5 min read
Stress, cortisol and adaptogens
These are stressful times.
Even without the pandemic that we are all living through we lead stressful lives. Busy jobs. Long hours. Juggling work life and family life. The pressure of careers and ‘keeping up’.
And with our world now in lock down there are countless anxieties and pressures on top of that. Lost incomes, the health and wellbeing of family members, home schooling, worries about what the future holds, the emotion of hearing about people suffering under this dreadful virus, changed routines, lack of exercise, care and concern for those in the front line. We all have a million more worries, anxieties and challenges at this difficult time.
Stress isn’t entirely a bad thing. We are designed to function with some level of stress. And stress is designed as part of how we function. When something triggers our flight response, our hormonal system kicks in and delivers a lovely flood of Cortisol through our system.
If we need our bodies to react to a threat or an event, that can be a good thing. Lots of performers and sports people think of cortisol as the “superpower” that helps enhance their performance when they go on stage or pitch.
Almost every cell in the body contains a cortisol receptor. This means that there are many different effects of cortisol on the body, and the effects vary depending on which cells the cortisol acts upon.
These effects include: Regulation of the metabolism by managing how your body uses the different macronutrients (carbs, fats and proteins); regulation of the blood pressure; influencing the memory formation; controlling the salt/water balance and the sleeping rhythms; keeping the inflammation down etc.
During periods of stress, cortisol often works as a shut-down effect on all processes that get in the way, such as the digestive system, the immune system, or even growth. Too much cortisol over a prolonged period of time can have negative effects.
Symptoms of prolonged stress include: mood swings (becoming irritable, depressed or anxious), decreased sex-drive, irregular menstruation (women), weight gain (mainly face, chest and abdomen), high blood pressure, poor skin health, muscle weakness, osteoporosis and much more…
So what can we do to help manage and regulate our stress levels and support our hormonal system to keep cortisol production in balance?
There are lots of lifestyle changes that can help us to manage stress and regulate cortisol. Getting better sleep, regular exercise and movement, meditation and mindfulness, cutting down on processed foods and sugars all help our hormonal system to stay more balanced.
Another set of tools in the stress relieving toolkit are adaptogens.
Adaptogens is a collective term for non-toxic plants that help the body to adapt, adjust and recalibrate itself depending on our emotional and physical surroundings. They can be a great place to start if you are looking to support your body when it’s under stress.
One of the many ways Good Green Vitality can help support our bodies is via the adaptogens in amongst the 75+ useful ingredients.
Ashwagandha is a small woody plant with yellow flowers native to India and north Africa. It has been used for more than 3000 years in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the world's oldest healing systems originating in India. The root of the plant is especially well known for its stress-lowering benefits, by reducing cortisol levels in the body.
Other adaptogens that can help the body to resist stressors are Astragalus root, Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola Rosea root, Liquorice root and Turmeric. All of these help in some way in coping with stress, with the added benefit of reducing anxiety, fatigue and/or depression.
Improving our everyday health and long term wellbeing occurs through lots of small things working together. In challenging times when our bodies need all the help they can get, adding the support of adaptogens is another bit of daily help in the overall mix.