Calm Cortisol with Key Nutrients and Botanicals
Everyone may feel anxious from time to time, especially when work or home life becomes hectic. Stress is a natural part of your body’s response to demands it might face, including significant life challenges, changes to diet or physical activity, and even seasonal weather changes. The feeling of stress is the reaction of your body to any changes that require adjustment or adaptation. These reactions can manifest physically, mentally, or emotionally. Even though these responses are natural, chronic stress may negatively affect your health in a variety of ways if not resolved. Chronic stress can cause or worsen conditions such as depression, personality disorders, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders, skin and hair problems, and gastrointestinal upset.
Under stress, the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) feedback loop is pushed into overdrive, causing the adrenals to produce too much cortisol in an effort to regulate the body’s stress response. High levels of cortisol affect nearly every organ system in the body and can result in sleeplessness, sluggish metabolism, an increase in blood pressure, and blood sugar, as well as inflammation (which can be taxing on the immune system).1 The winter season, with higher exposure to coughs, colds and flus, coupled with the inherent stress the holiday season brings, reminds us that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Key nutrients and botanicals can be our allies to reduce stress and bolster resilience.
Amp Up Your Vitamin C
It comes as no surprise that vitamin C is one of the most commonly utilized vitamins. Vitamin C has the ability to support the immune system, help protect against bacteria and viruses, improve the delivery of blood and oxygen to muscles, and helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.2,3 Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your cells against the effects of free radicals, which can play a critical role in reducing the occurrence of many damaging diseases. However, this critical vitamin can also help your body to adapt to stress.
During stressful times, your body may experience mental and physical changes caused by anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, or chest pain.4,5 These symptoms can be annoying in the short term, but too much stress over time may cause damage to organ systems in your body. Chronic stress can engender conditions such as depression, personality disorders, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders, skin and hair problems, and gastrointestinal upset.6
Rely on Rhodiola
Rhodiola rosea, commonly known as rhodiola, is a well-known adaptogen, a substance that can help increase the resistance of your body to stress by “adapting” to what your body needs (such as increasing energy when you feel fatigued or elevating adrenaline when you are frightened). One eye-opening study investigated the impact of Rhodiola rosea on anxiety, stress, cognition, and overall mood symptoms.7 After only two weeks, the group of participants supplementing with Rhodiola demonstrated a significant reduction in anxiety, stress, and anger and marked improvements in total mood. The adaptogenic qualities of this botanical may have helped alleviate stress and stress-related symptoms in these participants.
In addition, rhodiola extract may help decrease or eliminate symptoms of “burnout”, the mental exhaustion that comes after prolonged stress. One study evaluated the capacity of this botanical to defend the body against stress.8 The results were very promising; many of the rhodiola-nourished participants demonstrated clear improvements in stress levels over the course of the study. Because “burnout” can cause you to feel drained, unable to handle daily tasks, or overwhelmed, this study gives us a promising indicator for future research.
Can Cordyceps Help?
When the body is physically injured, its stress response is triggered, which can result in unhealthy levels of inflammation. Similarly, when the body is under mental anguish, the body releases similar types of stress responses, which can also result in increased inflammation. This inflammation can often affect the gastrointestinal tract leading to digestive-related symptoms such as abdominal pain, an upset stomach, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. As an adaptogen, Cordyceps sinensis can help your body manage this stress much better, thus keeping inflammation low and enhancing overall health.
In addition, this adaptogenic mushroom has many other benefits including anti-aging effects and boosting exercise performance. Fermented cordyceps is especially powerful as a nutritional agent due to its enhanced absorption and utilization by the body.
Lifestyle Changes Can Manage Stress Too!
While some stress is unavoidable, several methods can be utilized to help reduce the impacts of long-term stress. Key methods, such as regular exercise and a healthy, plant-based diet, can help manage whole-body health as well as manage stress levels. Other methods, such as setting practical, attainable goals, can help prioritize tasks and reach personal, physical, or career-oriented goals, while managing stress and diffusing the frenzy and frantic pace of life.
Relaxation activities such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises can help clear and refocus the overstimulated mind. If talking through anxiety seems to help reduce your stress levels, confide in family or close friends. Simple rituals such as taking a relaxing evening walk, enjoying a salty soak in the bathtub, or reading a few chapters of a favorite book are also relaxing ways to unwind.
The Bottom Line
Stress in the short term helps keep you alive in potentially dangerous situations, but long-term stress can be damaging to your health and well-being. If you suffer from sustained stress and anxiety, consider adding some helpful adaptogens to your diet or making some lifestyle changes to manage your stress.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4504969/ and
Jenny Perez is an herbal educator, researcher, and writer who has been immersed in the field of nutrition and botanical medicine for more than 20 years. Jenny has created curriculum, content, and educational materials for Quantum Nutrition Labs, Premier Research Labs, the American Botanical Council, and Bastyr University’s Botanical Medicine Department where she was Adjunct Faculty, Herb Garden Manager, and Director of the Holistic Landscape Design certificate program.