793: Your Stress Can Kill You

Aug 13, 2020

Hi, friends! It’s Elizabeth here, and I am so excited to share Episode 793 of Primal Potential with you today! Primal Potential is a podcast all about you — your ability to change is not defined by yesterday and doesn’t need to wait until tomorrow. Your transformation is now, no matter what stage you find yourself in life!

I know many of you will be excited about today’s episode because it’s pretty science-y! I get many requests from my long-time listeners for more science-y episodes, so today I am bringing on the science.

I’m going to be talking to you about a topic I get a lot of questions about: adaptogens. Now, if you’re thinking, “Um, what the heck are adaptogens?” that’s okay! We’re going to go there.

Put simply: Adaptogens are natural supplements that help your body adapt to stress.

But there’s a lot more cool science to adaptogens than that! So today, we’re going to get into the details of what adaptogens are and why they’re important. We’re going to talk about a few different types of adaptogens and how you can find out which ones might be right for you.

Now before we dive in, I want to make one thing clear: what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for you. Some adaptogens are going to work well for one person and their needs, but your body and your needs are different.

That’s why I’m not going to share exactly what adaptogens I take in the episode — I don’t want anyone to think, “Oh, Elizabeth takes these, I should take them too!” Your needs are different from mine, and it’s essential to figure out what supplements are right for you.

If you think adaptogens are right for you, and you’d like more information, feel free to DM me on Instagram! I’d be happy to share more details with you, talk about the specific adaptogens I take, and even make a follow-up episode if enough people request one! But remember: adaptogens are all about what your body needs, so make sure you’re not just following my or anyone else’s program.

With that, let’s dive in! First, I want to talk to you about stress…


Stress: It’s Not Just About Worrying


Before I get into any specifics about certain adaptogens, it’s essential that we define stress.

Stress is not just mental and emotional stress. It’s not just about your experiences of anxiety or worry in your day-to-day life. It’s not just something that makes you feel crappy. It’s not even about the big emotional stressors that we experience — like dramatic life changes or traumas.

When I talk about stress in this episode, I’m talking about physical stress. I’m talking about the stress your body experiences due to certain stressors.

For example, one of the most common stressors is overeating. Overeating causes physical stress on your body, and the stress gets worse based on the degree to which you’re overeating and the frequency of your overeating.

Other stressors include sugar, gluten, and anything else you have a specific sensitivity to. I’m sensitive to certain types of dairy, so ice cream — when I eat too much of it — puts stress on my body.

And it goes beyond food. Illness is a stressor. When you have an allergy attack or the flu, your body is under stress. Injury is also a stressor — when you roll your ankle, your body experiences physical stress. And finally, lack of sleep is a major stressor a lot of people experience. Maybe you think you can make it work on just four hours of sleep, and I’m sure you can, but your body is not meant to function that way long-term.

Now not all stress is bad! When you exercise, you put stress on your body. But your body heals from that stress pretty easily. It’s when you engage in chronic activities that cause stress that you run into trouble.

And I’m talking about real trouble. I want you guys to hear me loud and clear when I say this: Your body is not meant to handle chronic stress. We were not designed to handle constant overeating, lack of sleep, illness, and injury.

Those things have serious consequences for our bodies. The symptoms may not show up immediately, but they will come up, and you can start having major health problems. That’s why I’m saying that stress can kill you! Our brains can actually degenerate, and we can create a whole range of severe health problems just by consistently putting our bodies under the kind of physical stress caused by any of the stressors I just listed.

But there are ways to combat that stress and help our bodies recover faster and keep working at optimum levels. That’s where adaptogens come in!


Adaptogens: What Are They, and How Do They Work?


Adaptogens are naturally occurring herbs and mushrooms that help your body respond to stress. They can be a fantastic way to help your body with its natural hormone production to ease healing, boost immunity, and raise your energy levels, among other helpful things!

Keep in mind: Adaptogens — like any other supplement — are just one drop in the bucket. If you don’t have a healthy diet, if you aren’t exercising, and if you don’t get enough sleep, adaptogens are not going to solve your problems. They’re not going to heal your body from chronic stress as if by magic. Like any supplement, they will support your body’s natural process when you’re already taking good care of yourself.

That said, adaptogens can function in a vital role for you!

One of the main things they do is support your adrenal system. You have two glands called your adrenal glands. They sit right on top of your kidneys, and they produce hormones that you absolutely cannot live without.

For one, they produce cortisol, the stress hormone — which you do need to survive. Your adrenal glands produce a lot of your sex hormones too. You cannot function at your best without well-functioning adrenal glands!

But sometimes, the physical stress we put on our bodies can cause our adrenal glands to work overtime, and they’re just not meant to do that.

For example, it’s a popular myth that when women enter menopause, they don’t produce as much estrogen and progesterone. Not true! The difference is that ovaries start to produce less of those hormones, and your adrenal glands pick up the slack. That is totally normal and healthy!

But remember, your adrenal glands are already producing hormones that help your body function and heal normally. So if your adrenal glands are already working overtime to keep up with chronic physical stress on your body and then they have to keep up with estrogen and progesterone production during menopause, they just get overworked. They don’t have enough bandwidth to keep you functioning at your best.

That’s why many women experience weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, and other uncomfortable symptoms during menopause. We’re not meant to experience those things! They’re the result of our adrenal glands’ inability to keep up with the demands of hormone production we’re putting on them.

That’s where adaptogens can help. Adaptogens can support your adrenal glands and help them to naturally produce more of the hormones your body needs so you can experience a healthier menopause!


Which Adaptogens Are Right for You?


First of all, I just want to say — I am not a pharmacist. I am not an expert, and I have no place prescribing anything to anybody. If you want to incorporate adaptogens or any other kind of medication of supplement into your health regimen, I’d suggest consulting a doctor or pharmacist, or at least doing some pretty thorough research first. (In just a moment, I’ll give you a great resource you can use to research different types of adaptogens and tell you what to look for!)

When you’re looking for adaptogens, remember what I said earlier: your body and your specific needs are the most essential thing to consider. That’s why the adaptogens I take may not work for you! Consider what effect you want adaptogens to have.

For example, if you want to support your adrenal glands like I talked about earlier, ashwagandha may be a good choice for you. Ashwagandha is a naturally occurring herb with properties that help with stress release and relaxation. It can reduce cortisol and moderate your stress, and a good side effect of that is improved cognitive function. It’s a good option if you’re looking to help your body respond better to stress.

But maybe instead of help relaxing, you’re looking for a supplement that will boost your energy levels and stamina. In that case, maca might be a better choice for you. Maca is great for adjusting your hormone levels to giving you increased energy.

There are also various types of maca that have different functions. Black maca, for instance, is excellent for male fertility, while yellow maca is more for female fertility and energy. Again, it’s important to consider your individual needs when you’re choosing the right adaptogens for you.

After you consider your specific needs, it is absolutely essential to research the products you’re using thoroughly. Some supplement companies do shady things, and you don’t want to be taking low-quality products.

A great resource you can use to research different herbal supplements is PubMed.gov. This is a fantastic resource where you can find peer-reviewed clinical studies on almost any drug or supplement you can think of. I highly recommend using it as a tool to research any adaptogens you’re interested in to confirm that they’re right for you.

And when you’re researching, there are a few things you should consider. The number one thing is: what ingredients are being used? You want to make absolutely sure that the particular product you’re considering is manufactured with the highest quality ingredients and the same ingredients that have been studied in clinical trials.

Some companies will try to use cheaper versions of ingredients to cut down on costs and make higher profits, but those ingredients haven’t been tested in clinical trials. Make sure to find adaptogens made from the same high-quality ingredients that have been studied!

Number two is: make sure that the amounts used in the products you’re considering are the same amounts that have been studied. You want to make sure you’re taking the correct amount of any supplement, and sometimes shady companies will try to sell you a lower dose so that you have to purchase more of the product, and they make more money. So do your research or contact a trusted source and make sure you’re only buying and using adaptogens that have been thoroughly studied and proven effective!


Stress Is a Killer, but Adaptogens Can Help


I want to drive this point home: Our bodies are not meant to cope with chronic stress. When we experience stress from sources like sugar, illness, injury, lack of sleep, or overeating too often or for too long, our bodies start to break down. Our brains can actually degenerate, and we can create severe enough health problems to kill us.

And the truth is, adaptogens are not going to help you all by themselves. If you have a garbage diet, never exercise, and consistently get too little sleep, your body will be under too much stress no matter what adaptogens you take.

But along with a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep routine, adaptogens can be a fantastic way to help your body adapt to stress and function at an optimal level! They really are incredibly helpful for me and my body, and if you’re interested, I highly recommend doing some research and finding the adaptogens that are right for you!

If you want to get more information about adaptogens or request a follow-up episode, reach out to me on Instagram! I am always happy to receive your messages there, so please feel free to DM me with any questions to have!

And if you’d like some extra support, a little more coaching, and accountability — I want you to get on the waitlist for our next 12 Weeks of Transformation! In this program, I work with people in a much more personal and structured way to create change. We tackle our excuses head-on and find the core values that will motivate you to take action. If you’re not sure what to do next, I encourage you to check out 12 Weeks to Transformation and get on that waitlist! 

I’d also love to connect with you via text! I send out text messages with my daily mindset upgrades and daily encouragement. I know they will encourage you and empower you on your journey!

Thanks, everyone! I’m so glad you chose to join me today. Now go do your research and consider what adaptogens might help you be your best, healthiest self every day!


Elizabeth Benton

The Primal Potential Podcast

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