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Mother nature’s stress-busters

March 2019 Print
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Turn off social media and tune into adaptogens to help manage stress

Stress is one of the most common words used to describe modern life – but when it tips into chronic territory, it's cause for big concern. Anxiety, adrenal exhaustion and burnout, fatigue, low stamina, poor performance, depression, headaches, sexual dysfunction or fertility issues, poor immunity, gastrointestinal complaints, advanced ageing, poor cognition and mental performance and sleep disturbances[1] all are signs your body is pushing beyond its acceptable ‘fight or flight’ mode – and it can be detrimental to your wellbeing.

Almost five million Australians are affected by stress[2] having a big impact on their lives

Stress is getting worse as the years go by. The incidence of stress rose from 3.7 million Australians reporting it in 2007-2008 to over 4.9 million in 2016-17[3]. In corporate Australia alone, almost one-third of workers suffer some form of mental illness including depression, anxiety and stress. This has risen sharply from one in five a decade ago.[4]  

Stress stimulates the immune system and while signs of stress vary from person to person, tensing your jaw, grinding your teeth, getting headaches, having problems sleeping, or feeling irritable or short tempered[5] are sure signs that your body is stressed to some degree. And there are more and more causes – personal finances, family issues, our health and that of those close to us are all key causes of stress in Australians. We help to alleviate it by watching television and movies, focusing on the positives, spending time with friends and family, listening to music and reading. Alarmingly, 75 per cent eat to deal with it, while one in three turn to video games and one in five gamble.[6]

Social media[7] is one of the biggest influencers affecting how Australians relate to stress
Social media platforms are rapidly changing the way we interact and are now considered both a cause of stress and a means of managing stress. In 2015, more than one in 10 Australians reported ‘issues with keeping up with social media networks’ as a source of stress, yet 51 per cent of us visited social media sites as a means to manage stress.[8]

While active use of social media can help increase feelings of connectedness, researchers reveal that passive use is problematic and negatively affects wellbeing.[9] In the era of trolls and cyberbullying, perhaps it is time to tune out of social and look at more active forms of ways to deal with stress – meditation, yoga, taking up a sport are all positive ways to channel emotions. And you can provide your body with better nutritional support too

Adaptogens provide a natural alternative to support your body in times of stress

Adaptogens are non-toxic medicinal plants herbs and roots used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. They are thought to help support the body cope with all types of stress – physical, chemical or biological[10] and are so-called because they can ‘adapt’ as needed to help your body’s unique needs and stressors. They have been found to augment resistance to stress and increase concentration, performance and endurance during fatigue[11].

Adaptogens first became more mainstream during World War II where they were developed and studied to help healthy pilots work at even greater levels for longer periods of time.[12] Modern clinical trials have found “adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue”[13] with researchers learning they have neuroprotective elements and anti-fatigue properties, provide anti-depressive effects and stimulate the central nervous system[14].

Siberian Ginseng and Withania are now used for the entire body to restore health and vitality

Siberian Ginseng and Withania are two of the most popular adaptogens today. Dating back around 2,000 years as a herbal remedy in China, repeated modern studies into Siberian ginseng reveal anti-stress, anti-fatigue and tonic effects, increased well-being and better sleep.[15] Withania – a nightshade also known as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng and winter cherry – boasts roots that historically have been used to treat arthritis, constipation, insomnia, stress and gastrointestinal issues among other conditions.[16]

Adaptogens  are available in supplement or powdered form or in teas or extracts. It’s important to check in with your healthcare practitioner prior to trying an adaptogen supplement however – some can interact with prescription medication and affect your blood sugar, blood pressure and thyroid hormone levels.[17]

References

[1] Sarris J, Wardle J. Clinical Naturopathy. An evidence-based guide to practice. Churchill Livingstone, Sydney, 2010 cited in Eagle, Herbal and Nutritional Solutions for Adrenal Support, accessed 6 March 2019, https://eaglenaturalhealth.com.au/media/1370/herbal-and-nutritional-solutions-for-adrenal-support.pdf

[2] Medibank Better Health Index by Roy Morgan Research. Data collected between July 2007 to June 2017. 23.1% reported suffering from stress ‘in the last three months’ in 2007-08, compared with 26.3% in 2016-17. Cited in Medibank, Was 2017 Australia’s most stressful year?, 27 December 2017, accessed 6 March 2019, https://www.medibank.com.au/livebetter/health-brief/health-insights/was-2017-australias-most-stressful-year/

[3] Medibank, ibid.

[4] Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In by Medibio used data from 3,500 employees across 41 organisations from a range of industries. Cited in C Pash, A third of corporate Australia is feeling stressed, anxious and depressed, Business Insider, 18 April 2019, accessed 6 March 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com.au/corporate-australia-stress-anxiety-depression-medibio-2018-4#hy8BEVEvYvgwALbK.99

[5] Australian Psychology Society, ‘Stress’, accessed 11 March 2019, https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-topics/Stress

[6] Australian Psychology Society, ‘Stress & wellbeing: how Australians are coping with life’, The findings of the Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015, ibid.

[7] Social media in the context of this report is defined as the use of the internet and mobile technologies to turn communication into social interactive dialogue. It excludes activities like work texting and email. Australian Psychology Society, ‘Stress & wellbeing: how Australians are coping with life’, The findings of the Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015, accessed 11 March 2019, https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/stress-and-wellbeing-in-australia-report.pdf?sfvrsn=7f08274d_4

[8] Australian Psychology Society, ‘Stress & wellbeing: how Australians are coping with life’, The findings of the Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015, ibid.

[9] P Verduyn, O Ybarra, M Résibois, J Jonides and E Kross, Do Social Network Sites Enhance or Undermine Subjective Well‐Being? ‘A Critical Review, The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues’, 13 January 2017, accessed 11 March 2019, https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/sipr.12033

[10] J Ducharme, ‘What Are Adaptogens and Why Are People Taking Them?’, Time, 28 February 2018, accessed 11 March 2019, http://time.com/5025278/adaptogens-herbs-stress-anxiety/

[11] Panossian A, Wikman G, Kaur P et al. Adaptogens exert a stress-protective effect by modulation of expression of molecular chaperones. Phytomedicine. 2009; 16(6-7): 617-22. Cited in Eagle, ibid.

[12] C Brusie, ‘Adaptogenic Herbs: List, Effectiveness, and Health Benefit’, Healthline, 28 June 2017, accessed 11 March 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/adaptogenic-herbs

[13] A Panossian and G Wikman, ‘Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity’, Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan; 3(1): 188–224, published online 2010 Jan 19. doi: 10.3390/ph3010188, accessed 11 March 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/

[14] C Brusie, ibid.

[15] Enno F, Gleske J. Siberian Ginseng Results in Beneficial Effects on Glucose Metabolism in Diabetes Type 2 Patients: A Double Blind Placebo-Controlled Study in Comparison to Panax Ginseng. International Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013; 1(1): 11-7. Cited in supplied document

[16] R Goldman, ‘Ashwagandha: Health Benefits and Side Effects’, Healthline, 8 August 2016, accessed 11 March 2019, http://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/ashwagandha-health-benefits#3

[17] J Axe cited in S Colino, ‘Are Adaptogens Nature's Stress Busters?’, US News, 14 November 2018 accessed 11 March 2019, https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/2018-11-14/are-adaptogens-natures-stress-busters

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