Adaptogens:
For Stress & Adrenal Health

Shout out to your hard working adrenal glands!  These little glands, located on top of each kidney, are responsible for pumping specialized hormones directly into the bloodstream.  The adrenal glands impact vital functions that include blood pressure, immune function, fertility, metabolism, response to stress and more.  When applied appropriately, adrenal hormones support reproductive and metabolic function and act to keep the body ready for action. However, chronic stress can interfere with the hormone response and adversely affect sleep cycles, menstrual cycles, energy, and weight management. 

For some time, alternative medicine has discussed a collection of symptoms referred to as Adrenal Fatigue.  A multitude of ailments such as body aches, fatigue, jitters, sleep disturbances, and digestive imbalances are primary signs.  Although Western medicine has been skeptical of the problem, it has been observed that people who are under stress are more prone to illness, infection, cardiovascular problems and depression.  Recently, more insight has been uncovered linking cortisol with stress and illness. A study from Carnegie Mellon explains that “chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response”.  Stress triggers the release of cortisol and at the same time stress itself increases inflammation. Overtime stress contributes to chronic inflammation which desensitize the cell’s response to cortisol’s soothing action.  It’s important to understand all of the adrenal functions in order to help best control cortisol and manage the physical ramifications of stress.

 

Stress Adrenal

 Let’s take a look at the adrenal hormones and what they do: 

Adrenaline: Like an alarm that warns of danger, adrenaline ignites the fight or flight response.  It raises blood pressure and heart rate to allow increased blood flow to muscles and the brain for strength and speed.  Too much adrenaline can cause anxiety and a jittery feeling.

Adrogenic Steriods and DHEA:  These are precursors for sex hormones.  Androgenic steroids are like a watered-down version of testosterone and are converted into estrogen by the ovaries.  Too much or too little of which will negatively impact egg quality and ovulation. Lack of testosterone is associated with lower libido, decreased muscle tone, and slower metabolism.  Too much testosterone in women can cause acne, mood swings, and unwanted body hair.

Aldosterone:  Along with the kidneys, aldosterone helps to regulate fluid balance, electrolytes, and pH.  If you’ve ever wondered why you become bloated during PMS, you can blame elevated levels of aldosterone.

Cortisol:  Cortisol is your get up and go hormone because it works as part of the sleep/wake cycle and fight or flight response.  Cortisol also contributes to body composition and metabolism because it impacts blood sugar and nutrient utilization. Cortisol is a powerful anti-inflammatory chemical as well.  However, when the body is subject to chronic physical or psychological stress it causes an inflammatory response that cortisol can not overcome. Compounding this obstacle, insulin and metabolism can take a major hit which can lead to weight gain and fatigue.  

Short of going off the grid there are plant-based therapies that can combat the effects of stress.  Adaptogens are a group of flowers, herbs, roots, and mushrooms that regulate hormone response so the body can adapt to stress.  The most well known and trusted adaptogens are found in Eden- Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Maca, Reshi, Cordyceps, and Chaga. Chronic stress can mean that too much or too little hormone is secreted to function optimally.  Chronic stress and or chronic inflammation can cause the body to continue to release stress hormones even when stressful stimulus is absent. As an answer to these concerns, adaptogens increase the effectiveness of hormone secretion so cells will respond normally and turn off the stress response when the body is at rest.  

What does this mean for you?  Look better, feel better, and perform better!  Hormone balance can help reduce the outward symptoms of PMS such as bloating and acne.  Controlling cortisol and adrenaline can reduce jitters, anxiety, and depression. Adrenal optimization can reduce the risk of long term health conditions associated with chronic inflammation which is everything from leaky gut, cardiovascular health, and neurological function.  Appropriate cortisol balance can even help you get the most out of your workout by allowing adrenaline and cortisol to do what it does best without draining energy resources after the fact. In short, taking care of your adrenals helps your body take care of you.