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How Do You Handle Stress?
A good diet, regular exercise, a clean environment, and other good
lifestyle habits can help keep your body healthy and thus ready for
life’s challenges. And certainly, your genes and your upbringing play a
big role in the way you handle the stress in your life. But science –
often following clues left by the traditional medical practices of
cultures living the demanding lives of hunter-gatherers or in extreme
environments – has also identified key botanicals and nutrients that can
help you to rise to the demands of life. Ortho•Adapt
has combined the best of tradition and science to provide the most
supportive formula for the adrenals to improve your energy levels and
capacity to deal with stress.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are substances, often herbs, that increase the body’s
ability to dynamically shift gears when new demands are placed on us.
Adaptogens mobilize our internal reserves strength, lessening the
severity of the initial shock of the alarm phase which occurs as the
body desperately tries to gear up to deal with a new threat. They also
keep the body from overreacting to the stressor, thus avoiding,
reducing, or delaying the exhaustion phase: the burnout that comes when
the body’s resources are unsustainably “strip-mined” in response to
stress. Instead, true adaptogens extend the poorly named phase of
resistance, that golden zone in which the body’s energies and capacities
are optimally mobilized to adapt to new challenges.
Adaptogens, then, are quite distinct from substances that address
some specific threat to the body, such as chelating agents to deal with
heavy metals, antioxidants to quench free radicals, or antidotes to
biological poisons. Instead, adaptogens activate whole-body, nonspecific
defenses, redirecting the body’s resources to provide energy for active
engagement with all of life’s battles, from fighting sabre-toothed
tigers, to handling long hours at work, to finding your way through
grief or emotional chaos. Adaptogens must also be distinguished from
substances like stimulants or steroids, which force the body down a
rigidly defined metabolic path: instead, adaptogens work to enhance
homeostasis, the ability of the body to adjust responsively to changes
in the external environment in a way that maintains an ideal internal
Orthomolecules Essential to Adaptive Response
Pantethine is the stable form of pantetheine, which is the
“activated” form of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). The biological
purposes of pantothenic acid can only be fulfilled after your body
converts it into Pantethine, which forms a key component of the critical
metabolic factor coenzyme A (CoA). But unfortunately, your body’s
biosynthesis of CoA can be limited by a feedback “thermostat,” which
turns off the conversion of pantothenic acid into Pantethine as CoA
levels rise – and unfortunately, in many people the “thermostat” is set
too low, leaving you with inadequate Pantethine (and CoA) levels.
Providing Pantethine directly lets you simply walk around this metabolic
The importance of Pantethine to adaptive response lies in the
essential role of CoA in the biosynthesis of key adrenal hormones
involved in the body’s release of energy reserves in response to stress.
People who are deficient in pantothenate rapidly develop symptoms that
are all too familiar to people suffering with burnout: fatigue,
listlessness, depression, headache, sleep disturbances, low immune
function leading to more frequent colds and other infections, high blood
pressure, and hypoglycemia.
Vitamin C has long been known to be critical to the ability of your
adrenal glands to respond to stress. Vitamin C is essential for adrenal
stress hormone biosynthesis, and concentrations of vitamin C in the
healthy adrenal glands are higher than in any other part of the body
except the brain. When scientists subject living things to any of a wide
range of stressors, one of the most well documented results is the
rapid depletion of vitamin C stores, especially in the adrenal glands.
Pantethine & Vitamin C
Human and animal studies show that “megadose” pantothenic acid is more
effective than “adequate” levels in both humans and animals at
activating the adrenal glands and boosting adrenal hormone levels. But
Pantethine is more effective than common pantothenic acid at supporting
adrenal function, and can be critical if your conversion of B5 to
Pantethine has been impaired or is set at a high threshold.
Human and animal studies show that high-dose vitamin C
supplementation can help to modulate the impact of stressful conditions,
preventing immune suppression and buffering the extremes of cortisol
Interestingly, studies also show that vitamin C and Pantethine work
together in supporting adrenal function. For instance, animals deficient
in pantothenate show disturbed vitamin C metabolism, and as the
adrenals shrink they lose much of their vitamin C stores; and on the
other hand, giving pantothenate-deficient animals extra vitamin C
partially protects them against the ordeal.
Rhodiola rosea is one well-studied adaptogen, which
has received a lot of attention lately. Also known as “Arctic Root” or
“Roseroot,” Rhodiola is an herb with a long history of use in the
traditional medicine of Siberia, for adaptation to the rigors of life on
the tundra’s of North-Central Asia. Its adaptogenic balancing
properties were extensively studied in animals exposed to a wide range
of stressors by scientists in the former Soviet Union; more recently,
interest in the herb has jumped in the West, after several randomized,
double-blind, placebo-controlled trials documented the ability of
standardized Rhodiola to enhance the body’s physical and mental work
capacity and productivity under conditions of stress. Users find that
Rhodiola is highly effective at helping with the psychological impact of
stress, even as it enhances physical and mental endurance.
In one trial, 161 military cadets performing a 24-hour military
exercise were randomized to receive either Rhodiola supplements or a
dummy pill. At the beginning of the exercise, the cadets’ mental
performance and self-evaluated health and wellbeing were tested, and a
general medical exam was performed. All groups began the study with very
similar performance. At 0400 hours, the cadets took their capsules
(Rhodiola or placebo), and were re-tested an hour later.
Rhodiola users experienced a pronounced anti-fatigue effect: while
the placebo group was performing almost 10% sub par, the study found
that cadets taking Rhodiola supplements actually experience marginally
better performance than they do before the military exercise begins!
There is also a tendency toward a better overall sense of health and
wellbeing among subjects taking Rhodiola.
Standardized Rhodiola supplements have also been put to the test in
physicians during two-week stretches on night duty and in students
during final exams. These trials have confirmed the herb’s general
anti-fatigue effect, showing that it improves tests of physical fitness,
mental fatigue and neuromotor function under stress.
People who have tried this botanical report that they feel better on
Rhodiola. The experience is described in terms of a continuous sensation
of physical and mental relief from stress, and anecdotally the effect
appears to be most pronounced in people who typically respond to stress
with anger or feelings of helplessness. Animal studies have given us
some clues to the neurochemical basis of these effects, including
effects on the metabolism of the serotoninergic system, boosting brain
levels of dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine, and apparently
influences on the synthesis, levels, and/or activity of endorphins and
enkephalins, since blocking the receptors for some of these “feel-good”
peptides negates some of Rhodiola’s effects.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), the so-called “Indian
ginseng,” is actually not a ginseng species at all; and while it does
provide powerful support against overwhelming stress, its effects are in
many ways distinct from most other adaptogenic herbs. While most
adaptogens primarily work by helping the body to mobilize and maintain
the physiological response to stress, Ashwagandha appears to work first
and foremost by reducing the stress-related excesses of the alarmed
Several studies show that Ashwagandha is superior to Panax ginseng
at helping animals and humans rise to adversity, such as forced
swimming in cold water. Ashwagandha has broader effects as well. In one
double-blind trial, 101 healthy men aged 50 to 59 were evaluated for
various aging parameters over the course of a year. Increased red blood
cell levels, greater libido, and lower erythrocyte sedimentation rate (a
measure of chronic inflammation) were observed in the men who got
Ashwagandha instead of the dummy pills. And remarkably, Ashwagandha
prevents both over-activation and suppression of the immune system,
strengthening the immune system under the yoke of immunosuppressive
drugs yet protecting the body from inflammatory excesses.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is the source of the
phytochemical glycyrrhizin, which is partly converted in the intestine
to the more active glycyrrhetic acid. Both glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetic
acid can activate the receptors for key adrenal hormones
(mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids) involved in mobilizing your
energy reserves in response to stress. Glycyrrhetic acid also helps your
body to keep these hormones in their more active forms, by inhibiting
the enzymes (5-beta-reductase and 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase)
that degrade adrenal hormones into less active forms.
While some people can’t take this herb unless its glycyrrhizin has
been removed (see cautions), the German Commission E monographs have
established that for most people 200 mg of glycyrrhizin from licorice is
a safe, effective dose, which helps the body to maximize the
availability of the adrenal hormones necessary for the adaptogenic
Eleutherococcus senticosus, or “Siberian ginseng,” is another
misnomer: as is the case with Ashwagandha, it is not a ginseng species
at all. But its adaptogenic properties are, if anything, better
documented than those of Panax ginseng itself. This botanical
was long the juggernaut behind Soviet Olympic dominance, as well as
being extensively exploited in the Soviet military and space programs.
After an initial focus on Panax ginseng, Russian researchers
shifted their attention to Eleutherococcus after comparative
investigations and clinical experience revealed its superiority.
Eleutherococcus lacks the side effects observed in some users of Panax ginseng,
which overexcites some people and can ironically even cause them
stress. “Siberian ginseng” also has a more global beneficial effect on
the immune system than Panax ginseng, and its phytochemistry – and resulting benefits – is more reliable than its Panax namesake.
In a recent clinical trial, the effects of Eleutherococcus on
physical performance and cellular defense were compared with those of
Echinacea purpurea (using the standardized Madaus preparation approved
as a “drug” in Germany). At the end of the study, people supplementing
with Eleutherococcus enjoyed favorable changes in a variety of
laboratory parameters, with no significant changes seen in the Echinacea
users. The immunological tests were especially revealing – and
Eleutherococcus supplementers experienced a 16.45% increase in the
maturation of their lymphocytes in response to an antigenic challenge,
as compared to an almost negligible 2.29% increase in those using
Echinacea. Eleutherococcus users also gained increases in their
neutrophils’ phagocytic activity (the engulfing and digesting foreign
cells): both the number of cells engaged in phagocytosis under test
conditions, and the mean number of bacteria phagocytized per neutrophil,
were increased. No significant changes were seen in people
supplementing with Echinacea.
Finally, on the physical performance tests, people taking
Eleutherococcus supplements gained significant improvements in physical
performance, increasing their VO2max by 0.26 L per minute (or 3.41 L per
minute per kilogram of body mass), and the ratio of VO2max to heart
rate. No significant change occurred in these parameters in the
Clinical experience has long endorsed the use of glandular
extracts to support the activity of the target gland. Glandulars provide
peptides and nutrient cofactors which are found in the gland itself
when it is healthy and fully functioning, and which are required for the
gland to carry out its biological functions.
Despite the widespread belief that such peptide cofactors would be
destroyed by the digestive process, it’s now known the main route of
absorption of amino acids is, in fact, by active transport in the form
of peptides, rather than by totally breaking down proteins into
individual amino acids. Evidence has also accumulated that many
surprisingly large polypeptides and even proteins are directly absorbed
by the gut. This is how protein allergens manage to find their way into
the bloodstream, for instance. Other proteins known to be absorbed from
the GI include lactoferrin (a relatively large (80 kilodalton) immune
glycoprotein) and even ferritin (500 kD).
To eliminate any risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE/”mad
cow disease”), adrenal glandulars may be porcine-sourced, in which case
they may be absolutely guaranteed to be BSE-free. After extraction, the
raw gland should be selectively pre-digested with enzymes and then
subjected to ultra-filtration followed by lyophilization to preserve the
integrity of the various components, and processed by a
federally-inspected and -approved laboratory with expertise in handling
Vegetarians, of course, will not use glandular extracts, but for most
people needing more support for their adrenals, glandulars provide a
time-tested way of providing key factors directly to the gland in a way
that conventional, single nutrients or botanicals cannot.
The more popular herbs and nutrients used to
support the adrenal glands and thus help the body to cope with stress
include: ashwagandha, maca root, B-vitamins, curcumin,
deglycyrrhizinated licorice, glandulars, Rhodiola rosea, and ginseng among others.
targets adrenal support from 3 different angles: adrenal extract to
supply all the needs of the adrenals, orthomolecules to prevent
deficiencies of key co-enzymes, and adaptogenic botanicals to modulate
the stress response. Ortho•Adapt is also available in a vegan formula without the glandulars.
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