Your Guide to Adaptogens and Stress Management
Adaptogens have gained popularity in recent years, but adaptogenic herbs and plants have actually been used for centuries in both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine.
As the name indicates, adaptogens are certain types of plants and mushrooms that are believed to help the body adapt to stress.
In our modern lives, we face countless physical and emotional stressors that can disrupt our internal balance and well-being. Given that chronic stress can negatively affect our health, it's important to take a proactive approach to provide our bodies with the support they need to better manage the effects of stress.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are plant-derived substances that support the body's stress response by helping the body adapt to and manage stressors, whether physical or mental. They are believed to work by restoring the body's natural balance and may help with some of the common effects of stress like fatigue, sleep irregularities, inflammation, anxiety, and depression.
Types Of Adaptogens
Adaptogens can be found naturally in certain plants, herbs, and mushrooms. Although there are many kinds, some of the most popular include ashwagandha, ginseng, Rhodiola, lemon balm, cordyceps, reishi, and holy basil. Though research is still emerging, these adaptogens seem to benefit the body in a variety of ways:
- Ashwagandha may help manage stress and anxiety and improve sleep quality by promoting a state of relaxation and positively altering how your nervous system responds to stress.
- Ginseng supports the regulation of hormones via the HPA axis and may have beneficial effects on hormone imbalances that result from long-term stress.
- Rhodiola may be beneficial for alleviating symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Research suggests that Rhodiola helps mediate the fight-or-flight response and can heighten mental performance during stressful situations.
- Lemon balm has been studied for its anti-stress properties and is associated with improvements in mood and cognitive performance.
How Does Stress Affect My Health?
Stress is a physiological condition that involves your nervous system (your brain) and endocrine system (your hormones).
We often think of stress as an emotional state caused by our reaction to stressful life events, such as losing a job, or to our busy schedules packed with work deadlines and family responsibilities. However, stress can also stem from something physical, such as an injury or lack of sleep, and even environmental factors.
Regardless of the cause, any type of stress will trigger the body to release stress hormones, which in turn causes physiological changes in the body, such as an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and slowing of the digestive process. This chain of hormonal changes is what is known as your fight-or-flight response.
Short-lived stress is usually not harmful. However, when stress is prolonged as in the case of chronic stress, it can contribute to many chronic diseases and decrease your overall quality of life.
Understanding The 3 Stages Of Stress
When under physical or mental stress, the body goes through a process known as general adaptation syndrome (GAS), which consists of three distinct stages:
When a stressor disrupts your body's homeostasis, or state of equilibrium, it leads to the fight-or-flight response in which your adrenal glands release the stress hormone cortisol. We experience an increased heart rate and feel a boost of adrenaline.
Next, the body enters the resistance stage, in which it tries to adapt to the physiological changes from the alarm stage. It does so by releasing lower amounts of cortisol and slowing down the heart rate. If the stressful situation comes to an end during this stage, the body will return to homeostasis. If the stressor remains, the body will continue to produce stress hormones.
If unable to recover from the initial alarm phase during the resistance phase, the body will eventually deplete its resources and move into the exhaustion stage. This is when we are unable to cope with stress and may experience burnout, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and depression.
Role Of Adaptogens In The Stress Response
Adaptogens can help the body manage stress by prolonging the resistance stage which may, in turn, delay the exhaustion phase. This means that you may be able to better tolerate and adapt during a stressful situation, without letting the body deplete all of its resources.
Additionally, adaptogens can interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is directly involved in the body's stress response. By doing so, they may positively influence the production of stress hormones and the physiological responses associated with stress – helping the body return to and maintain homeostasis.
In other words, adaptogens may help you better deal with stress by promoting balanced stress hormones and supporting the internal systems involved in the stress response.
How To Incorporate Adaptogens Into Your Diet
Adaptogens are available in many forms – they can be added to foods and beverages, as plant extracts in a liquid form (tinctures), in the form of capsules, or drinkable supplements. However, it's important to note that food and beverages may include only negligible amounts of adaptogenic compounds, which may not result in significant effects.
Dietary supplements in the form of liquid tinctures, capsules, or drinkable powders can be formulated with concentrated amounts of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms for meaningful results. Taking a high-quality, adaptogen supplement can be a simple and effective way to bolster your stress management routine, promote calmness, and help your body cope with stress.
Blueshift Calm is a delicious, drinkable supplement packed with soothing adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Lemon Balm. This non-drowsy, alcohol-free blend also layers in calming amino acids such as L-theanine and Glycine, along with neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which can help promote relaxation and help with feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear.
Whether it's a big deadline for work, running late for an appointment, or juggling too many responsibilities, we all experience stress. While short-lived stress is normal and manageable, chronic and long-term stress can leave us physically and mentally depleted and pose significant health risks.
Managing stress is key to a happy and healthy life. And, just like there are many different causes of stress, there are many different ways to manage it. Adaptogens are a natural and effective way to support how your body responds to stress. A daily adaptogen supplement can be a powerful complement to other regular stress management practices, such as mindfulness practices, a nutritious diet, getting adequate sleep, and regular exercise.