By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Stress is at the root of many modern illnesses. Though some stress is necessary for keeping your immune system agile and for helping you stay alive in dangerous situations, prolonged and persistent stress can contribute to anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, leaky gut, adrenal fatigue and many autoimmune conditions.
Unfortunately, most of us are exposed to chronic and persistent stressors, such as long hours at work, traffic, and worrying about finances. While some stress is normal, its impact on your health can be minimized by managing and relieving stress in a healthy manner. More and more people are turning to adaptogens for stress relief and adrenal balance!
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are herbs and plants which have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions for helping the body react healthily to stress. Non-toxic in nature, adaptogens manage all kinds of stressors whether they are chemical, biological or physical. They help to balance the body and support the adrenals.
While some adaptogens are used for stimulating the body and enhancing mental performance, others are used for their calming effects. Adaptogens can boost strength and vitality, combat adrenal fatigue, and treat various issues- from asthma to infertility! These special plants and herbs can also support the natural circadian rhythm of the body and help promote more restful sleep.
How do adaptogens work?
To understand the working of adaptogens, you need to look at the “HPA axis”. Your hypothalamus is the part of your brain which recognizes stress. When you are feeling stressed, your hypothalamus sends signals to your pituitary glands, which signals to your adrenals to produce and release stress hormones. This is known as your Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal or HPA axis.
Chronic stress keeps your HPA axis engaged on a constant basis. This can affect your sleep, mood, immune system, blood sugar, thyroid, appetite and much more, which has a bad effect on your overall health. Being in a constant state of biological stress is also quite taxing to your adrenal glands and micronutrient reserves.
Your adrenal glands have to work extremely hard to keep up with the demand of being constantly engaged. Chronic stress can fatigue your adrenals, leading to adrenal dysfunction and burnout.
Adaptogenic herbs promote a more balanced response to persistent stress. They also help regulate the production of stress hormones and cortisones, which protects against adrenal fatigue and HPA axis dysfunction. By modulating cellular sensitivity to stress hormones, adaptogens encourage a healthier response to stress overall.
The following are some of the best adaptogens which have been studied for their positive effects on stress relief and adrenal balance.
Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen which has been shown to reduce inflammation, calm the mind, and lower blood pressure. It also enhances the activity of immune cells which help to fight off infections and cancer. Its anti-inflammatory effects help to relieve pain associated with arthritis.
Ashwagandha boosts adrenal function, and is a favorite for balancing stress hormones, enabling anxiety relief, and increasing energy in those who are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Maca is both an adaptogen and superfood which makes it unique. It is grown in the Andes Mountains. Maca is a root vegetable which is rich in protein, calcium, fiber, magnesium and amino acids like arginine and glycine. It has been used medicinally for centuries for improving mood and symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Maca regulates hormones by increases hormone production when your body is under-producing, and brings down hormone production when your body is over-producing hormones. With continual use, maca nourishes and enhances the function of the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, which helps to restore the adrenals.
Maca is very tasty and can be taken both as a food or in supplement form. It has a nutty, butterscotch-like flavor which can be mixed easily into smoothies or even baked goods for a strong energy boost!
Ginseng Chronic stress can contribute to inflammation and trigger many illnesses on account of an imbalanced immune response and hormone dysfunction. Ginseng has the ability to greatly reduce chronic stress by regulating the HPA axis, and decreasing depression, anxiety and other HPA axis related disorders. It can also help to prevent autoimmune disease by suppressing proinflammatory cytokines which are generated by chronic stress.
Rhodiola Excessive cortisol (primary stress hormone) can cause depletion of your nutrient reserves, impair your memory, and can have damaging effects on your blood sugar, blood pressure and metabolism. Rhodiola is an adaptogen which has been proven to lower the secretion of cortisol during stressful situations. It can increase energy and concentration in people who have been suffering from adrenal fatigue. It also has anti-depressive and cardioprotective effects.
We hope that this article has helped you better understand the benefits of adaptogenic herbs for your adrenal health. Do you use any adaptogenics? Let us know your favorites in the comments section!