Image by Jinaa.com via Flickr In our not too distant past, we humans were under much different external threats than we are today, such as being eaten by wild animals and violence from hostile invaders. Thankfully, today those life threatening stressors are almost non-existent. However, our bodies still respond to stress in the same way as when we were running from tigers. This stress response is termed as "fight or flight." To help us protect, defend, and safeguard our survival more efficiently, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and others into our blood stream during the "fight or flight" response. These hormones give us a boost of super-human strength similar to nitrous oxide in a racecar. When a racecar driver needs an extra boost of power, he hits the button that releases a much higher-octane fuel into his engine-NO2. The car's horsepower increases greatly. However, as every racecar driver knows, nitrous oxide significantly reduces the life span of the car's engine. This is very similar to the way the "flight or fight" response works in us: though the strength we get is incredible, it expedites aging and decay in our tissues and cells!
In extreme situations, this "fight or flight" function is needed; however, very rarely do we find ourselves in extreme situations. Yet, based on our hard-wired history, we react to today's stressors as they were the equivalent of escaping from wild animals. Consequently, most of us, unknowingly, are under a low-grade stress response all day long…and some of us even while we sleep. Like the racecar's engine, these stress hormones are very dangerous to our bodies if they are released for extended periods of time. That is why medicine regards stress a chronic condition.
Heal Stress Naturally with Adaptogens!
Achieving a completely stress-free life where we aren't switching into "flight or fight" may not be possible for most, but you can reduce it significantly! Here's how.
Take adaptogenic herbs, or adaptogens for short.
What are adaptogens? The key word here is "adapt." Even though we aren't being chased by large animals anymore, unless you go hiking in the Alaskan wilderness, we do have stressors such as a financial troubles, job worries, family dramas, and health concerns. To many of us, these stressors are experienced with the same intensity as the wild animals were in the past. Therefore, it is important that we learn to "adapt" better to these stressors, so that we are better equipped to deal with them.
Adaptogens were popularized by Russian scientists when they discovered the amazing effects they had on their Olympians. They found that adaptogenic substances greatly reduce the recovery time during training, therefore, helping them to better "adapt" to the extraordinary amount of stress imposed on their bodies. They borrowed this technology from ancient Chinese Physicians who had been using adaptogens for thousands of years in wound healing, stress reduction, mental clarity, alleviating depression, longevity and energy rejuvenation.
The miraculous ability to help us "adapt" to stress comes from these herbs' unique dual-directive function; meaning they neither over-stimulate, or under-stimulate the body's systems, but have a normalizing effect on the body and mind. Simply put, adaptogens enable the body to better cope, resist, and adapt to any stressor, whether it be mental, emotional, physical, or environmental. Additionally, they have the miraculous ability to aid the body in maintaining homeostasis (the crucial balance needed for optimum functioning within the body). Balance translates into deeper relaxation, optimum function, and better health!
Your body will still respond to stress appropriately, but the negative effects are minimized when supplementing with adaptogens. More importantly, these herbs relax the roller coaster highs and lows we experience from the stress response.
No. 1 Key - Boost Your Immune System!
Though stress itself is not an illness, it has been linked to a myriad of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. In fact, studies have shown that stress is the #1 cause of all disease. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that around two-thirds of all trips to the doctor are for stress-related complaints. With this in mind, stress is a serious threat to our immune system compromising our health and well-being. Luckily, adaptogens help to heal the root cause of stress. In turn, the immune system flourishes as the protector of health.
Here is a little known fact: adaptogens were given to over a half a million people after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986 to help offset the negative effects of radiation poisoning and strengthen their immune systems. These herbs must have some serious power to be used in that situation.
Not only is stress dangerous to our internal health, but most, if not all, accidents and mishaps are caused by stress. When we are under stress we make poor decisions. When we are gripped with anxiety, our awareness is occupied; therefore we tend to pay less attention to details. Sometimes, those details can cost us dearly. Like when we don't see that car pulling out in front of us, or when we make an expensive blunder at work that ends up costing our job. Details matter, and supporting our ability to stay on top of them is worth it.
No. 2 Key - Energize your Body!
To be more specific, regarding stress, adaptogens have the amazing ability to restore the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are the body's primary mechanism for responding, and adapting to stress. Sometimes referred to as the body's batteries, the adrenal glands supply the pep for our step. When we are under chronic stress, the adrenals glands get taxed until exhausted. Therefore, if they are weak, we are weak.
But, nature has provided us with a solution to low energy, and it is to recharge the adrenal glands with adaptogenic herbs, thereby producing a natural boost of energy. Yes, adaptogens recharge the adrenal glands, which this gives us more abundant energy!
No 3 Key - Alkalize Your Body
As stress levels increase and remain, our acidity rises to dangerous levels. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are part of the reason for this. I've heard some say in the medical field that these hormones in the blood stream over long periods of time act like battery acid slowly eating away at our health. High acidity levels increase the risk of diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and a host of other fatal diseases.
In fact, one study has shown the one common characteristic in all types of cancers is a high acidity level-that is the pH is highly acidic. The study went on to show that no type of cancer can survive in a body with a balanced pH - that is its alkaline and acid levels are in the correct balance.
Along with healing stress, strengthening the immune system, and providing a clean boost of energy, adaptogens help to normalize the body's pH level - a biomarker of sound health!
What to look for in an adaptogenic supplement!
An adaptogenic supplement needs to have a broad range of adaptogenic herbs such as Eleuthero Root (Siberian ginseng), American Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Shitake Mushroom, Maitake Mushroom, Polygonatum Multiflorum, Atractylodes, Cordyceps, and others.
It needs to be delivered in a macronutrient base (that is a proper balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates), since the body better metabolizes herbs and other micronutrients with a food or macronutrient based delivery system.
Make sure that the sources of ingredients are all-natural!
And lastly, make sure the product was developed by a qualified herbalist who understands internal medicine, not simply a nutritionist who has studied herbs or worse a businessperson looking to simply make a buck.