Unlocking the Benefits of Adaptogens: How These Superfoods Can Improve Gut Health
Adaptogens are one of those buzz words right now in the health and wellness industry. So what are they and how can we use them to our advantage?
Let's start by defining what adaptogens are. Adaptogens are a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to normalize body processes after stressful situations. This could be any type of stress including physical, emotional or mental stress.
One of the lesser-known benefits of adaptogens is their ability to heal and support gut health. When I speak about the gut I am speaking about our gastrointestinal tract. It is a complex system that plays a vital role in our overall health. It is responsible for breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. The gut is also home to trillions of microbes that play a critical role in maintaining our immune system, regulating our mood, and keeping our digestive system functioning properly.
Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle can take a toll on our gut health. Poor diet, stress, antibiotics, and other medications can disrupt the balance of bacteria in our gut, leading to inflammation, digestive issues, and other health problems.
This is where adaptogens come in. Adaptogens have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the gut and support the growth of healthy bacteria.
Here are some of the most popular adaptogens for gut health:
1. Ashwagandha - This herb has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve gut motility, which can help alleviate digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhea. It works indirectly by affecting the HPA axis on our brain to reduce our perceived level of stress. When we have less perceived levels of stress, our gut will be less reactive. So thinking back to those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS for short) either diarrhea or constipation: one of the main triggers for flares and stress. So if you are reducing your perceived stress level, you will have less extremes of diarrhea or constipation.
2. Licorice Root - Licorice root has been used for centuries to soothe and heal the digestive tract. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation in the gut. You will note that some probiotics or “gut healthy” products will contain licorice root. There is evidence that doing licorice root gargles can help with sore throat, and topical forms can be applied to improve atopic dermatitis also known as eczema (1).
3. Ginger - Ginger is well known for its ability to soothe nausea and promote healthy digestion. If you are having nausea or an upset stomach, drink real ginger ale (contains actual ginger), or chop a small piece of raw ginger and soak it in hot water and drink as a tea. If you dare, you can chew on the raw ginger but beware as it is very potent and only need a very small piece.
4. Turmeric - Turmeric contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin, which can help reduce inflammation in the gut and support healthy digestion. One study in mice found that curcumin was able to disrupt H.pylori infection by preventing the bacteria from growing (1).
5. Holy Basil -Holy basil can counteract the effects of stress-induced ulcers. It naturally increases your stomach’s defense by increasing mucus secretion and decreasing stomach acid. One animal study showed that 200 mg of holy basil extract reduced both the number of ulcers significantly in two-thirds of the animals(2).
6. Aloe Vera - Aloe vera is known as a natural laxative. It works in a similar mechanism of Miralax by preventing the amount of water that is absorbed in the large intestine. These types of laxatives are called osmotic laxatives. They help to keep stool soft and eases constipation naturally.
Adaptogens can be taken in a variety of forms, including capsules, teas, and tinctures. It's important to choose high-quality adaptogens from a reputable source to ensure their purity and potency. You want to verify that you are getting what you actually pay for.
By incorporating adaptogens into your daily routine, you can help reduce inflammation in the gut, promote healthy digestion, bowel movements and better control of stress.
If you want to start incorporating adaptogens and other supplements into your routine but are unsure about which ones would benefit you the most, schedule a free call here with one of our health professionals to discuss your goals and develop a plan.
Kuriyama A, Maeda H. Topical application of licorice for prevention of postoperative sore throat in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Anesthesia. 2019;54:25-32
Burge, K., Gunasekaran, A., Eckert, J., & Chaaban, H. (2019). Curcumin and Intestinal Inflammatory Diseases: Molecular Mechanisms of Protection. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(8), 1912. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20081912
Cohen M. M. (2014). Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 5(4), 251–259. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-9476.146554