Adaptogens to reduce stress and support healthy longevity!

brain health healthy eating healthy living healthy recipes meditation mindful movement morning practice real food resilience sleep stress-free sugarfree Jul 17, 2022

You may hear the word ‘Stress’ and immediately think of the mental and emotional aspects such feeling overwhelmed, overly busy, and/or anxious.  And of course stress is one of the key factors in premature aging.

In reality, the body actually encounters different forms of stress every day and is always working to restore equilibrium. In other words, your body is 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 still a form of stress the body has to deal with!
  • LACK OF SLEEP
  • VIRUSES/COLDS
  • TOXINS - like exposure to processed food products (sugar and flour, processed oils, etc.), environmental pollutants, heavy metals, and chemicals in personal care and cleaning products
  • ANXIETY - which can be caused by stress or will exacerbate existing stress

Decreasing stress is critical for good health

Too much stress can cause weight gain, poor digestion, increased inflammation, accelerated cellular aging, and hormonal imbalances, including adrenal dysfunction.  In fact your adrenals are responsible for your body’s response to stress, so it can be a vicious cycle.

GOOD NEWS! There are plenty of ways to reduce the impact of stress in your life, including:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Keep up with a regular exercise routine
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of whole foods
  • Practising tried ‘n true stress relief techniques (including, of course, yoga and meditation)

But, if you’re looking for something natural (because they are herbs!) to add to your diet, 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? 

WHAT are these little plant powerhouses, what can they DO for the body (especially one that’s under stress) and are they SAFE to supplement with?

Keep reading for a recipe for a smooth ‘n creamy smoothie that incorporates an ingredient that you’ve probably heard plenty about BUT didn’t even know it was considered an ADAPTOGEN!

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.  And all of these benefits will also promote healthy longevity.

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 somewhat complex, but here goes:

Natural (Normal) Stress Response

  • The Amygdala (in the centre of your brain) stays vigilant to detect danger!
  • When we encounter a perceived threat – whether real or imagined – we may respond in a variety of ways:  physical, mental or emotional
  • Hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain's base, kicks into gear and releases a hormone, “waking up” the Pituitary Gland, which in turn sends a hormone to the Adrenal Glands
  • The Adrenal Glands then release stress hormones, Adrenaline and Cortisol
  • Adrenaline increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and pumps up energy reserves
  • Cortisol increases glucose in the bloodstream; and slows down nonessential functions such as immunity, digestion, reproduction and growth

This Stress Response is meant to be an occasional thing – not turned on all day, every day as happens in our modern day western culture.  This overtaxes and stresses our bodies, leaving us “tired and wired.”

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 the recipe below!

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! 

Reduce your stress!

Take an honest look at your lifestyle and food choices, acknowledging what you might want to reduce (processed junk foods, stressful situations) and what you can increase (gentle and enjoyable exercise, meditation, healthy real food and sleep).

And try experimenting with adding Adaptogens to your smoothies, soups and other recipes.  Enjoy!

RECIPE ~ Maca Mocha Smoothie

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup coconut or other dairy-free milk
  • ¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1 blueberries, thawed if frozen
  • 1 tsp maca powder (can work up to 2 tsp per day)
  • 1 tsp - 1 Tb cacao powder, raw & unprocessed
  • Optional: 2 tsp raw cacao nibs

 Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender. 
  2. Blend until frothy and desired consistency. 
  3. Add in cacao nibs for the last 10 seconds of blending for added texture. Crunch with benefits!

 Options

  1. Substitute your choice of fruit for the blueberries.
  2. Defrost any frozen fruit overnight in the fridge.  Ayurvedic practices suggest that cold food and beverages are more difficult to digest than those that are at room temperature or heated.

REFERENCES

Healthline: Adaptogenic Herbs: List, Effectiveness, and Health Benefits

Healthline: Smart Girl’s Guide to Adaptogens for Hormonal Balance and Stress

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2017: Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals

Pharmaceuticals, 2010: Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity

MindBodyGreen: Adaptogens For Stress & Fatigue 

 

For more info on this and other natural health topics:

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