written by: Dr. Elijah McCarthy, ND | May 16, 2018
With mental health being an ever increasing subject of concern, it is important that we take a moment to recognize and understand the magnitude of this topic and how it affects our society at large.
All of us have felt down and out before, and we all know how difficult it is to be kind, interested, and relatable to the world around us when we are not feeling good inside.
Mental health is a foundational aspect to our overall sense of well-being and life purpose. Without mental health, life can seem like one miserable obstacle after the next, and discovering and pursuing one’s life purpose can seem nothing short of an impossibility.
The month of May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month and although every month should have this designation, May affords our collective minds the opportunity to not only reflect and understand what might be going on inside us as individuals, but also what might be going on inside those around us who might not give us the "warm fuzzys” we hope for when we interact with them.
Out of an understanding of the subjective reality of others is born the ability to be empathic; and with the power of empathy, we are able to more effectively support others in their internal struggles through simple and pure human-connectedness. Herein lies the purpose of this discourse.
Every day we are challenged to maintain balance in our body and mind, and for many of us, every day we lose the battle.
As we encounter stress in our day, our body is stimulated to produce hormones and neurotransmitters that help us deal with the situation at hand. When the stressor is no longer present, our body quickly works to get back to a biochemical balance—otherwise known as homeostasis. As the stress response is engaged, day-in and day-out, we eventually hit the proverbial "wall” and find ourselves feeling scattered, fatigued, frustrated, and having difficulty calming down long enough to enjoy a good night’s rest. This is the common experience of changes in biochemistry which can be the result of frequent stress.
In response to stress, the body shifts metabolism and neuro-signaling away from restorative "rest and digest” biochemistry and towards catabolic "fight or flight” biochemistry. This is similar to how a fire station shifts into high-alert mode after receiving a call to respond to a fire. Under normal circumstances, the fire-fighters respond to the call, put out the fire, and then return back to the station to "rest and digest,” repair damaged gear, and regain their energy and balance in preparation for the next call. This is precisely how the body is designed to respond to stress—that is, a stressor comes and goes allowing time for the body to regain balance and prepare for the next stressor. However, living in fast-paced modern society is similar to being a fire-fighter in California during fire season. The calls to respond never seem to end, and over extended periods of time being locked into "fight or flight” mode, the body’s resources become compromised and out of balance.
When we experience frequent stress, the demand for cortisol predominates and its production is upregulated. This metabolic shift reduces the availability of the building blocks the body needs to produce other important hormones. This is known as the "cortisol-steal” and is one of the main contributors to biochemical changes that negatively impact the way we feel inside. Furthermore, frequent production of cortisol depletes critical neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which are neurotransmitters that help us feel safe, grounded, and motivated.
At this point you may be wondering if there is a way out of this biochemical mess, and the answer is yes—with a well prepared plan and a healthy dose of courage to make the shift into a lifestyle that supports you in your pursuit of happiness.
The obvious and most logical first step is to identify the source of your unhappiness. If stress is a significant part of your day—it likely stands as a major contributing factor to your deficient sense of well-being. Therefore, employing effective stress management tools should be prioritized as they can help address the perpetuating factor of your unhappiness and give you the foot-hold you need to make progress on your path towards your ideal-Self.
Simultaneous to rooting out the cause of your stress and by extension—your unhappiness, it is important to support your biochemistry. Fortunate for you, at Irwin Naturals® we take this topic very seriously and continually strive to develop safe and effective nutritional supplements that can support a happy and thriving world.
In developing our stress and mood products, we poured through volumes of clinical research, conducted in-depth analyses of the physiology and biochemistry involved in stress and mood regulation, and pulled from healing traditions from around the world. The result of our research efforts are product formulations that not only provide the nutrients the body needs to promote homeostasis, but also formulas that harness the wisdom of plant chemistry designed by Mother Nature.
Many of our targeted mood and stress products feature prized botanicals such as the renowned Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha, and the invaluable wild arctic root of the Rhodiola rosea plant. Both of these herbs are known as "Adaptogens”—a class of botanicals that have been traditionally used and scientifically proven to help the body adapt to stress. Their extraordinary effect on the body and mind uniquely positions Adaptogens as an invaluable health promoting tool that can help address many modern health concerns.
Another fascinating and highly efficacious nutrient featured in many Irwin Naturals® products is L-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea and is revered for its ability to induce a calm and focused state of mind. It accomplishes this by promoting alpha brain waves which predominate when we are experiencing a "Zen-moment” such as during meditation, or when we are reading a good book or having an insightful conversation with a friend. This amino acid has garnered a lot of attention in recent years as clinical study after clinical study continue to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of this wonderful nutrient.
With that said, as we launch into the spring season and feel the increased energy that this time of year often brings let us not forget to address the cause of our health concerns since it is this approach that provides us with the opportunity to grow as an individual and experience a sustainable change in our overall sense of well-being. May we be empowered to seek new and novel ways to reduce stress and seek happiness in our lives so that we can further our sense of well-being, and have the energy and motivation to seek all of the treasures this life has to offer. In the meantime, consider using an Irwin Naturals® dietary supplement to assist you in your health journey, and always remember to be kind to yourself.