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Menopause Menu: Adaptogens

adaptogens menopause menopausediet menopausemenu menopausesymptoms Jul 23, 2020
adaptogens and menopause

My “MENOPAUSE MENU” series is dedicated to exploring foods that can be easily assimilated into your diet and can have a positive effect on menopause-related symptoms. Today’s Menopause Menu is all about adaptogens. Adaptogens are a class of herbal medicines commonly used to assist in chronic stress-response. They are known to increase a person’s ability to adapt to and survive stress. They act as “eustressors (good stressors) and as mild stress mimetics or “stress vaccines” that induce stress-protective responses.” Adaptogens are so unique because their properties are multi-faceted and provide assistance to a broad range of stressors. The effect of adaptogens can vary considerably depending on the stressors experienced by each individual. For example, one adaptogen might prove helpful for a physical symptom in one person while being beneficial from an emotional perspective for another individual. This significant variance proves to be a big hurdle in studying adaptogens from a clinical perspective, which is why there is a lack of clinical trials. It is important to note that the benefits from adaptogen supplementation, are dependent on repeated and consistent supplementation. Similarly to physical activity, when we stop, the benefit of it ends. That’s why regular physical activity, and in the case of adaptogens, routine consumption is essential. 

The menopausal transition can be considered one of the most stressful phases in a woman’s life. It is marked by constant and often severe hormonal fluctuations (ups and downs of estrogen and progesterone) that can create a continuous environment of stress. Your body’s ability to respond efficiently to the increased and often long-lasting stress caused by menopause can be severely compromised. This increased stress results in chronically elevated cortisol, which can lead to increased belly fat. I cover the role of stress and cortisol on abdominal fat in a different article that you can read here. Research indicates that adaptogens may normalize chronically elevated cortisol levels, which could provide additional benefits specifically for menopausal women. 

Adaptogens and their specific applications:

  • Rhodiola rosea:: significant reduction in symptoms of fatigue and improved attention and cognitive function after 4 weeks of repeated use
  • Ginseng: anti-fatigue, anti-aging, - anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and anti-depression; improves circulatory and immune systems. 
  • Ashwagandha: improved sleep and sleep quality, reduced stress
  • Curcumin/Turmeric: aids in the management of inflammation, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, brain function, muscle soreness, and exercise recovery
  • Schisandra: boosts endurance, increases mental performance, improved quality of life, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety
  • Eleuthero: improves focus, attention, and quality of life, reduces mental and physical fatigue, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial 
  • Mushrooms: a variety of mushrooms such as turkey tail and lion’s mane have medicinal properties ranging from neuroprotective properties such as promoting positive brain and nerve health and improving mild cognitive impairment. 

It is important to note that the number of herbs and plants classified as having adaptogenic properties is vast. To keep things simple, the list above only contains some of the more common adaptogens with their specific attributes, which should get you started and hopefully benefit you.