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:
- HIGH INTENSITY EXERCISE – yep, it’s good for you, but it’s a form of stress the body has to deal with!
- LACK OF SLEEP
- TOXINS – like exposure to environmental pollutants, heavy metals, alcohol, and chemicals in personal care and cleaning products
- ANXIETY – which can be caused by stress or exacerbates existing stress
- FOOD & ENVIRONMENTAL ALLERGENS – inflammation & histamine release causes internal stress
- BLOOD SUGAR SWINGS – from skipping meals, imbalanced macronutrients, refined foods
Decreasing your stress load is critical for good health. Too much stress can cause weight gain, poor digestion, increased inflammation, accelerated cellular aging, hormonal imbalances, including adrenal dysfunction – your adrenals are responsible for your body’s response to stress.
GOOD NEWS! There are plenty of ways to reduce the impact of stress in your life, including:
- Improving the quality of your sleep
- Move your body in a way that’s suitable for you
- Eating a healthy, macro and micro nutrient balanced meals full of whole foods
- Practicing tried ‘n true stress relief techniques (nature walks, sound therapy, aroma therapy, creating healthy boundaries around your time, make relaxation a priority)
But, if you’re looking for something to naturally support your stress relief & health goals, 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 TCM – Traditional Chinese Medicine 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, supports metabolism & thyroid health (not recommended if you have a sensitivity to nightshades or an autoimmune condition)
- ASIAN GINSENG – decreases fatigue, calming effect
- MACA – boosts energy levels, balances hormones, supports healthy sex drive
- RHODIOLA ROSEA – boosts energy, stamina, and immune system function
- SCHISANDRA FRUIT – enhances energy, detoxification and cognitive function/memory
- LICORICE ROOT – helps with morning energy in those who feel exhausted, supports digestion. Contraindicated with high cortisol levels in the morning & high blood pressure.
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:
The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA AXIS) is a negative feedback system in the body designed to activate the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ reaction in the body, which is a sympathetic nervous system activation response.
Chronic stress causes a prolonged activation of the HPA axis, and the ongoing elevation of cortisol can eventually cause the tissue receptor sites to become less responsible to cortisol which is termed “cortisol resistance”.
Due to constant regulatory demands, the negative feedback system can ‘exhaust’ the adrenal gland & can lead to insufficient hormone production AKA adrenal fatigue.
Research has found Adaptogens help support these 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 our 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 4-6 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 and don’t start a new routine while you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Afternoon Energy Fix Cacao
This is my favourite way to rejuvenate for the later part of my day when I need a little break in the afternoon. Drink it outside whilst enjoying the peace in nature if you can! In this recipe I used maca, but you can use whatever adaptogen you’d like.
1 cup unsweetened vanilla oat milk (or other dairy-free milk)
1 tsp maca powder (can work up to 2 tsp per day)
1 Tbsp cacao powder, raw & unprocessed (non-Dutch)
1/2 tsp true cinnamon
Pinch Himalayan salt
Optional add in: 1 serving of collagen + 1 Tbsp MCT oil or grass-fed butter
Warm up milk over the stove. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender.
Blend until frothy and desired consistency.
Enjoy in peace!