Adaptive Energy, and How Medicinal Mushrooms Can Help Support It
What is adaptive energy, and why is it crucial for optimum health?
Adaptive energy is the measure of a person’s capacity to resist stress. Each one of us expends energy to deal with more daily stressors than we may realise like intense physical exercise, staying up late and not quite getting enough sleep, processing toxins in our food and environment, or mental stressors that come from disagreements with loved ones and pressures at work. When we face these challenges large or small, our bodily systems are running in the background, most of the time without us even realising it, to restore our body and mind to a place of balance.
From a western perspective, endocrinologist Hans Selye observed that stress was a matter of energy utilisation and that stress begins to present challenges for the body when a person runs out of adaptive energy. When stressors build up and adaptive energy is taxed we can be exposed to states of chronic illness like hypertension, peptic ulcers, fatigue, inflammation, and arthritis to name a few.
We’re all about nourishing our adaptive energy reserves. We're constantly running offence vs defence when it comes to managing stress with practices like prioritising sleep, taking time out when it’s needed, meditation, hydration, eating as close to nature as possible and of course working with adaptogenic medicinal mushrooms. Sometimes it takes a little bit of discipline to keep all of these practices integrated into our daily routine, but the payoff is when stressful situations arise, we're primed to meet them with minimal impact on our physical and emotional health.
Which medicinal mushrooms help support adaptive energy?
As adaptogens, medicinal mushrooms are primed to help the body restore balance and adapt to stress, moving us closer to a state of equilibrium, harmonising mind and body.
From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, Cordyceps mushroom is considered to nourish both the yin and the yang energies that reside in the kidneys storing the life essence qi. By nourishing our qi we restore this primordial energy that increases our cellular performance, physical resilience and vitality, cultivating a sense of robustness in our mind and body.
In modern times Cordyceps has been coveted to help build adaptive energy after times of physical exertion and fatigue, with research validating the path laid by traditional wisdom. Cordyceps has been studied for its ability to help support the production of mitochondrial ATP. ATP is our body's main energy supply source and is required to fuel our muscles and keep us moving. By boosting our mitochondria's capacity to produce ATP we're more likely to find ourselves with optimal and consistent levels of energy, and recent studies have also linked healthy ATP levels as key to managing states of physical stress and anxiety.
Large bodies of evidence suggest that stress can activate inflammatory responses throughout the body.
Inflammation is a natural physical process that can help heal injuries or respond to a foreign pathogen. However, when inflammation lingers, tipping beyond what the body requires to heal, which is common in cases of accumulated stress, this response can become problematic, accelerating cell degradation, damaging mitochondria and our capacity to create energy. Studies have revealed that Chaga has the potential to modulate the release of specific cytokines such as interferon, interleukin and other growth factors which can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Chaga is also one of the richest natural sources of the anti-ageing enzyme SOD (superoxide dismutase) in the world. SOD is essential for longevity and also energy production as it neutralises free radicals, preventing oxidative damage to cells and tissues.
Sleep is a critical time for our body to rest, recover, and rejuvenate itself. What's more, research shows lack of restful sleep can play a key role in mitochondrial and cell dysfunction which ultimately impacts our adaptive energy stores. Reishi mushroom is coveted for its ability to increase the quality of our sleep. Studies have demonstrated the triterpenes and beta-d-glucans in Reishi have the potential to soothe the nerves, promoting a sedative quality that can help support restful sleep. The accumulative effect of taking Reishi mushroom across a long-term basis was also shown to increase states of deep sleep.
Reishi can help support adaptive energy through promoting good quality rest, but it’s also known as a powerful energy tonic in traditional Chinese medicine used to promote qi or life force energy. Often referred to as 'the supreme protector' Reishi mushroom’s potential to promote energy is thought to be derived from its range of benefits that help support and balance the body’s major systems like the immune system, heart, kidney, liver and lungs, also increasing oxygen utilisation and lowering inflammation.
Through drawing on a variety of practices to manage physical and mental stress, before challenging situations occur and by working with adaptogens such as medicinal mushrooms we’re able to build a reserve of adaptive energy allowing us to move through life with greater ease and with greater resilience.