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Science of Stress | The Health Detective

If you are tired all the time, stress could be the reason. Let the science of stress help remove those stressors from your life. And there are few days in the year that have a higher potential for stress than tax day!

As fictional astronaut Mark Watney so eloquently puts it in The Martian, when you’ve got a problem, you’re gonna need to “science the sh*t out of this.” This problem is where the science of adaptogens can help manage stress and help you to get your energy back. Let’s use the science of stress to our advantage! 

Adaptogens are natural substances from plants and herbs that help the body adapt to stress, mitigate the stress response, reduce the effect of the physiological stress response, and restore balance in the body.  Pretty cool, right?!  Science!  

What is stress?

Stress can be mental, emotional, internal, physiological, structural, or even environmental.  

The body doesn’t discriminate between the types of stress. If you get cut off in traffic, or if a shark bumps your board while you’re surfing, or if you have an inflammatory food sensitivity, your body responds in the same way.

The Science Of Stress

In 1936, Dr. Hans Seyle developed this definition of stress: “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”  Nominated numerous times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his body of work on stress, Dr. Seyle was the first to demonstrate the critical role of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in the stress response.  Dr. Seyle was also the first to characterize the concept of positive stress, or “eustress,” which is growth-inducing and necessary for a healthy life. Without Dr. Seyle, we would have never discovered so much about the science of stress. 

Our bodies were not designed to be in a chronic stress response, however.  

Stress that is chronic and dysfunctional can have devastating effects on our health.  According to the American Institute of Stress, 60-90 percent of physician visits are stress-related. It is becoming clear that stress is a critical factor in people’s lives, which means the science of stress is much more important. 

The high-performing and health-conscious women whom I serve struggle with physiological and psychological stress the most commonly. These stresses are the cause of the exhaustion they are experiencing.

Through The Science Of Stress: The Discovery Of Adaptogens

During the Cold War, free exchange of scientific knowledge was limited.  Dr. Seyle’s work was so monumental that even in that closed atmosphere, a Soviet scientist, Dr. Nikolai Lazarev, took an interest in his work.  Dr. Lazarev began looking for substances that would improve a person’s resistance to stress, increase physical and mental capacity, and reduce fatigue.  In 1947 he named this class of substances adaptogens.

Is anyone else picturing a Captain-America-style laboratory right now?!  

In the 1960s, studying adaptogens passed to Dr. Lazarev’s protege, Dr. Israel Brekhman.  Dr. Brekhman’s research discovered that the consumption of adaptogenic herbs improved stamina, productivity, and recovery.  The uses for increasing stress-adaptive capacity and improving performance included military, athletic, and even medical applications.  

Having published numerous scientific studies and books on adaptogens, Dr. Brekhman earned the moniker “Father of Adaptogens.”  With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, physiological research such as Dr. Brekhman’s became available to the rest of the world. The holistic and performance communities have embraced and promoted these powerful plant nutrients. 

What is an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are plant substances that assist the body to better handle or adapt to internal and external sources of stress.  They can improve attention and endurance, enhance the body’s physical performance, increase energy, and reduce fatigue.  

These plants grow in places with harsh conditions, requiring them to adapt to their environment to survive.  

The first adaptogen that Dr. Brekhman studied was Eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as Siberian Ginseng, which is a thorny shrub that grows in southeastern Russia, northern China, Japan, and Korea.  The adaptogen Rhodiola Rosea, also known as Arctic Root,  is native to the Arctic mountains in Europe and Asia.  

Other recommended adaptogens include Schisandra Chinensis, Holy basil, and Ashwagandha.

You can find adaptogens in botanical drinks and even in tea.  Adding adaptogens to your daily routine can help you to be and feel less stressed and more energetic! 

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