Cordyceps and Adrenal Fatigue Foods and Supplements?
Antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are often in the news. You know you should be getting more of them, but how can you do this easily? Do they come as a pill or supplement? What is the right amount to take? And what in the world is a Cordyceps? This powerful little mushroom has many useful benefits to help you feel better and is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory powers. So, all you need to remember is this: Cordyceps and adrenal fatigue are the perfect combination.
1. What are Cordyceps: Explained
Cordyceps, also called Cordyceps sinesis and Sphaeria sinesis, is a fungus found on the body of certain caterpillars in China and Tibet. Even though the species lives on animals, it is still considered a mushroom (although by scientific definition it would not be called a mushroom). For centuries, the mushroom was described as a miracle pill with the ability to heal 21 different ailments, and is known to improve energy levels, increase appetite, improve sexual libido, and help people sleep better at night.
The caterpillar grows high up in the Himalayan mountains, starting from 3800 meters and higher, and comes into contact with the parasitic fungus as a larva. As the immature fungus begins to grow, it consumes the caterpillar, which takes on a mummy-like appearance and dies. Each year from April to August, these tiny mummified caterpillars can be found high in the mountains. Of course, the extreme altitude and steep cliffs makes harvesting Cordyceps a perilous task and harvesters must look close to the ground to find them. The average weight of a cordyceps is not even a gram—no, we’re not talking ounces or pounds. These super small, lightweight caterpillars can be compared to the weight of about three to four grains of rice. The risk of overharvesting is also a concern as Cordyceps has recently become popular. This popularity may also lead to high prices.
Researchers are now trying to determine whether the purported benefits of Cordyceps are fact or folklore. Some of the health benefits of this mushroom have now been demonstrated. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed on mice to see how they responded to fatigue and exercise. Groups that received Cordyceps showed increases of up to 73% in their exercise ability compared to those that did not. Further studies showed improved heart function, decreased throat constriction, and relaxation of smooth muscle—all of which enabled them to function better and at faster rates.
In humans, two studies involving Cordyceps have been performed but the results are inconclusive. One study looked at healthy adults aged 20–50 and showed that Cordyceps improves exercise ability and increases lung capacity. However, another study assessed male cyclists and showed no improvement in endurance. The conflicting results suggest Cordyceps may be more beneficial if you are not already physically fit but trying to get into shape.
In mice, Cordyceps was shown to improve brain function and prevent insulin resistance. Other studies have shown that Cordyceps may increase the number of immune cells available to combat breast cancer and colon cancer. Some researchers believe Cordyceps can stimulate cancer and tumor cell apoptosis—a type of programmed cell death.
Other studies have shown that Cordyceps may provide some protection against radiation in bone marrow and the gastrointestinal tract. This is particularly beneficial since most of us are exposed to varying degrees of radiation every day as a result of the work we do, the area we live, or simply sun exposure.
2. Cordyceps and Adrenal Fatigue: Why They Are Important
When considering Cordyceps and adrenal fatigue, realizing why the they are so interconnected is crucial. Your body is continually fighting against many threats. Physical stress, bacteria, viruses, pathogens, and emotional stress are just a few of stressors you may be inundated with on a daily basis. To fight against these, the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system is constantly on alert to keep your body in a state of homeostasis. Anything that threatens to destroy that happy balance is quickly and silently dealt with.
To fight this battle well, your body needs the right nutrition, rest, and relaxation. Nutrition is an extremely complicated factor. It can be difficult to eat the right amount of vegetables, fruits, and lean protein every day, perhaps owing to your location, economic limitations, and hectic lifestyle. For example, living in a cold climate can limit the foods you have access to, the rising cost of organic foods makes healthier options less available for many, and the stress or work and deadlines simply means you probably don’t have time to prepare a nutritious meal every day. Moreover, you may have a family to take care, a house to maintain, and bills to pay—all of which take up time and money. The convenience of fast food and store-bought pre-prepared meals—high in sugars, starches, and fatty proteins—are sometimes much easier than a healthy diet.
As a result of the modern lifestyle, supplementing your diet with Cordyceps may sound like an excellent alternative to a nutritious diet and may even appeal to some—why worry about prepping and cooking when you can just pop a pill? But there are many problems with this way of thinking. Here are just some of the main concerns:
- A sick body cannot properly digest supplements.
- Not all supplements are created equal—are the ingredients pure and free of harmful fillers?
- Have the supplements been verified by an independent lab to ensure high quality?
- Are you actually getting what’s listed on the bottle?
- What dose is right for you? Just because a typical adult can take a certain amount of that supplement, doesn’t mean it’s the same amount is appropriate for you.
- Factors such as health, weight, lifestyle, diet, allergies, and any medications you are currently taking must be considered before determining the right dose.
3. Adrenal Fatigue: How it is Connected to Cordyceps
The connection between Cordyceps and adrenal fatigue is mainly that Cordyceps has the potential to reduce the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). The stress of modern life can place huge demands on your adrenal glands—the pair of pyramid-shaped glands located above your kidneys—and your adrenals are responsible for producing the right hormones to help your body manage this stress. But too much stress can cause your adrenals to become overburdened. If stress continues unabated, they may become exhausted and will no longer be able to produce adequate amounts of the stress-related hormone cortisol. If this happens, the symptoms of adrenal fatigue may begin to appear.
Cordyceps is an adaptogen that can support the adrenal glands and is used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve kidney health. Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that can help your body adapt to the stressors it faces every day. Therefore, cordyceps and adrenal fatigue can help balance each other out. Furthermore, the antioxidant, anti-tumor (cancer), and antiviral properties of the mushroom can support the immune system.
4. Your Body’s Response to Stress Through Inflammation
You may be surprised to hear that physical stress and emotional stress are both on the list of threats your body has to fight against every day. This is because your body doesn’t differentiate between invaders like bacteria and physical or emotional stress. Viruses or a lousy day at work. A painful divorce or the death of a family member. All of these are equally as important to your NEM Stress Response as influenza. What affects you emotionally, also affects you on a cellular level.
Let’s look at what happens to your finger when you get a paper cut. Inflammation begins immediately, typically seen in four distinct ways: redness, swelling, pain, and heat.
Swelling occurs because the NEM stress response system sends chemical signals to your cells instructing them to allow more fluid to pass in order to clear away debris and allow infection fighters (white blood cells) to enter. The pain of the actual papercut and increased swelling can be physically felt, and heat is also present because your body is sending more fluid to that spot than usual.
In comparison, an upsetting day at work can lead to the same inflammatory response, you just might not realize it’s happening. Inflammation can show up in many areas of the body, often in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Inflammation without healing shows up as the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Upset stomach
- Acid Indigestion
- Food allergies
- Cancers and tumors
The symptoms listed above may also indicate adrenal fatigue. Whenever your body struggles to find the balance, as noted with Cordyceps and adrenal fatigue, symptoms start to appear. Initially, they might be mild such as an upset stomach or nausea. So, inflammation is not typically the first thing that comes to mind when you tell your physician about what you’re experiencing. But it’s important to remember that all physical symptoms are there for a reason.
The pain of inflammation caused by the papercut is important because it reminds you to be mindful of that finger. It also helps you avoid future papercuts. You may even use a band-aid to protect it (after washing the area with soap and warm water of course). This is an example of the NEM stress response, which is there to remind you that something is wrong by using symptoms. The signs cannot be ignored, or they will become worse.
5. Finding Healing with Cordyceps
When considering Cordyceps and adrenal fatigue, make sure you speak to your healthcare provider before adding any new supplement to your diet. This is particularly important if you have blood sugar since Cordyceps can lower your blood sugar levels. So, if you take insulin or any other medication, you’ll need to make sure your blood sugar doesn’t drop to dangerously low levels. If your blood sugar is too low, you may experience lightheadedness, cold clammy skin and sweating, and an increased heart rate.
Other interactions can also occur if you are taking medications for blood cancers such as leukemia or bleeding disorders. This is because Cordyceps can increase red blood cell production and thin the blood. If your blood is too thin, this can be dangerous. In addition, the safety of Cordyceps has not been established in pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, or young children. When the body becomes off balance with overwhelming stress and infections, as seen in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, cordyceps can help restore the body’s natural balance called homeostasis.
Cordyceps is a mummified caterpillar fungus (mushroom) found high in the Himalayan mountains. The health benefits have been known for centuries, but scientists are just beginning to study them. Some of the positive benefits of Cordyceps include lowering blood sugar levels, increasing exercise capacity, improving lung function, decreasing inflammation and toxicity, and fighting cancer. Adrenal fatigue can begin to show up when your body is overwhelmed by unrelenting stress and lacking the right nutrients and rest to refresh itself.
When your body experiences stress—physical or emotional— inflammation can occur and can show up outwardly (as noted with the papercut) or inwardly, such as digestive issues. If inflammation is not appropriately addressed and prevented, worsening symptoms can start to appear. Over months and years, this can develop into the later stages of adrenal fatigue as the NEM stress response can no longer effectively manage stress. Taking Cordyceps as advised by your physician—who can determine the right dose—may help you recover from adrenal fatigue.
© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What do Cordyceps and adrenal fatigue have in common?
The link between Cordyceps and adrenal fatigue is that Cordyceps can help you recover from adrenal fatigue. When your body becomes off balance due to overwhelming stress, as seen in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, Cordyceps can help to restore your body’s natural balance or homeostasis.
Thank you so very, very much for all of your good advice and help. Your detailed analysis and in-depth articles have been extremely useful and have helped my doctors to understand what is happening within my system. Thanks so very much for your help. Now I know that I need to support my body and to be very careful of pushing it. I also know what type of things will help support my body and what type of signs I need to look for. I really appreciate all of your help. Keep up the great work you are doing and thanks so much once again!
All the very best to you!