Tag Archives: Antidepressant

Stress Buster, Gut Blaster, Mind Mender-What Doesn’t Rhodiola Do?

Greetings folks, during last week’s post I proclaimed  Resvitale’s  Cocoa Energy Restore my little holiday secret, not only for its energizing and mood enhancing powers but also for its inclusion of three highly regarded adaptogenic herbs- Schisandra, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. Quick study break:

“Adaptogens deliver minute shocks of mild stress that condition your physiology to respond to more major stresses in a favorable way. Adaptogens exert a normalizing effect, allowing organisms to increase healthy functions that are impaired by stress, and to decrease unhealthy responses that are triggered by stress, without any risk of ‘overshooting’ and creating an unbalanced response…adaptogens simply enhance the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis and fight age-inducing stress.”*

So, as the season of giving rolls in, I’ve been paying particular attention to how much I give in to anxiety and lack-luster energy. I haven’t researched the exact stats, but I’d venture to say that this time of year is at least one of the most marred by those annoying, albeit momentarily, incapacitating little illnesses.  AND I REFUSE TO GO DOWN LIKE THAT!!!  Sorry to be so aggressive in my declaration, but I am extra determined this year. Anyhoo, in my quest for efficient and cost-effective ways to stay healthy, invigorated and yet still at Level 2 (as my friends say), I’ve directed my attention to the class of nutrients most qualified for the job. Now, I admit that I tend to fall fast. Frankly, I first developed a serious infatuation with Schisandra and Ashwagandha because their names are so dog gone cool. And now, I am seeing that Rhodiola too is a genuine keeper. Let’s get started.

Rhodiola Rosea typically grows in colder, mountainous environments and has been used for centuries by natives of Central Asia and Northern Europe to combat the resulting stresses in living with the colder temperatures and higher altitudes of those regions. The root of this flowering plant has and continues to be the more studied part and is therefore most commonly supplemented. There are many healthful nutrients contained within Rhodiola giving it the ability to serve in several different capacities including antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial. By definition, adaptogens work their magic in a number of different ways through various biological systems, but what I find most appealing and seasonally appropriate about this one is its ability to 1) reduce our production of the stress hormone cortisol 2) seemingly outwit anxiety and 3) prevent toxin induced stress to liver cells. Let’s be real, this time of year can usher in a serious case of the “I need a stiff one to take the edge off’s”, so (not suggesting a means to over indulge in unhealthy behavior) any assistance in the area of damage control is much appreciated.

Our #1 Frenemy 

Cortisol is the hormone released by our bodies when we encounter stressful situations. In short bursts for brief periods of time it helps us to survive what the mind perceives to be threatening circumstances. Remember the “stress response” cycle that kicks in gear when confronted with these scenarios– rush of adrenaline, increased heart rate and blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels. It serves our survival in the short-term, but can dramatically cut our life span in the long. Frequent, repeated release of cortisol with little to no recovery time between is a consequence of chronic stress, and the dangers of chronically elevated cortisol are weight gain in the abdomen (more work for the heart), hypertension, hyperglycemia and suppression of immune function. Rhodiola confronts the stress response cycle by acting directly on,” the brain – adrenal gland system to reduce cortisol production while enhancing stress resistance…”*

So, less cortisol without losing the ability to perform and overcome stress, I’ll take it.

Fear Factor

In studies conducted on actual human subjects (not that mice don’t have their problems too, but…), participants struggling with symptoms of general anxiety disorder-frequent, excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbances-experienced significant reductions in their symptoms after receiving 340mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract daily for 10 weeks.

Ok ten weeks, taking us through the New Year and straight into the recovery phase. Something to look forward to.

Liver Lover

The liver acts as our body’s filter. Macro and micro nutrients, hormones, supplements, medications, alcohol and an innumerable amount of other substances are processed by the liver. In many ways, our body’s health depends on our liver. As an antioxidant, Rhodiola protects the cells of the liver from damage by toxins and other stressors. It has also shown the capacity to reduce liver dysfunction and even restore the liver’s own natural antioxidants.

Whether you’re boosting your immunity with vitamins, your disposition with spirits, or your recovery with medication, you can’t go wrong caring for the liver.

And If That Weren’t Enough

Rhodiola is also known to:

  • Improve physical performance by increasing oxygen intake and decreasing muscle damage
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Protect and restore brain cells
  • Enhance immune function
  • Inhibit cancer cell growth
  • Slow the aging process

Rhodiola can be supplemented alone or in combination with other adaptogens. Beware of supplements that only contain extractions of the Rhodiola constituent Saldroside. Many manufacturers believe it to be the most healthful nutrient in the herb, and only supply that. Opt for the whole root extractions instead because there are many other beneficial nutrients within the Rhodiola herb. And, as with most herbs, the nutrients within are each naturally present in the most healthful amounts and balanced in a way that best compliments the other components. Choose a supplement that provides about 200-300mg of Rhodiola Rosea root extract per serving, standardized to supply the individual constituents of the herb in the amounts most consistent with the natural plant. Nature knows best. Trust in her and as always…

BeWell

*Jan Whiticomb, “Reducing the Risks of High Cortisol,” LifeExtension September/October 2011: 46 and 49.

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Come on, Get Happy!!

This week’s post was originally going to focus on considerations for selecting a multi-vitamin but a very popular question came up that happens to be one of my favorite subjects- mood enhancement.

This is also one of the reasons I started BeWellWarrior. I was having one of those days we’ve all had when you just don’t know how you’re going to muster up the will to get out of bed, out of the house and into the long day ahead. That day, the question I asked out loud was, “How much does it really take to keep up the pace?” I thought about all the different ingredients I assembled to get out there and have a productive day, an enjoyable day. When I got on the train I took a look at the faces of the other passengers. Many were passed out asleep others were tuned out and into I-pods, games, or books. And some looked as though they’d had the exact same morning as I or unfortunately, worse. So here we have it-optimism, enthusiasm and feeling imperturbable. Can these be obtained from a supplement?

This is an extensive subject I think best covered in a series of posts. Getting and staying revved up for the day is about more than a good mood. It is also about our ability to adapt, focus and maintain an energized mind. We’ll touch on those later. But first, the bad mood busters!

Before we delve into the possible antidotes, let’s take a look at the various reasons we may be experiencing the blues.

Chronic Fatigue                 Stress                    Fear/Anxiety                     Hormonal Imbalance

Chronic Over Stimulation              Sleep Deprivation            Dehydration       Vitamin / Mineral Deficiency

Let me quickly reiterate that I am not an advocate of self diagnosis. Many of the above are serious conditions where melancholy is merely one symptom, and anything experienced chronically warrants consultation with a medical professional. It could save you from ongoing discomfort, as well as time and energy. For others who occasionally experience these states, first..

 Explore the root cause.                Avoid numbing the situation.                     Try a behavioral remedy.

Perfect examples are the cases of sleep deprivation and stress overload. If you can address these by going to bed earlier, scheduling a daily cat nap or incorporating meditation, supplementation may prove unnecessary.

With that said, here is what I’ve tried:

The B’s.These B vitamins are part of a larger family that works best in concert with one another. A good source for the full B-Complex is brewer’s yeast. Toxicity from high doses and long-term use is rare with most B vitamins because your body will excrete what it does not need.

  • B5, Pantothenic Acid- counteracts stress by supporting the adrenal glands’ production of anti-stress hormones. Fatigue is often a sign of B5 deficiency. Therapeutic doses for adults range 250-500 mg/day, twice a day.
  •  B6, Pyridoxine-seemingly connected to hormonal balance and water shifts within women, is found mostly in meats and whole grains. Nervousness, irritability and depression are a few common signs of B6 deficiency. Dosages greater than 200 mg/day are still being studied for possible side effects.
  • B12, Cobalamin- needed for the health of the nervous system. Animal proteins contain the most significant amounts. Mood changes with mental slowness may be an early sign of deficiency. Therapeutic doses range 500-1000 micrograms (mcgs)/day.
  • Inositol- used by some as a mild anxiety antidote. Whole, unprocessed grains, cantaloupe and lecithin are good sources. Caffeine can cause inositol deficiency. Many reports of relief from anxiety are anecdotal and experienced with daily dosages of 500-1000 mg/day. I can personally attest to these benefits, but I do recognize the impact our belief in a remedy has on its effectiveness. There is no known toxicity with inositol, but I did experience mild headaches when I supplemented in doses higher than 700 mg twice daily.

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. Most processes in the body including brain, nervous system, hormone and immune function involve the use of some form of protein, either produced by the body or ingested. They are often supplemented in the “L” form because it is either the more active or most absorbable form.

  • 5HTP, 5 Hydroxytryptophan- is a form of the amino acid tryptophan, found in flesh foods like turkey, eggs and dairy products; it is responsible for the contented laziness experienced after our Thanksgiving dinners. Tryptophan is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin that regulates mood and sleep.
  • Tyrosine- stimulates the nervous system as one of the precursors of adrenaline and thyroid hormones. “As an antidepressant, 500-1000 mg of L-tyrosine can be taken two or three times during the day. Since tyrosine has a more stimulating antidepressant effect, taking 1000-1500 mg of L-tryptophan at night…may be a good therapeutic combination to help in mild to moderate depression”. *
  • GABA, Gamma-amino butyric acid- functions like an emotional regulator and is involved in the production of endorphins.  This is a neurotransmitter within the central nervous system that can also be supplemented. “When GABA is deficient, the emotions and anxiety…are uncontrollable”. ** It is found in spinach, broccoli, walnuts and almonds and supplemented in divided doses totaling 500-1500 mg/day. Excessive amounts of GABA have been shown to increase anxiety, and it should not be combined with alcohol or antidepressant medications.

SAMe, S-adenosylmethionine- is produced by the body’s cells and supplemented in doses of 1600 mg/ day for antidepressant benefits. As with most substances found within the body, it has many uses including joint health and liver function. Because SAMe supplements are typically on the pricier side, I found it hard to consistently take in the higher dosages indicated for mood balance.

Not everything that is natural is completely safe. The following should be used with caution due to known side effects and negative interactions with other herbs and medications.

St. John’s Wort, antidepressant                 Kava Kava, calming                Valerian Root, sedative 

My current mood enhancement regime consists of two supplements, taken on alternate days of the week:

  • Neuro1 Mental Performance Formula, by Nutrition 53. This is a powdered formulation that combines many of the above listed nutrients with others for focus and alertness. It picks me up, takes the edge off, doesn’t cause me to crash and doesn’t keep me from sleeping, even when taken later in the afternoon.
  • Coco Energy Restore, by Resvitale. These gel caps contain cocoa powder, herbs that help the body adapt to stress and caffeine sourced from natural tea extract.

I generally prefer to take mood enhancers in powder or liquid forms because the effects are felt more quickly, but many encapsulated supplements are now designed with such advanced delivery systems that the body is able to access the nutrients almost as quickly as if they were in liquid form. All of the supplements listed here are available in a variety of forms that allow their benefits to be felt within 20-30 minutes of taking them.

Lastly, don’t feel pressured to start with the maximum dose. Everyone is different and you may not need the higher amounts to feel the desired effects. Our bodies do grow tolerant of substances, causing us to need stronger doses to achieve the same effects. Additionally our minds can become dependent on those felt effects. Gradually increasing the dosage and going supplement free one day a week and/or seven consecutive days for every four weeks of supplementation is a good way to prevent this.

Until Next Week,

BeWell!

*Elson M. Haas, M.D., Staying Healthy with Nutrition, the Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1992

**Patt Lind-Kyle, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press, 2009