Adaptogens are amazing! And you can easily include them in your daily diet. But, what exactly is an adaptogen?
This is the dictionary definition:
“Any of various natural substances used in herbal medicine to normalize and regulate systems of the body”
Usually the term adaptogen is used only for foods and supplements that support the adrenals. Essentially, an adaptogen helps balance adrenal function whether the adrenals are overactive or underactive – pretty amazing, right?
We don’t often think of our adrenals, but they have amazing power. When it comes to hormones, adrenals rule the roost! Here are just a few things your adrenals can do:
- increase your appetite or shut it down
- signal to the liver to drive up your blood sugar
- stimulate your metabolism and thyroid function or slow it down
- convert testosterone to estrogen
- blunt progesterone production to allow for the production of more cortisol
Can you already think of a number of health issues related to less than optimal adrenal function? There are many!
- Lower immunity
- Obesity – in general and around the middle
- Sleep disturbances
- Gastro-intestinal issues – there’s a big gut interconnection
- Depression and anxiety, mood issues
- Allergies, asthma
- Blood sugar instability, metabolic syndrome, diabetes
- High and low blood pressure, high cholesterol
- Liver issues and nervous system issues
- Cognitive – brain issues
- Poor stamina, fatigue
- Inflammation and free-radical production
- Menopausal symptoms
- Female and male reproductive issues
- Headaches and migraines
- Addictions to caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
That’s a whole lot of powerful change you can make by including adaptogens into your diet. Here are three you might wish to try:
Reishi,an adaptogen mushroom, is a prebiotic, meaning that it can feed good bacteria in the gut. It helps support the liver which works with the adrenals. It’s good for supporting weight loss, stabilizing blood sugar, and preventing metabolic syndrome. It may also prevent ulcers.One study of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome found that reishi significantly raised cortisol levels in the blood in comparison to the placebo. Reishi is available as a powder, dried mushroom, or supplement.
Schizandra is an amazing adaptogen berry that helps stabilize blood sugar and support the liver, thyroid (specifically T3 – the active form of thyroid hormone), kidneys, and the nervous system. It’s helpful for depression, insomnia, and anxiety and supports low energy due to adrenal fatigue. Hot flashes, which are an adrenal problem, can be helped by schizandra. It also decreases bad bacteria related to obesity and increases bifidus bacteria in the gut. It is available as a dried berry, powder, or supplement. The dried berries can be made into a tea, but it’s not as powerful as using the powder or supplements.
Maca is an adaptogen root vegetable from Peru and is often used by athletes for energy and performance. It’s also known for its ability to improve sexual function and fertility, which makes sense since stress can play a role in sexual and fertility issues. Maca may be helpful for menopausal women suffering from hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. It may help with male prostate issues and protect the skin against ultraviolet radiation. Maca is available as a powder or supplement.
Typically, I prefer the powder forms of these adaptogens as it makes them very versatile for adding into my diet. For example, you can add the powder to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, and several recipes.
So, now that you know what an adaptogen is, how do you plan to use it to improve your health? Which one will you start with?