Have you ever noticed when you travel, exercise a lot, or have a jampacked schedule that you feel bloated in your stomach? Then maybe you go on vacation and notice your belly is flat within a few days? That's cortisol (one of your stress hormies) increasing, then calming down.
Stress is finicky with our bodies, especially before and during our periods, traveling, and pushing ourselves further than we can actually handle. If you have adrenal fatigue, it makes life that much harder (check out five telltale signs you have adrenal fatigue here).
Our hormone levels shift after ovulation, causing progesterone to increase. Cortisol fights for the same receptors in your body as progesterone. So if your body is too stressed - mentally, physically, or emotionally (it's all the same thing to your body) - then cortisol will increase, causing you to have more stress hormones filtering through your system.
I like to think of it this way - if stress hormones are too high, they're getting stuck in your mind and midsection. Belly bloat is one of the #1 signs your cortisol levels are too high.
That's why I love using ashwagandha!
Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb that helps your body adapt better to stress. It's also an adaptogen herb and one of the many special ingredients in the stress boosting smoothie I feature in my Confidence Beats Cortisol Workshop. Even with doing your best to eat well, exercise, and doing all the self care things, your body can use additional support.
Let's dive into six powerful and healthy benefits of ashwagandha and how to make it work for your active and busy life:
1. Lowers Stress Levels
Studies show ashwagandha can lower cortisol levels by up to 50%! This is why it's one of the first adaptogen herbs I share with women. Cortisol increases when you're mentally and physically under too much stress. This can be from drinking too much caffeine or alcohol (both prompt your adrenal glands to produce stress hormones), over exercising, traveling, or not slowing down enough the week before and during your period.
As menstruating women, we need to be aware that our bodies are less resilient to stress the week before and during our periods. This doesn't mean you stop living your life, it just means you get better at taking care of yourself.
Adding 1 tsp. of ashwagandha powder to your daily smoothie can help you better deal with the demands of work, home, and your exercise life.
2. May Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety & Depression
By lowering your stress levels, you'll also feel better equipped to handle situations that might cause anxiety and depression. When you're too overwhelmed this can naturally lead to feeling anxious as you run through the laundry list of how things can go wrong.
Ashwagandha helps keep your mind at ease.
Additionally, a woman's body naturally dips in serotonin, one of our feel good hormones, the week before our period. This can make you feel depressed and less excited about yourself and life.
By supporting your body with ashwagandha, you can help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, putting you back in the drivers seat.
3. Can Help Control Blood Sugar
Mismanaged blood sugar is a big stressor on a woman's body. Even when you're doing your best to eat well, your blood sugar can still be sensitive. Ashwagandha can help strengthen your blood sugar, taking stress off your body.
4. Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation gets in the way of a woman's happy and healthy life. Built up inflammation can make you feel sluggish and experience symptoms like acne, bloating and menstrual cramps. Inflammation stems from a variety of sources like exercise, environmental toxins (even from the products you use), recycled hormones, and food sources.
5. Soothes Adrenal Fatigue
As an adaptogen herb, ashwagandha helps lower cortisol levels and build up your internal defense against stress. When your adrenal glands are too taxed, they produce more cortisol than is needed. This makes it harder for you to feel awake in the morning and you may feel wired at night.
By using an herb that can help your body soothe your stress levels, it can make your master gland working efficiently.
6. Improve Brain Function, Including Memory
We all know what it feels like to sit at our desks and realize we've been staring at a blinking cursor for 10 minutes. Almost like it's taunting us for not being about to do our jobs right.
Ashwagandha may improve your brain function so you feel sharper, more creative, and prepared to deal with life's challenge. It may also improve your memory.
7. For Your Man - Can Increase Testosterone & Boost Fertility
Studies have shown men who use ashwagandha increase their testosterone and improve sperm quality and mobility. If family planning is on your agenda, you can sneak some of this herb into his post workout smoothie.
Need major smoothie inspo to test out ashwagandha? Download these four smoothie recipes that are perfectly synced to your cycle.