Adapting to Stress with Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha - it's the one ingredient we use that you might struggle to pronounce. Unlike the impossible-to-pronounce artificial, chemical-laden ingredients you'll find in many other ready-to-drink and meal replacement products though, this one is a whole food that you definitely want as a friend and ally in your life.

And for a little help on sounding it out - it's ah-sh-wahn-gahn-duh.

So what is it and why do you want it?

You want to get to know Ashwagandha for a lot of reasons, but there's one that you're probably quite familiar with and are very ready to eliminate - stress.

Ashwagandha is a tonic herb native to India most commonly harvested for the root. Tonic herbalism focuses on the preservation and maintenance of health and wellbeing, vs. the "waiting for something to go wrong and reacting" approach. The history of this herb has origins in Ayurvedic medicine, which is an ancient Indian practice of holistic medicine based on maintaining balance in the body. In particular, is revered for its adaptogenic powers - the ability to help the body healthfully respond to, process, integrate and dispel stress.

Does your system feel over-loaded most of the time? We get it. In our modern world, there is no shortage of stimulus. A 24-hour news cycle, social media, devices that make us constantly available to one another - we've gotten so used to being "on" all the time that most of us have no idea what a healthy nervous system feels like. Adaptogens are your allies in coming back to baseline because of how they regulate your body's response to stress through your hormones. Namely - Cortisol.

Cortisol is a healthy part of the daily function of your nervous system, released by the Adrenal Glands. Its design is to release in moments of "fight or flight". When our nervous systems perceive a threat, Cortisol mobilizes us for the sake of survival. Imagine the very real threat of having to run from a tiger. Cortisol would be the active (and very convenient) ingredient in your ability to run for your life! Unfortunately for us, the constant stream of stresses in our highly modernized world has really confused our nervous systems. Where we see, perhaps, a text message pop-up and feel the urgent need to respond, guess what our hormones think is happening?

Did you say, tiger? Right you are!

Fortunately, there are lots of ways we can support our nervous systems in reprogramming the information we unconsciously perceive as "threat" or stress. Various mindfulness techniques and practices, for one. Exercise to process and move energy, another. And certainly through our diet. The foods we eat, and other supplemental ways of supplying our bodies with the best possible nutrients so that everything functions as healthily as possible for all aspects of our wellbeing - mental, emotional, spiritual and physical.

Supplementing adaptogens like Ashwagandha is a step towards a more balanced life. This tonic herb, in particular, helps to promote healthy levels of Cortisol and also calms our nervous system by stimulating the GABA producing pathways in our brains.
Here are some other facts about this powerhouse plant that we've included in Meal2Go to fuel your best life:

  • Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.
  • Findings reveal that Ashwagandha root extract enhances the cardiorespiratory endurance and improves QOL in healthy athletic adults.
  • Ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength and suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.
  • Ashwagandha may be effective in enhancing both immediate and general memory in people with MCI as well as improving executive function, attention, and information processing speed.
  • Ashwagandha root extract has the anti-aging inducing potential via increased telomerase activity.
  • Treatment with ashwagandha may be beneficial for normalizing thyroid indices in subclinical hypothyroid patients.

Stress isn't inherently "bad". In fact, it's part of the brilliant makeup of our survival. What we could really use are tools for adapting to stress - the handy information ensuring our survival - in the healthiest and most balanced ways. We love exploring all of the ways we can do right by our bodies, and we believe food is a great place to start.