STRESS has been described as the ‘Health Epidemic of the 21st Century’ by the World Health Organization and is linked to heart disease, blood pressure, asthma, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and gastrointestinal problems.
With Covid-19 doing us no favours and Christmas approaching, we look at dietary strategies that can help us better cope with stress.
Step forward Adaptogens, edible plant extracts that can help balance the body and gear it to be more resilient to stress, exhaustion and fatigue.
Adaptogens are plant-based ‘biological boosters’ that help our body react, cope and recover from stress, whether physical, mental or dietary.
HOW DO ADAPTOGENS WORK?
When we face a stressor, whether physical or mental, our bodies stage a three-stage response: Alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.
Adaptogens help us stay in the resistance phase longer and help us soldier on, instead of crashing.
Studies have shown how adaptogens regulate key mediators of the stress response and work at a molecular level.
In order to be classified as an adaptogen, it must be non-toxic, have a physiological normalising ability and possess more than one mechanism of action.
Many are rooted in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine but were used in Europe as early as World War II, when a Russian scientist coined the term adaptogens. Russian soldiers were given Rhodiola, a tough antioxidant-rich herb grown in the Siberian highlands, to help their bodies cope with stress and increase their resistance and focus.
These natural ‘stress heroes’, can help combat against the cascade of physical responses to stress that affect immune function, our hormones, cognitive function, sleep, mood and our internal clock.
FIVE EXAMPLES OF ADAPTOGENS
The multi-tasking actives in this berry help the body cope with physical stress, by supporting the immune system, accelerating recovery from exertion, improving endurance, reducing fatigue and lowering blood pressure.
Their impact on managing inflammation and free radicals help reduce dietary stress too, while supporting healthy blood sugar levels and insulin responses.
Ginseng has been used for medicinal purposes for 2,000 years in Asia and known as Korean, Chinese or Asian Ginseng.
The leaves, roots and stems of the plant can help the body achieve balance through homeostasis and aid resistance to illnesses by boosting the immune system.
Studies have shown ginseng aids overall brain health, cognition, memory and reduces fatigue.
A fortifier that was used by Russian soldiers in World War II, this hardy, strong-growing herb is grown in harsh climatic conditions, often in cold temperatures and at altitude.
Rhodiola has a range of properties, from reducing anxiety and depression to improving memory. A 2015 study showed that two weeks’ intake aided mood, self-reported anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and depression.
Rhodiola is also beneficial for the cardiovascular system and aids physical endurance, by increasing oxygen consumption and reducing fatigue.
A multipurpose herb that has been used in Ayervedic medicine for centuries, one of ashwagandha’s best-known properties is to aid calm and reduce anxiety by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.
Also an antioxidant, it can help memory in adults and support healthy thyroid function.
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN USING ADAPTOGENS
They may react with medicines. Adaptogens are non-toxic plants but as with any supplement, if you’re taking prescribed medicine, always talk to your doctor or health professional first. Some adaptogens may react with other medications.
Also, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or immune-compromised, always check before using adaptogenic supplements.
Everyone is different. There is no universal response because everyone reacts differently. Start any new supplement in isolation, rather than introducing many at once, to observe any improvements to your wellbeing - and take daily.
Remember, adaptogens are intended to help you build resilience over time, so consistent intake, following recommended dosing guidelines, is the best approach.
Check for quality. Supplements are the easiest way to integrate adaptogens into your diet, but make sure any product you choose is GMP (good manufacturing practice) certified and subjected to third-party testing
CurraNZ is one such example, with our GMP-standard manufacturing, Informed-Sport screening and stringent panel of quality tests that check for heavy metals, pesticides, fungus, mould, bacteria and accidental contamination.