Stressed out? You’re in good company. The American Psychological Association (APA) found nearly 75 percent of Americans are stressed, and experts are concerned about how stress is affecting the body both physically and emotionally.1 Stress puts the body at risk for developing chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes, and it can cause feelings of depression, anxiety and exhaustion. Continual stress can tax the adrenal glands, which play a critical role in how well the body resists the effects of stress. If the adrenals are not performing properly, feelings of anxiousness, depression and fatigue may occur; it can even affect immunity. How well one manages stress is dependent on optimal adrenal function, and there are a variety of ways to help support the adrenals naturally.
Adrenals & Stress
The adrenals are small, triangular glands located on top of each kidney. They secrete hormones that affect metabolism, including cortisol, which controls the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates; and corticosterone, which helps to suppress inflammation and affects the immune system. They also help the body to cope with stress by secreting adrenaline, which increases heart rate and facilitates blood flow to the muscles and brain; and noradrenaline, which increases blood pressure.
Under continual stress, the adrenal glands can malfunction—stressful situations increase the need for hormones that the adrenals are unable to produce. As a result of the demands placed upon them, the adrenals can become exhausted. Adrenal exhaustion can cause fatigue, anxiety and a reduced resistance to infection. When a part of the body is not prepared to withstand stress, it can lead to a variety of common health concerns, including poor immunity, depression and exhaustion.2
Since adrenals that are not functioning optimally can cause fatigue, it’s easy to reach for coffee, sodas or other caffeinated beverages to get through the day. The first step improving stress resistance: Put down the coffee! Even small amounts of caffeine (as found in decaf) are enough to produce depression, anxiety and heart palpitations.
Nutritional support for stress requires supporting adrenal function. Vitamin C, B vitamins and magnesium are crucial, since levels of these nutrients in the adrenals plummet under stress. Incorporate vitamin C-rich foods and a supplement in diet to support immunity in times of stress. All B vitamins are important for healthy adrenal function, but pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is particularly essential. In addition to a B-complex supplement, vitamin B5 is found in whole-grains, broccoli, tomatoes and legumes.3 Magnesium is also needed to support healthy adrenal function, as is potassium.
Herbs & Mushrooms
Herbs and medicinal mushrooms can provide additional support. Astragalus is an adaptogen, meaning it helps protect the body against stress. It supports a healthy immune system, which is compromised under stress. Also an adaptogen, schisandra is shown to promote a healthy mood and support immunity. Ashwagandha supports healthy immunity and helps the body cope with physical and emotional stress.4 The mushroom reishi helps boost immunity and improve the body’s reaction to emotional stress. Cordyceps has been found to improve fatigue and stress resistance.
Look for a complete supplement formula to support adrenals and improve the body’s resistance to stress. Many companies offer supplements geared toward strengthening the adrenals, such as MegaFood’s Adrenal Strength, which is designed to nourish adrenals depleted by stress, ward off fatigue and help maintain healthy immunity with vitamins, minerals, whole-food concentrates and adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs, including sensoril, an ashwagandha extract clinically shown to promote a healthy stress response and fight fatigue. The stresses faced in life aren’t likely to change; but with the right nutritional support, the body—including the adrenals—can get the support it needs to stay healthy and emotionally balanced.