HEALTHY LIVING/SUPERFOODS

9 Foods & Herbs That Help Your Body Adapt To Stress

So as some of you might know, my dog Chaga was injured last week. And let me tell you, that was a stressful, emotional event. All forms of stress – emotional, nutritional, environmental, physical – stimulate the production of cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Cortisol can be very damaging to our bodies in the long-term. We can provide a constant counter balance to stress by eating certain foods or by using adaptogens/herbs, which are a special class of herbs that help your body respond to stress.  I have been supporting myself with many different adaptogens/herbs this week because I know how essential it is to help the body recover from stress.

Good versions of the herbs and adaptogens can be found in capsule or powder form or as extracts. Always take them according to package directions and use reputable companies that care about quality! Don’t go for cheap – go for effective!

Here are some adaptogens you can try:

CHAMOMILE

This adaptogen often gets passed over as a snooze-worthy herbal tea you drink before bed. But it so much more than that! Studies have shown chamomile has a positive impact on your body’s blood vessels and muscles helping them relax. Plus, it positively fights anxiety and depression.  Don’t just think of it as a bed-time tea – think of it as a powerful anxiety and stress fighter!

GINSENG

In studies, ginseng has significant anti-stress properties. In fact, it is approved for use for the treatment of stress-induced disorders. Ginseng tea is a wonderful way to give your body support and have a moment of self care.

RAW NUTS AND SEEDS

Where to start with raw nuts and seeds? Many of them come with cool stress-fighting compounds in them! The key is to be getting them raw and organic and then soaking them before eating so all the nutrients are unlocked and the anti-nutrients are removed.

RELATED: LEARN MORE ABOUT SOAKING NUTS AND SEEDS

HERE ARE JUST A FEW:

  • Almonds give your body antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids that combat stress and are anti-aging.
  • Out of all the nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds give your body some of the highest levels of phytosterols, which support your heart health and immune system, both of which are taxed when you experience stress.
  • Brazil nuts are an excellent source of organic selenium, a powerful antioxidant-boosting mineral that may be beneficial for the prevention of cancer and serve as a stress-fighter.
  • Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and studies show that can help lower LDL cholesterol and promote healthy arteries. You’ll also give your body anti-inflammatory magnesium, heart-healthy oleic acid, phenolic antioxidants, and immune-boosting manganese when you grab a handful.
  • Baru nuts (or as I call them, Barúkas!) are the mother of antioxidant-rich nuts. I did a double take when I first saw the lab numbers! Barúkas have THE MOST antioxidants than any other nut in the planet, second to pecans (17,940) and Walnuts (13,541) respectively. Relative to something traditionally considered antioxidant blueberries (4,669), this is huge! They also have good fats and protein to keep your body nourished to combat stress.

Tasty baru nuts are packed with antioxidants!

LICORICE ROOT

One damaging effects of stress is that it exhausts your adrenal glands because they are constantly pumping out adrenaline and cortisol to respond to stress. It can result in something you may have heard of: adrenal fatigue. When you add licorice root extract to your self-care routine, it can support your adrenal gland to promote a healthy level of cortisol in your body.

PASSION FLOWER

Passion flower is an incredible calming herb that provides stress reduction without making you drowsy. It can also help combat the insomnia that can be triggered by long-term stress and high anxiety where your brain and body cannot relax.

Also, studies show that because it helps lower anxiety, passion flower can assist your body in dealing with conditions triggered by stress such as hypertension, asthma, and poor digestion.

SCHIZANDRA BERRIES

  • Schizandra (also spelled Schisandra) always makes me start humming because just saying the name sounds like a song, but it also helps support your adrenal glands and helps shut off the overproduction of “stress hormones” such as cortisol. This powerful adaptogen, one of my favorites to consume as a tea, also has metabolic, brain-boosting and endurance support for performance athletes. I often recommend this tea to athletes I meet with.

RELATED: A SIMPLE WAY TO USE SHIZANDRA

SKULLCAP

Haven’t heard of this one? You’re not alone. This staple in Chinese medicine gets its name from its shape that is similar to a medieval helmet. One key note: there are two types: American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) and they each do different things in your body. It’s a great tonic to help treat anxiety and calm nerves.

ST. JOHN’S WORT

St. John’s Wort is a little more well known for its ability to treat depression and anxiety. It also includes compounds like hypericin, pseudohypericin and various xanthones that can elevate dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain.

St. John's Wort Flowers, an adaptogen to help fight anxiety and stress.

VALERIAN ROOT

Valerian root can increase the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and calm anxiety. Additionally, the valerenic acid and valerenol contained in valerian root extract help fight anxiety in your body and actually suppresses it, according to research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 


One of the most powerful approaches you can take to nutrition is to actively respond to the season and experiences life throws at you with foods proven to support what you are experiencing, in this case, stress and anxiety. Food can be the greatest form of medicine and healing that you can provide your body!  Stay curious and ask questions about how foods and choices like adding in adaptogens make you feel. You’ll find your winning ways for stress recovery as well.

REFERENCES 

  1. Medicine Daily, 7 Treatments for Anxiety and Stress. Kelsey Dain. 2016 September 13th http://www.medicaldaily.com/7-natural-treatments-anxiety-and-stress-backed-science-chamomile-meditation-397725
  2. Distinct mechanisms of relaxation to bioactive components from chamomile species in porcine isolated blood vessels. Roberts RE, Allen S, Chang AP, Henderson H, Hobson GC, Karania B, Morgan KN, Pek AS, Raghvani K, Shee CY, Shikotra J, Street E, Abbas Z, Ellis K, Heer JK, Alexander SP. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2013 Nov 1;272(3):797-805. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2013.06.021. Epub 2013 Jul 8.
  3. Effects of traditionally used anxiolytic botanicals on enzymes of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system. Awad R, Levac D, Cybulska P, Merali Z, Trudeau VL, Arnason JT Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2007 Sep; 85(9):933-42.
  4. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. Amsterdam JD, Li Y, Soeller I, Rockwell K, Mao JJ, Shults J, J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009 Aug; 29(4):378-82.
  5. Anti-stress effects of Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng: a comparative study. Rai D, Bhatia G, Sen T, Palit G. J Pharmacol Sci. 2003 Dec;93(4):458-64 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14737017
  6. Health Benefits of licorice root. Watson K., http://www.healthline.com/health/licorice-the-sweet-root#1
  7. Weil https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/herbs/passion-flower/
  8. Mercola http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/10/19/best-nuts-seeds.aspx
  9. Axe https://draxe.com/schisandra/
  10. Axe https://draxe.com/skullcap/
  11. Dale Archer M.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201308/st-johns-wort-and-depression
  12. GABA A receptors as in vivo substrate for the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid, a major constituent of valerian root extracts. Benke D, Barberis A, Kopp S, Altmann KH, Schubiger M, Vogt KE, Rudolph U, Möhler H. Neuropharmacology 2009 Jan;56(1):174-81. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.06.013. Epub 2008 Jun 17.
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25495725

 

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