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Should You Take Adaptogens For Stress?

14 September, 2017

stress and probiotics.jpgStress is defined as, ‘a state of mental, physical, or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’. However, the term, ‘stress’, can consist of a wide range of states or emotions and may include symptoms of ‘high arousal’, including anxiety, irritability, agitation, a racing mind, and the feeling of being ‘wired’. However, stress may also comprise of symptoms of ‘low arousal’, including low energy, fatigue, and ‘burn-out’.

Support for people with ‘low-arousal’

If you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, it is possible that you have low arousal resulting from adrenal insufficiency, also known as adrenal fatigue/ exhaustion. This state often results from periods of long-term stress.

In a healthy state, cortisol (a primary stress hormone) tends to rise in the morning before waking up. However, in people suffering from adrenal fatigue/ burn-out, cortisol levels often remain low making it difficult to get out of bed and complete everyday tasks.

‘Adaptogen’, is the collective name given to a group of botanicals that have the effect of balancing, restoring, and protecting the body. They can be helpful for people suffering from chronic stress. Adaptogens are particularly effective in increasing energy, lowering mental and physical fatigue, and boosting endurance. That is why they are regularly used by athletes and the military.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense to use adaptogens like rhodiola, ashwagandha, or ginseng, whenever you experience symptoms of low energy, fatigue, or ‘burn-out since they increase energy, help overcome fatigue, and boost endurance. One way adaptogens achieve this is by nourishing and supporting the activity of the adrenal glands so they can increase cortisol production and secretion. Increasing cortisol production will help to boost energy and cope better with daily demands and stresses.

People who experience the low arousal symptoms, low energy, fatigue, and ‘burnt-out’, tend to be in the ‘Exhaustion phase’ (see Fig.1). This phase is characterised by people with low cortisol levels due to experiencing some degree of chronic stress.

stress image.jpg

Figure 1. How the body deals with stress over time.

It is essential that you select a high-quality Rhodiola Rosea extract standardised for Rosavins (an active compound in Rhodiola). The Rhodiola Rosea should be sourced from Europe and have the exact phytochemical characteristics as the rhodiola used in clinical studies. This ensures its high-quality and potency.

Supporting people with ‘high-arousal’

People experiencing high arousal often experience symptoms of anxiety, irritability, agitation, a racing mind, muscle tension, and the feeling of being ‘wired’. In these individuals, the body is providing some resistance to stress (the ‘Resistance phase’, Fig.1), and this is usually accompanied by high cortisol levels. As a result, taking an adaptogen, which increases energy, boosts endurance, and helps overcome fatigue, may magnify the problem and make you feel worse!

A far better option for people who experience the acute symptoms of stress and anxiety, ie. is going through the ‘Resistance phase’, is to take something that is relaxing/calming, and quietens the mind. This will bring them back to homeostasis much faster.

Theanine, the amino acid from green tea, is the best option. It induces alpha wave production in the brain in conjunction with increased GABA output. Alpha waves create a focused, meditative state, and GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, quietens the mind and relaxes the body. This can help to overcome the symptoms of high arousal within 20-30 minutes.

Another great option is to take theanine with magnesium, particularly if it is combined with glycine. Not only does magnesium help to relax tense muscles, but it, along with glycine, also promotes GABA production.

Overall, if you are suffering from the symptoms of high arousal (currently going through the ‘Resistance phase), anxiety, irritability, agitation, a racing mind, and the feeling of being ‘wired’, then the combination of a theanine supplement as well as a magnesium glycinate supplement should be your first choice.

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