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    About this Episode

    Hey podcast community, Dr. Mark here. My team and I are so excited to offer you a 7 Day Free trial of the Dr. Hyman+ subscription for Apple Podcast. For 7 days, you get access to all this and more entirely for free! It's so easy to sign up. Just go click the Try Free button on the Doctor’s Farmacy Podcast page in Apple Podcast. 


    In this episode, you’ll hear our latest Dr. Hyman+ Functional Medicine Deep Dive on stress and supplements with Dr. Melinda Ring.  Dr. Ring takes us on a journey to show us how our body responds to stress, what it can do naturally, and the circumstances where it may need additional support while responding to stress. She shares the environmental and lifestyle factors that can disrupt our internal stress monitor and the symptoms that can result from stress overload.


    Access Dr. Ring's Deep Dive Slides here

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Chronic stress can negatively impact our mental and physical health, but natural products, like herbs and plants, offer potential solutions. Being informed consumers and prioritizing mental well-being is essential in managing stress and maintaining overall well-being.
    • Understanding and managing stress effectively is crucial for maintaining overall well-being, as it can enhance performance in moderation but lead to negative effects if excessive, making it important to find an optimal stress level.
    • Maintaining a balanced cortisol response is crucial for overall health as chronic elevation of cortisol can negatively impact mental and physical well-being. Salivary cortisol testing is a reliable way to measure cortisol levels.
    • While salivary cortisol tests can provide insights into stress levels, it is important to consider other factors and symptoms. Managing long-term stress requires a holistic approach involving lifestyle changes and potentially incorporating adaptogenic herbs.
    • Adaptogens, like Asian ginseng and ashwagandha, offer a promising way to reduce stress-related symptoms and enhance physical and mental health, but users should exercise caution and be aware of potential side effects and drug interactions.
    • Ginseng may improve brain function and sexual function, while Ashwagandha promotes restful sleep and reduces stress. However, caution and patience are needed, and it's important to choose high-quality supplements and follow recommended dosages.
    • Ashwagandha and rhodiola can be added to various recipes, teas, and smoothies to enjoy their health benefits, but be cautious when using combination adaptogen products and avoid adrenal glandular extracts.
    • It is important to understand the regulations surrounding dietary supplements and be aware of potential risks, while also ensuring there is scientific evidence supporting their benefits before using them.
    • Utilize tools and third-party seals of approval to ensure the quality and reliability of dietary supplements, but remember that they are only one part of a holistic approach to overall health.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Harnessing Nature's Solutions for Stress Management

    Chronic stress can lead to dysfunction in our body's stress control system, known as the HPA Axis. This can have negative effects on our mental and physical health. However, there is growing interest in natural products, such as herbs and plants, as potential solutions for managing stress. It is important to be discerning as consumers and healthcare users, understanding the facts and staying safe and effective in our choices. Recent data shows that mental health issues, including increased stress, are on the rise, highlighting the urgency of addressing stress and prioritizing mental well-being. Our bodies rely on homeostasis, a state of balance and stability, to function properly. When stress disrupts this homeostasis, it can lead to imbalances and health problems. Managing stress and finding ways to restore balance is crucial for our overall well-being.

    Managing Stress for Well-being

    Stress is a normal response to demands placed on our bodies, but it's important to manage it effectively in order to maintain our well-being. Stress can be beneficial up to a certain point, as it can enhance alertness, focus, and motivation, leading to improved performance. However, excessive stress beyond the optimal threshold can have negative effects, including cognitive overload, anxiety, impaired decision making, and even burnout. The level of optimal stress varies individually and depends on factors such as personality, experience, and stress tolerance. While acute stress, occurring in short periods, can have some positive effects, chronic stress can lead to physical and psychological health issues, such as suppressed immune system, cardiovascular problems, and cognitive decline. Therefore, understanding and managing stress is crucial to prevent reaching the exhaustion stage and maintain overall well-being.

    Understanding the Role of Cortisol in Stress Response

    Cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress, plays a crucial role in our body's stress response system called the HPA axis. When our body produces enough cortisol, it signals a message to turn off the alarms and calm down, returning to normal. However, this system works differently in different people, and dysfunction can occur. Factors like chronic stress can disrupt the natural rhythm of cortisol production, leading to health issues such as mood disorders, heart disease, weakened immunity, and increased risk of certain diseases. It's important to maintain a balanced cortisol response for overall health, as chronic elevation of cortisol can have negative effects on both mental and physical well-being. Salivary cortisol testing is a non-invasive and reliable method of measuring cortisol levels.

    The Limitations of Salivary Cortisol Tests and the Need for a Comprehensive Approach to Stress Management

    Measuring cortisol levels through salivary cortisol tests can provide valuable insights into the impact of stress on hormones. However, it is important to note that these tests have limitations, such as the need for precise timing and the influence of various factors like stress and behaviors. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the results in conjunction with other symptoms and factors, rather than relying solely on the test results. Dealing with long-term stress requires a well-rounded approach that includes mind-body practices, regular exercise, strong relationships, a healthy diet, and quality sleep. Furthermore, adaptogenic herbs have gained attention for their potential to help the body cope with stress and restore balance, but their effectiveness should be supported by scientific evidence at different levels.

    The Rise of Adaptogens: A Natural Solution to Combat Stress and Improve Overall Well-being

    The use of adaptogens, such as Asian ginseng, ashwagandha, and Rhodiola, has gained significant popularity due to their wide range of possible benefits. These adaptogenic substances work at the cellular level, increasing the activity of proteins called heat shock proteins. They function like a stress vaccine, preparing the body for the impact of stress. Notably, adaptogens have been linked to decreased symptoms of fatigue, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and depression, as well as improvements in physical well-being and sexual function. This surge in interest can be attributed to the high global stress levels and the desire for enhanced health during the pandemic. The adaptogen market is projected to reach $20.3 billion by 2031. However, it is crucial to use caution when using adaptogens, considering potential side effects and interactions with medications.

    Understanding the Benefits and Cautions of Ginseng and Ashwagandha

    Ginseng and ashwagandha have various health benefits, but it's important to approach their usage with caution. Ginseng may improve brain function, memory, and sexual function, but it may not alleviate flu symptoms or enhance athletic performance. It takes time to see the benefits, so patience is key. Ashwagandha, on the other hand, is known for its calming abilities, promoting restful sleep, reducing stress, and potentially curbing weight gain associated with stress. It's important to note that both herbs have some potential side effects and interactions, and their long-term safety is not extensively studied. When using ginseng or ashwagandha supplements, it's advisable to choose high-quality and organic options and to follow recommended dosages.

    Creative Ways to Incorporate Ashwagandha and Rhodiola into Your Diet

    There are various ways to incorporate adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola into your diet for their health benefits. Ashwagandha can be taken as a capsule or used as a powder in recipes, such as energy balls or added to smoothies, soups, and stews. It offers a unique bitter and earthy flavor that can be balanced with the right ingredients. On the other hand, rhodiola can be consumed as a tea or made into a latte and blended into smoothies or juices. It has a bitter taste that can be masked with sweet fruits. However, it is important to be cautious when using combination adaptogen products as the effectiveness and interactions between the herbs may vary. Additionally, adrenal glandular extracts may not have substantial scientific evidence supporting their benefits and may pose potential health risks.

    Regulation and Safety of Dietary Supplements

    Dietary Supplements are regulated, but they have different rules than medications. The FDA and FTC lead the charge in regulating the dietary supplement industry at the federal level, while state government bodies also play a part. Unlike medications, dietary Supplements do not require pre-market approval but their safety is monitored after they are released to the public. However, there are strict rules in place for how supplements are made, labeled, and marketed. It's important to be aware of potential risks, such as hidden ingredients, contamination, natural supplements not always being safe, mix and match conflicts, and oops moments. Additionally, it's crucial to check if there is solid scientific evidence to support the benefits of any dietary supplement before using them.

    Prioritizing Safety, Effectiveness, and Quality in Dietary Supplements

    When considering dietary supplements, it is important to prioritize safety, effectiveness, and quality. Utilize tools like interaction checkers to identify any potential risks or interactions with medications. Look for third-party seals of approval from reputable organizations like SF International, the US Pharmacopia, and ConsumerLab.com, which indicate that the product has undergone testing for quality and purity. These seals don't guarantee the effectiveness of the supplement, but they provide assurance of its reliability. ConsumerLab.com offers detailed test reports and guidance to help you make informed decisions. It's essential to consult with a trained professional for guidance and consider adaptogens that best suit your specific needs, such as ashwagandha for anxiety or Rhodiola for mood issues. Lastly, remember that adaptogens are just one piece of a holistic approach to overall health, which involves sleep, nutrition, exercise, and more.

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