We all know that chronic stress affects the body negatively and adaptogens can help.
When we’re stressed we feel lousy, and sometimes it can even feel like the body and mind are falling apart. How many times as a mother have you lost your patience with your kids, felt exhausted but couldn’t sleep, found yourself weepy, or kept catching colds?
There’s a scientific reason for that.
The body’s stress response has evolved to get us out of life-threatening situations with ‘fight or flight’. In such a scenario, your body mustn’t worry about how well you’re digesting your lunch, or smoothly cycling reproductive hormones, or making sure your immune system is dealing with that cold virus. Instead, it focuses on survival.
Nowadays however, our daily worries don’t tend to be of the life-threatening type. Although some days, it sure feels that way.
Stress is impacting our wellness
Our society and environment have changed fast, but your body’s coping mechanism is still “pre-historic”. That means those life-saving mechanisms are now working against you, oftentimes leading to adrenal fatigue, which mothers frequently experience.
So what can you do about it? Ideally, you get rid of the stress sources. As a mother, that’s clearly not possible a lot of the time, since parenting can be stressful.
The next best thing to reducing stress (and getting a good night’s sleep) would be to help your body down-regulate that stress response and take the pressure off the rest of the systems.
This is where I find two natural interventions very helpful: mindful meditation, and adaptogens.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a group of medicinal herbs that help your body, specifically your adrenal glands, get the message that you’re not in danger, and that it doesn’t need to mount a full-blown ‘fight or flight’ state.
In other words, adaptogens help you adapt to your environment, and minimize the effects of stress on your body.
Adaptogenic herbs also have other actions that can target and support other aspects of your health, such as digestion, anxiety, and immune function. That’s why I love customizing the best adaptogens to give to a patient based on their unique needs.
Some examples of the best adaptogens for stress are:
Astragalus: supports the immune system and reduces inflammation
Korean ginseng: invigorating and uplifting
Siberian ginseng: also a great immune system modulator
Licorice root: supports the adrenal glands, reduces inflammation, and great for digestion
Rhodiola: supports good mood and focus.
How do adaptogens work?
Mainly, adaptogens work to normalize the cycling of cortisol – the stress hormone. When cortisol’s cycling is off track due to chronic stress, it has down-stream effects on all the connecting hormone pathways, and housekeeping functions of the body.
Once cortisol is normalized, all other systems can come back online and do their jobs unhindered.
Certain adaptogens are great to cool the jets when cortisol is still running high, while others work best when cortisol had dropped really low and your body is in ‘adrenal fatigue’ or ‘adrenal exhaustion’ – also known as burn-out.
Who can use adaptogens?
Just about anyone who is feeling stressed or overwhelmed most days can take an adaptogen, which can be really supportive for mothers.
Stress is the root cause of a whole slew of health concerns, so if you can pinpoint the start of a health problem to a time of high stress (even emotional), chances are that stress is indeed the culprit.
Learn the state of your adrenals
You can have your cortisol and other hormones tested as well, to see what exactly your adrenals are doing and to discover if you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, and which stage of adrenal fatigue you may be in.
A four-point cortisol test is always better than a single measure. This test looks at the levels of cortisol in your saliva at four distinct points in the day, and plots out your cortisol’s cycle. If your levels are above or below the acceptable levels throughout the day, this can give you a clue about how your body is dealing with stress.
Not all adaptogenic herbs are safe for everyone
It’s always best to consult a medical professional before starting an adaptogen regimen. For example, licorice root is often great for the burn-out phase, but this adaptogenic herb is not suited to those who are pregnant, or with high blood pressure.
Between a good adaptogenic formula, mindfulness exercises, and scheduling quality relaxation time, stress can be managed well enough to support a well-functioning body, mind, and soul