogen can substitute a good quality sleep. About 8 hours of quality sleep is required as this supports the adrenal function, promotes blood sugar balance, improves immunity and overall modulates your stress levels
Stress is avertable, and a little bit of stress is necessary but prolonged stress can lead to various health consequences. Finding healthy solutions to manage stress is crucial and therefore adaptogens can help lay the foundation for our health in the long term due to the way that it works holistically and benefits various body systems.