Holistic Interventions to Relieve Stress and Heal your Body
Stress may seem like a largely modern phenomenon, but in one way or another, it has been part of the human condition for as long as we have been human. Naturopathic Doctors throughout the centuries, and across cultures, have paid close attention to plants that helped restore calm and resilience.
Here are some of my favorite plant-based interventions for stress and its eventual result, adrenal fatigue:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): The root of this shrub from India has been shown to help the body maintain a normal cortisol response under physiologic or emotional stress. It is a classic example of an “adaptogen” – a substance that provides “non-specific” resistance to stress. It works wonders for people who are exhausted at day’s end but can’t sleep; that is, those who are wired and tired. Among the adaptogens, it is one of the most calming and balancing to the adrenals.
- Rhodiola root (Rhodiola rosea): Native to Canada and North Asia, this adaptogen is on the opposite end of the spectrum from ashwagandha. It is stimulating and energizing, and there’s no need to restrict its use – it has been shown be effective for those who are not only tired but constantly stressed, and are night owls. Whether you can’t sleep at night for ‘no reason’, or you have bee working the night shift and need to normalize your sleep patterns.
- Tulsi herb (Ocimum sanctum): Also known as holy basil, this gentle herb is prized in India as a way to increase awareness and focus, while being effective against a broad range of physical and mental stressors. I’ve found it especially useful for people who feel their stress in their digestive tracts.
- Schisandra fruit (Schisandra chinensis): A staple of traditional Chinese medicine, the bright red berry native to Asia is a classic adaptogen, capable of promoting stamina and overall strength. A Swedish review paper summarizing Russian research concluded it “increases physical working capacity and affords a stress-protective effect against a broad spectrum of harmful factors”. Schisandra in this cases would be great for those who have undergone any environmental stressors such as toxins, heavy metals, pollution or intense weather changes as well.
Foods to Support Adrenal Health
Besides herbal support, certain key foods in your diet can help to feed your adrenal health.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Unrefined pink sea salt (also called Himalayan rock salt) is one of the most nutritionally-dense foods on the planet. It is a raw food that contains over 84 trace minerals your body needs to feel healthy, balance and energized. Did you also know that too little salt (due to mineral loss) can actually slow your thyroid, metabolism and adrenal functions down? One reason people with adrenal fatigue crave processed foods (primarily sugar and those high in refined salt) is because their mineral levels are off. Of course, that’s no reason to pick up the salt shaker every chance you get; just try adding a tiny pinch of pink salt to a smoothie, your morning oatmeal, or a dinner entree. Pink sea salt is helpful for relieving joint pain, headaches, and even constipation due to high amounts of magnesium and sodium that your body needs to function properly.
Dark Leafy Greens
Magnesium and Vitamin C stores are often low when the adrenals are suffering. Leafy greens not only provide both, but also provide iron and chlorophyll. This helps give you energy, reduces acidity and inflammation, and helps promote balance in the body. Leafy greens are also high in necessary fibers your endocrine system needs to work well, that will also help lower your blood sugar during meals. If you crave sugar, try adding more greens to your diet to see if that helps. Spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, collards and all fresh herbs work here.
You’ll see many different things recommended for adrenal health on the market, however one of the most important things you can do is to stay away from sugar, (along with processed foods, caffeine and alcohol). Sugar disrupts insulin function in the body and causes problems with your blood sugar that can later affect the kidneys and adrenals. This is one reason diabetics suffer from kidney problems so much – sugar exhausts your body on every single level.