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Maintaining Healthy Stress Levels

April 15th, 2010

by Keri Marshall, MS, ND

In today’s fast-paced world, laden with economic distress, stress and total exhaustion seem to be more common than in years past. We would be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t feeling stressed these days. As a practitioner, I hear all the time that between 2 and 3 PM fatigue starts to set in, making the latter part of the day nearly impossible to get through.

In addition to fatigue, stress can bring on feelings of depression and an overall diminished sense of stamina, even for a typically healthy individual. Chronic stress, which results if we ignore the body telling us to slow down and take it easy, may present itself as difficulty in concentrating and sleeping, an overall sense of feeling burned out, and ultimately chronic disease.

In fact, stress is one of the most significant contributors to chronic disease. When the body is stressed, it releases a cascade of hormones, which, if left unchecked, can wreak havoc on the immune, nervous, and inflammatory pathways in the body. The adrenal glands, which modulate the stress response in our body, release more than 30 hormones that affect virtually every system in the body.

I think one of the most difficult components of feeling stressed and fatigued is that the conventional medical model has very little to offer with regard to diagnosis and treatment. Typically, if you go to your doctor with these complaints, she may or may not order lab tests, which will likely come back normal. You will then be told either that you are fine, or that it is all in your head. If you are really lucky, you may be handed a prescription for an antidepressant or anxiolytic, just to “take the edge off.” Maybe even something to help you sleep.

The good news is that integrative and botanical medicine does have solutions. Adaptogenic botanicals provide a gentle, sustainable source of nutrition for the adrenal glands, enabling the body to adapt to stress in a healthy way. These botanicals not only nourish the adrenal glands, but also support the inflammatory, immune, and nervous systems, which can be directly impacted by chronic stress.

Rhodiola rosea, also known as golden root, has a rich history in European countries, where it is commonly known as brain root. It also has a traditional folk history of being able to increase physical performance and longevity, and reduce fatigue. Holy Basil has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to support a healthy response to stress, nourish the mind, and elevate the spirit. Ashwagandha, often referred to as Indian Ginseng, also supports mental endurance, promotes metabolic efficiency and immune support, and encourages an overall sense of well-being. These botanicals not only work when taken alone, but also provide a unique synergy when used together. When they’re used daily over time, the body will once again feel rejuvenated and will also be able to adapt to new stressors in a healthy manner.

Above Photo: Ashwagandha growing on the Gaia Herbs organic farm.

About Dr. Keri Marshall
Dr. Keri Marshall is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in pediatrics, women’s medicine, and chronic disease management. She also serves as the Medical Director at Gaia Herbs. She has published several scientific papers and magazine articles, has written a book on proteins and amino acids, appears regularly on nationally syndicated radio shows, and has appeared on ABC’s “A View from the Bay” and the “Healing Quest” program seen on public television. Dr. Marshall has served as a scientific adviser to Citizens for Health, a clinical adviser to Nordic Naturals, a nutrition adviser to the United States Sugar Association, and as a nutrition expert in her local public school district. Dr. Marshall received her naturopathic medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, her master’s in epidemiology from SUNY at Buffalo, and her bacherlor’s from the George Washington University. She maintains a small private practice in Washington, DC.

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