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Chronic, low-grade stress is a modern day epidemic that creates sluggish metabolism, chronic inflammation and abnormal immunity. Elevated stress hormone levels can create digestive problems and leaky gut syndrome, increased appetite, weight gain, thyroid disorders and accelerated brain degeneration.
These are common findings in the brains of those with anxiety disorders, depression and other psychological disorders (1). Many auto-immune conditions have chronically elevated stress hormone production as a catalyst for this abnormal immune response (2).
HPA Axis and Its Role in Your Health:
The body processes stress through what is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This means that an area of the brain called the hypothalamus senses the environmental conditions and sends chemical signals to the pituitary gland which then sends chemical signals to the adrenal glands for the appropriate response to the environmental stressor.
When an individual is under chronic stress it alters this HPA axis and hampers the body’s ability to effectively adapt to stress. This is a condition called adrenal fatigue and adrenal exhaustion. When the body is under adrenal fatigue it cannot adapt effectively to its environment. This leads to a vicious cycle of chronic inflammation, tissue breakdown and accelerated aging (3).
Effects of Chronic Stress:
Adaptogenic Herbs and Your Stress Response:
One of the key components that adaptogenic herbs offer is their ability to lower and stabilize stress hormone levels. Elevated stress hormones such as cortisol can drain the precursors to major hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. With less than adequate raw materials, the body becomes sex hormone deficient. This process rapidly accelerates the aging process and makes an individual’s life miserable.
Healthy individuals have stable cortisol levels that naturally spike in the morning and then level off and stay consistently low during the day before tapering at night. This allows us to wake up with energy in the morning and maintain that energy until nightfall when we should naturally be gearing down and getting ready for sleep. Stable cortisol levels result in improved mental clarity and memory. The individual feels as though they are less agitated and anxious and therefore able to perform better and have higher quality of life (4).
The body’s ability to effectively adapt to stress is the hallmark sign of successful health. There are certain performance aids that help our bodies modulate the stress response and adapt effectively. These substances are called adaptogens for their remarkable ability to enhance stress adaptation.
Key Adaptogenic Herbs & Nutrients:
Ginseng has been given the Greek name, Panax, which means "all curing" as it has remarkable adaptogenic qualities that benefit individuals no matter what phase of life or stressors they are encountering.
Research has shown that ginseng has the ability to stabilize blood sugar by improving fatty acid metabolism.(5) This reduces stress on the adrenals and improves stamina, energy and physical performance. The compounds in ginseng also improve oxygenation throughout the body and improve the immune system.(6)
Cordyceps is shown to help the body produce and balance cortisol and other stress hormones (7). The adaptogenic qualities allows them to influence the body towards homeostatic balance. This means that they move the body in the direction of a normal homeostatic set point. If stress hormones are too high, they lower and stabilize them and if stress hormones are too low, they raise and stabilize them (8
In a 2003 study, Cordyceps extract was shown to improve a group of rats physical performance in an endurance swim by over 16% . The rats also showed signs of reduced stress during the swim compared to the placebo group (9).
A 2014 study showed that Cordyceps markedly reduced exercise induced oxidative stress in a group of rats. The study showed that the rats using Cordyceps has significantly increased production of intracellular anti-oxidants superoxide dismutase, glutathione and catalase in their serum, liver and muscle. They had considerably lower oxidative stress markers in their serum, liver and muscle (10).
Rhodiola contains a number of powerful anti-oxidants including the glycosides (rosavin, rosin, rosarin) and flavonoids (rodiosin, rodionin, rodiolin, quercetin, proanthocyanidins, acetylrodaglin, kaempferol), monoterpenes, triterpenes and phenolic acids such as chlorogenic and gallic acid. This unique array of phytonutrients allows rhodiola to adapt to stressful environmental conditions and it helps modulate our ability to withstand daily stressors. (11)
Rhodiola is known to help people calm their emotions and stimulate cognitive processes that improve memory and creative thinking. Several studies have shown that rhodiola improves associative thinking, speed of audiovisual perception and ability to perform complex calculations. Researchers also found that it significantly reduced stress-induced fatigue after just two weeks of regular usage. (12)
Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid:
The most studied role of pantothenic acid in health support is its incorporation into a molecule called Coenzyme A (CoA). This molecule is arguably on the short list of the most important chemicals needed to sustain life. CoA occupies a central place in energy metabolism, acting to allow carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to be burned as fuel sources.
B5 is also responsible for the production of sex and stress-related hormones including testosterone and serotonin. Studies show that B5 also promotes healthy skin with the ability to reduce signs of skin aging such as redness and skin spots (13) .
Pantothenic acid allows the adrenal glands to generate more cortisone which is anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Without adequate B5 the body is much more susceptible to the formation of chronic inflammatory cascades when under stress. (14)
Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine
Vitamin B6 assists in the balancing of sodium and potassium as well as promoting red blood cell production. It is linked to cardiovascular health by decreasing the formation of homocysteine. Pyridoxine helps balance hormonal changes in women and aids the immune system. Lack of pyridoxine may cause anemia, nerve damage, seizures, skin problems, and sores in the mouth (15).
It is required for the production of major neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. This is why it is implicated in the treatment of depression and anxiety (16, 17).
Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA):
PABA, as part of the coenzyme tetrahydrofolic acid, aids in the metabolism and utilization of amino acids and is also supportive of blood cells, particularly the red blood cells. PABA supports folate production by the intestinal bacteria. PABA is important to skin, hair pigment, and intestinal health.
Benefits of Adapt-Strong:
Adapt-Strong supports normalizing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis when under stress. This is my go to supplement to support the bodies ability to adapt effectively to stress, manage blood sugar and support stable energy levels.
This formula provides useful support for both hyper and hypofunction of the adrenals. Hyperfunction is when the adrenals are overproducing hormones, such as cortisol, and hypofunction is the opposite, when the adrenals are under producing.
I use this with my clients that are struggling with energy and adrenal fatigue. Adapt-Strong truly helps you get the strength to adapt to the stress of life.
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