Adrenal Supplements and Adaptogens
When it comes to health, there is never a one size fits all approach and adrenal supplements and adaptogens, it is no different. While all stages of adrenal dysfunction can benefit from the vitamins and minerals we will talk about, adaptogens are a different story, as some will help raise cortisol and some will help lower it. So, depending on what stage you might be in, one adaptogen might be good for one person but make another person feel worse. Let’s dive in!
Vitamins and Minerals
Our adrenal glands require many co-factors to be able to do their job and when we are deficient or insufficient in the these, our body cannot function properly which can manifest in enhanced feelings of stress and burnout. Below are some key nutrients needed for adrenal health and as always, I believe in testing and not guessing or putting everyone on the same supplement regimen so it is always important to work with a practitioner who can do the proper testing and come up with the plan that fits you best!
B vitamins: A variety of B vitamins are needed for proper hormone production including cortisol (B5, B6, B2, Biotin, Folate). B Vitamins are cardioprotective in relation to stress, with adequate levels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease or stress induced ischemia.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C, often thought of in relation to immune health, is also critical for adrenal function and stress adaptation. It is utilized in the adrenal cortex during times of stress and depleted at higher rates during stress.
Magnesium: My favorite mineral, magnesium is crucial in regulating our stress and adrenal function. Magnesium deficiency actually increases stress in itself and intensifies adverse reactions to stress.
Omega 3 Fatty acids: Adequate levels of omega 3 fatty acids blunt the stress response and help to restore the HPA axis
Zinc: Zinc has many benefits including reducing inflammation, improving immune function and it also has anti-depressant effects. Stress lowers zinc levels in the body so it may be crucial to supplement with this during times of stress.
Adaptogens are medicinal plants that augment resistance to stress and increase concentration, performance and endurance to fatigue. Adaptogens have beneficial stress-protective effect and normalize function and improve response to stress. This is where testing is most helpful, as different adaptogenic herbs may be better in low cortisol versus high cortisol states. As you’ll recall from the first blog in this series, (read about the stage HERE), there are three stages of cortisol dysfunction and below I will discuss a few of my favorite adaptogens that may help in these stages.
Stage 1: The Alarm Stage
Ashwagandha: This adaptogen is actually great in all three stages of adrenal dysfunction. It helps to moderate the stress response and can improve symptoms of depression, increased blood sugar, increased cortisol as well as cognitive deficits. It improves tolerance to stress, improves fatigue and may help with insomnia. Bonus! From an athletic perspective, it may also help to improve lean muscle mass, strength, stamina and performance.
Holy Basil (Tulsi): This plant is a member for the mint family and helps to inhibit cortisol. It is also an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and immune boosting plant which may also help with anxiety. I love Holy Basil in tea form and there is a great local company out of Boulder – India Organics -that makes different Tulsi tea formulations, check them out HERE! (You can also find them in many health food stores). I drink the the Tulsi Green Tea nearly everyday for the Holy Basil, calming effects and the myriad of benefits of green tea.
L-theanine: Found in green, black and white teas, L- theanine addresses the sympathetic nervous system response to an acute stressor and will help to decrease heart rate and cortisol levels. It has anxiety reducing properties and I find it to work well in supplement form for those who have a racing mind when trying to go to sleep.
Stage 2: Resistance Phase – High cortisol
Rhodiola: This herb has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve energy when under stress and improve depression, cognition, mental performance and insomnia.
Cordyceps: This adaptogen has stress reduction properties as well as immune boosting properties. It helps to strengthen and rebuild the body after exhaustion or illness. It can be used in Stage 2 and Stage 3.
Phosphatidylserine: This adaptogen has been shown to blunt serum cortisol release and improve cortisol in response to acute exercise stress, increase performance and mood, reduce feelings of stress and improve sleep.
Ashwagandha: see above, great in all stages of stress and adrenal dysfunction!
Stage 3: Low cortisol / Exhaustion phase
Licorice Root: Licorice helps to increase cortisol by blocking the conversion of cortisol into cortisone. Licorice can improve blood pressure in those who have low blood pressure related to low cortisol and conversely should be used in caution in those with elevated blood pressure.
Panax Ginseng: Panax ginseng is used widely in China and Asia. It has great anti-anxiety properties and has traditionally been used to stimulate mental and physical activity, improve stamina, prevent fatigue and increase resistance to stress. It is indicated in low cortisol states or those with exhausted reserves as it helps to improve cortisol to DHEA ratios.
Cordyceps: see above, great in stage 2 and 3 of adrenal dysfunction!
Ashwagandha: again, good in all stages, see stage 1!
As you can see there are many adrenal supplement and adaptogen options to choose from to help support adrenal health. Some of these will help things over time and others you may feel an immediate sense of calming. If you are feeling stressed or burned out and looking for a practitioner to work with, Wild Rice Wellness is accepting new patients and would love to help build your stress resiliency and get you feeling better! Book a free 15 minute consultation below!