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Adapto-WHATS?! What Are Adaptogens?

What are adaptogens, anyway? They are a special class of herbs that are safe for daily use. They help a person adapt to stress and they exert a normalizing effect upon mental and physical processes. Adaptogens boost stamina, strengthen immunity, balance glandular function, and to improve mood.

When you are stressed, your body has a stress response that affects your body biologically, emotionally, mentally, physically. Your body thinks it’s in danger, and it responds for survival. Survival, not surprisingly, takes precedence over digesting your food or reproducing, for example. Stress makes it hard to concentrate. Stress lowers our patience. Stress also destroys our body, little by little, until suddenly we ailment ridden.

As you may have guessed, my life has been a wee bit stressful these past few years (just a little!) I knew it was taking its toll on me, and I was not feeling like I acted like the mom I wanted to be all the time. Because who do we take our stresses out on? Not strangers, and not the people we work with — but the people we love the most, right? I wasn’t as patient as I used to be. Rightly so, some would say, but that’s not who I strive to be.

I’ve been on a specific regimen to target my stress and anxiety for just over a week and I’m already feeling the changes. I’m finally able to take that pause before responding in anger — that split second pause that means the difference between my blood boiling and responding nastily vs. assessing the situation rationally and giving a calm answer.

I’m not perfect. I know I never will be. But I KNEW what I was feeling wasn’t me, and that I could be better. That I could be better for my kids because they are everything to me.

When it comes to stress, the General Adaptation Syndrome has 3 phases:

  1. Initial alarm – Your fight or flight response. Cortisol and adrenaline are released, physically changing the body.
  2. Resistance – the body is trying to manage stress and pushes you to perform at a higher level…using up more resources.  The body tries to achieve homeostasis so repair can be done.
  3. Exhaustion – the body has depleted all resources trying to repair itself, and if it continues to be under stress, it gradually deteriorates.

Yikes, right? Scary stuff. Stress, it turns out, does literally break your body down and lead to disease in the long term.

How Do Adaptogens help?

Adaptogens are non-toxic and have a non-specific effect. What they do is increase resistance to multiple stressors. It’s not like pharmaceuticals where you usually have one drug for one problem. And unlike conventional drugs, adaptogens work by cooperating with the body vs controlling it.

Adaptogens help by mitigating the body’s reaction and desensitizing its response to stressors. They help you resist the stress itself AND prolong your natural ability to resist the effects. Adaptogens actually even raise your initial threshold so with care, you may not even hit that exhaustion threshold at all.

Remember, you do still have to take steps in your life to lower the stressors. Adaptogens don’t solve your problems — they help you solve them. You still have to do the other work of trying to remove or lessen the source of the stress as best you can.

I really love that adaptogens have a normalizing effect on the body — meaning the direction of change they effect can be up or down. They help your body regulate vs specifically increasing or decreasing a symptom. For example, a pharmaceutical antibiotic is a molecule specifically designed to kill bacteria, and nothing else. Adaptogens can have a variety of effects depending on what the body needs!

Adaptogens help your body systems work at optimal levels, so you can feel — and BE — your best!