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Stressed? Maybe an "adaptogen" can help

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Posted at 1:13 PM, Mar 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-24 23:29:48-04
It's a tight work deadline that does it to Spencer Brooks. "That often means working long hours. That's usually when I get stressed out."
 
His solution: a cup of coffee with a little extra something.  No, not an extra boost of caffeine. 
We're talking about something called an adaptogen. Brooks says, "Within maybe 10 minutes my brain had turned on. I was articulate. I was crisp. I was clear."
 
An adaptogen is defined in the dictionary as "a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress."
 
Jennifer Wider, MD, explains that, "When we're very stressed out, the body releases a hormone called cortisol and adaptogens work to normalize the levels of cortisol in our body."
 
Think ginseng, rhodiolaor arctic root, and ashwagandha. 
 
They're three of the most popular adaptogens, all of which are super hot right now, according to Dr. Wider.  She goes on, "They're popping up in all sorts of supplements, in drinks and in our food."  There's research to back the claims of effectiveness in everything from increasing mental performance to aiding in resistance to stress, and more. 
 
Wider says, "Studies show that adaptogens can help people fight fatigue. They may help people that have trouble sleeping.  They may boost our immune response."
 
The FDA tells us it has "no warnings" concerning 'adaptogens' as a supplement.
 
Dave Asprey is the owner of Bulletproof coffee in Santa Monica, CA, which incorporates adaptogens into its coffee. He says he doesn't know about any concerns, but insists his customers love the supplements he serves up in the coffee he sells. "It's a pretty powerful upgrade.  It's about giving you more energy, increases your mental alertness," Asprey explains.
 
Dr. Wider says there can be complications if you take too much, and that adaptogens can potentially interfere with certain medications. She suggests checking with your doctor before trying one, as you would with any new supplement.
 
Brooks says he has had only positive results and will continue to drink up, saying, "It hands down changed my life."