Stress is seemingly everywhere. From the pressure of job security and the uncertainty of healthcare to family and financial burdens, stress is almost unavoidable. Stress can make you short-tempered, unhappy, tired, and fatigued. Stress causes muscle tension and fatigue, increases cortisol production and inflammation, constricts blood vessels, and raises blood pressure. There are many proven methods to reduce stress, from mindfulness and meditation to exercise and forgiveness; taking control of our everyday stress is paramount. The ability to reduce physical and chemical stress, nutritionally speaking, should be at the forefront of the discussion regarding health, wellness, and prevention. Having research finally begin to validate the disease-causing effects of stress and, more importantly, the countermeasures available to bolster the chemistry of the body to better manage stress is, for many, life-changing.
Will stress take you out of the game?
The human body, in its magnificent design, will do everything possible to continue to survive no matter the amount of stress placed on its systems, and anything we can do to lessen the stress load will certainly help. Nutritionally speaking, concentrating on the ratios of meats to vegetables is a great beginning; however, oftentimes our systems need a boost. Our digestive system responds to stress in various and distinct ways. It can speed up or completely shut down digestion based on external and internal factors. Actually, stress and how you handle it affect your gut in more insidious ways than you might think. Stress can actually shut down the entire digestive tract, which affects more than simple food digestion, and here’s the reason I bring this up. The latest research is revealing the digestive “gut” is much more than a simple tube for processing our food. The Enteric system, or as it’s referred to, “the brain in the gut” actually is just as complex as our thinking brain. No, the second brain in the gut can’t reason or judge or have any conscious thought, however, when combined, both “brains” determine our mental state and proper digestion.
“The second brain doesn’t help with the great thought processes . . . religion, philosophy, and poetry is left to the brain in the head,” says Michael Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, an expert in the nascent field of neurogastroenterology and author of the 1998 book The Second Brain (HarperCollins).
When our digestive tract is stressed on a daily basis, like a drained car battery, sometimes a jump start is necessary to get things moving forward. Reducing mental stressors in our daily lives is a great start, but often this isn’t enough. Nutrition plays a critical role in reducing or repairing the damage caused by stress. By providing the proper fuel for maximum power and performance, and reducing mental stress, your body will supercharge the ”battery” and start you back on the path to better health.
Superfoods-The Key to Stress Reduction
Superfoods are not only a key to this approach, they are the key to reduce the effects of stress on your body’s function. A Superfood is a more nutrient and enzyme-dense food in comparison to the typical foods we daily consume. Any search of Superfoods online will tout nearly everything as being in this category; however, most fall short. Superfoods like barley grass, blueberries, broccoli, kale, papaya, spinach, Brazil nuts, and even dark chocolate provide benefits for the entire body. The key is to select Superfoods, which are as nutrient-dense and enzymatically active as possible. Ounce per ounce, Superfoods like barley grass, take the pole position when it comes to nutrient-dense quality as compared to other green vegetables.
Barley grass is a great example of a truly nutrient-dense and enzyme active whole food, which if correctly processed, remains enzymatically active and chlorophyll-rich – a key to absorption. Barley grass is completely different than the actual barley or wheat grain. Barley grass juice/powder is similar to vegetables in that it is easily digested and absorbed. The nutrient profile of barley grass shifts dramatically as the plant matures. It’s very important to harvest the plants at the correct time to achieve the highest possible nutrient density. As the barley grass grows, chlorophyll and vitamin content sharply decline and the grass becomes a grain. Grains tend to cause inflammation and stress when digested. Barley grass has the complete opposite effect, actually helping to reduce inflammation and stress by acting as a free radical scavenger. Superfoods are key to optimum health, alkalinity, and longevity and the varieties are plentiful.
The Secret Combination to the Lock
Another group of Superfoods is Adaptogens. Typically these herbs, mushrooms, and plants are found growing in harsh and unbearable conditions, and these Adaptogens seem to be able to adapt and survive. If Superfoods are the key, Adaptogens are the secret combination.
These groups of plants bolster bodily functions, including the immune system, regulating stress hormones and neurotransmitters, which boost and slow the body’s physiology as needed. Further, certain Adaptogens have been shown to reduce fatigue, depression, and mental exhaustion.
Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity Adaptogens were initially defined as substances that enhance the “state of non-specific resistance” in stress, a physiological condition that is linked with various disorders of the neuroendocrine-immune system. Studies on animals and isolated neuronal cells have revealed that Adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, anti-depressive, anxiolytic, nootropic, and CNS stimulating activity. In addition, a number of clinical trials demonstrate that Adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly intolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention. -The National Institute of Health
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the Adaptogen Eleuthero, once known as Siberian Ginseng, to invigorate sexual function and boost vital energy. Ashwagandha is an herbal Adaptogen known as the “strength of the stallion” in India and is touted by many as being the most powerful to strengthen the immune system after illness. It is purported to help regulate the harmful effects of Cortisol. Astragalus, Holy Basil, Jiaogulan, Maca, Peruvian Ginseng, Schisandra, Sea Buckthorn, and Reishi Mushrooms are just a few other important Adaptogens.
Schisandra, another in the list of important Adaptogens, also known as the “Five Flavored Berry,” is shown to reduce fatigue and increases endurance and physical performance. Used as food and also to make medicine, Schisandra is used for increasing resistance to disease and stress, increasing energy, and increasing physical performance and endurance. Schisandra is also used for preventing early aging and increasing lifespan, normalizing blood sugar and blood pressure, and for stimulating the immune system, and speeding recovery after surgery.
One of the most well-known Adaptogens is Ginseng. Ginseng may help with stimulating physical and mental activity among people who are weak and tired. A Mayo Clinic study revealed that Ginseng showed good results in helping cancer patients with fatigue. Another benefit may be to improve thinking ability and cognition.
JinSong Geng, M.D., said, “Ginseng appears to have some beneficial effects on cognition, behavior, and quality of life.” Additionally, Ginseng has seven constituents, ginsenosides, which may have immune-suppressive effects. This helps with joint inflammation and according to results of Research experiments which were published in the Journal of Translational Medicine, led by Allan Lau, who said that “the anti-inflammatory role of Ginseng may be due to the combined effects of these ginsenosides.
When your body has been overstimulated for years by a typical high protein, high sugar, and caffeine-rich diet, it can be a shock to the system to shift the balance. The key to your success and to unlock your stress pattern, is to slowly reduce the stimulants while adding natural compounds from plant sources like the Superfoods and Adaptogens listed above. This is not a sprint, but rather a marathon. The amount of effort you place on your decisions every day determines your level of success with changing and shifting your brain patterns. It might be enough to simply jump-start your dead or depleted battery; however, the change might require more aggressive measures.
Unlocking the Pattern
I’ve listed several foods above that, when utilized, can bring your body back to balance from the endless stress we encounter daily. Whether happening in the moment or being relived from memory, the stress on your body is real. Your physical body only responds to stressful situations in one way; it reacts to what signals are being sent by your mind. When we combine what happens with your “brain between your ears” with the “brain in your gut,” and then add in the automatic subconscious control of all body functions, it’s a wonder any of us survive. If it were up to your thinking brain, you would probably have died by now. By this I mean, you don’t have the conscious capacity to make everything happen at the cellular level in your body day in and day out. You can’t even be in charge of remembering to breathe and swallow at the appropriate times. Seriously, if you were in complete charge of your body with all things needing to be processed by your conscious brain, you’d be in a mess. My point is simply, you have the blessing of survival taken care of automatically. That’s the good news. The bad news is these things happen inside your body automatically and you have no conscious way to shift their pattern. Your control over your body ends at the point of you making a conscious decision to do or not to do something. You have the free will to make choices every day, yet you have no control over the consequences of your actions. Unless you are able to shift your pattern into a completely different response based on the present circumstances, your body’s reaction to everyday stress is programmed into your subconscious mind. As a test, can you consciously lower your shoulders right now? If so, your body was reacting to some level of stress you probably didn’t even know existed. This is the subconscious control I was speaking about.
Seriously, do I have a choice?
Yes! One way to shift the pattern is to be cognizant of the choices you make each day with regard to your nutritional choices. Making better and healthier choices can make a difference; it can shift your pattern over time. I mentioned the ability to jump-start the battery earlier.
Superfoods like barley grass (Alka•Green®) and the Adaptogens like Schisandra and Ginseng (found in Alka•Slim®) are a key part of improving your health by reducing body stress and subsequent illness. These products will only be a small part of the pattern shift needed to reduce stress, increase stamina, and unleash your potential. You must shift your pattern to better understand the healing potential your body contains. It happens every moment of every day with your conscious choices.
Adding Superfoods and Adaptogens to your daily regimen helps reduce the effects of stress on your digestive tract by giving your gut the types of food it’s designed to process with ease. Dig in and learn more about Superfoods and Adaptogens and how they may play an important role in reducing your stress levels. Learn more about your gut health and what you need to thrive.
The great news is you have the power to choose how you react to your daily stress. When stress is all around, I suggest you go for a walk, Morter March, practice breathing exercises to relax, be mindful of your body and of the choices you make with regards to nutrition, add Superfoods and Adaptogens, and pay attention to how your body responds to these changes.