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My Formula: Dr. Tiffany Lester on adaptogens
Our resident medical advisor explains everything you need to know about the plant extracts that empower our bodies to deal with stress and immunity.
Our resident medical advisor Dr. Tiffany Lester explains everything you need to know about the plant extracts that empower our bodies to deal with stress and immunity.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are herbs that enable our bodies to regain homeostasis or balance.
How do adaptogens work?
They work by increasing our resilience to acute and chronic stressors—environmental, physical, and emotional. They blunt the negative effects of stress, especially on our endocrine and immune systems. When we become stressed, our adrenal glands produce cortisol which causes a cascade of biochemical events in our bodies. Most notably, it causes amino acids to be released that our liver converts to glucose. We then use this glucose for energy to address the outside stressor.
The problem for most of us is our stress is chronic. Over time, our bodies are unable to produce enough cortisol to regulate our nervous systems and we develop adrenal fatigue. The most common symptoms are daytime fatigue despite a good night's sleep, salt cravings, brain fog, low sex drive, and abdominal weight gain. Essentially, we are living in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. This also suppresses our immune system which is why we tend to catch more colds when we are stressed. Adaptogens like echinacea found in DEFENCE DROPS help to support our bodies through these difficult times.
What are the benefits of adaptogens?
The biggest benefit of adaptogens is their ability to create a buffer for our bodies. We are all under immense stress during these modern times, whether we recognize it or not. Our bodies are not meant to sustain these high levels of stress over such a sustained period like a global pandemic. Taking adaptogens helps to increase that buffer to guard against the wear and tear of chronic stress that is often outside of our control.
Most people feel a greater sense of peace, increased ability to handle stress, less irritability and cravings, and improved energy throughout the day!
Do different adaptogens work differently?
Absolutely. Some are stimulating (like the Lion's Mane Mushroom in NOOTRO-FOCUS) and others are more calming (like the Ashwagandha in MOOD). Depending on where you need the most support during the day dictates which adaptogen may be best for you. Our cortisol acts on its own circadian rhythm. It starts to rise about 4 am, peaks around 6-9 am, and then gradually declines throughout the day. It should be lowest at bedtime when our melatonin starts to be produced to prepare for sleep.
What foods include adaptogens? Can you find them in the grocery store?
There are not many foods that are considered adaptogenic. Mushrooms, turmeric root, holy basil and goji berries are a few exceptions. Usually, you want to consume them in concentrated doses which can be difficult when just eating the food by itself.
How can adaptogens be taken?
Typically in powder or tincture form like DEFENCE DROPS. This way you titrate dosing up and down depending on how you respond. Some individuals are very sensitive to herbs and these forms allow for more flexibility. It also tends to result in greater compliance because you can add them to many beverages or foods like smoothies, coffee/tea, oatmeal, or yogurt. They also come in capsules for easier consumption and convenience when traveling.
Are there any people who shouldn’t use adaptogens/any medicines they could negatively interact with?
You should always consult with your doctor before taking adaptogenic supplements. For example, maca is a popular adaptogen to regulate hormones and readily available at many markets. At the same time, it may cause disruption in thyroid metabolism so it is recommended to use with caution if you have a thyroid condition.
How do you know which adaptogen supplements are most effective? What should you look out for?
You should look out for third-party testing and/or transparency around where the company is sourcing its product. Any company that is producing legit supplements will be able to provide this information for you.
What kind of results should I expect by supplementing with adaptogens and how long will it take to notice a difference?
It depends on how chronically stressed and burned out you are. It typically takes 2-4 weeks before people start to notice a difference in their sense of wellbeing. I tell my patients you usually know when you are fully restored when you forget to take them because you feel well again!
Discover more from Dr. Tiffany Lester here.