Fermented Herbs and Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

By: Dorine Lam, RDN, MS, MPH

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1. Increased Bioavailability of Nutrients

Adrenal fatigue affects the whole system but fermented herbs can help Fermentation of herbs results in an increase in specific micronutrients such as amino acids, which comprise the building blocks of bodily protein. An increase of amino acids acts as an increase of fuel supply for the body through the decomposition of the nutrients contained in fermented herbs, and their transformation into more bioavailable organic compounds.

2. Improved Digestion and Absorption

Fermentation promotes digestion and absorption of nutrients as the fermentation process breaks down the food into its more basic constituents making the food more readily absorbed by the body. This process, briefly mentioned above, is demonstrated within the fermentation of herbs using kefir grains when the sugar moiety of the herb is separated from its nutrients.

Most of the beneficial molecules in plants are linked to a sugar moiety that must be removed before proper absorption; our bodies prior to the fermentation process poorly absorb these soluble glycoside phytocompounds and trace minerals. Without this separation process, these soluble glycoside phytocompounds and trace minerals remain and burden our digestive system. In using fermentation, however, the sugar is separated and biotransformed into aglycone molecules (now in gluconate and/or acetate form) which are water soluble and more readily absorbed by the body. The kefir grains (a combination of yeast and bacteria) consume the sugar moiety and create new metabolites such as organic acids, B vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and other beneficial yeast and bacteria.

3. Restore the Balance of Good Bacteria in the GI tract

Fermented herbs and foods have been known to restore the proper balance of bacteria in the GI, as many modern day ailments (for example, leaky gut syndrome, gluten intolerance, allergies, etc.) have been linked to a poor presence of good bacteria in the GI. Raw, fermented foods are rich in probiotics, enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, organic acids, and minerals that all promote the presence of good bacteria in the GI. The process of fermentation not only preserves the initial food product prior to fermentation, but it also creates a multitude of new beneficial compounds during the fermentation process.

As the body ages its supply of enzymes deteriorates and there is a greater need for enzymes to aid in the digestion and absorption of food. Poor adrenal function is often associated with an inability to digest food as compared to an optimally functioning digestive system, and also low gastric acidity.

Enzymes are destroyed when heated, so to preserve a food using the fermentation process as opposed to pasteurization, not only keeps the enzymes alive in the original food product, but also creates new enzymes that are medicinally beneficial. The process of fermentation does not require heat or alcohol, preserving a greater amount of the beneficial enzymes that make herbs a unique whole food matrix.

Probiotics (the literal meaning is for life) are live microbial cultures that are beneficial to the consumer in improving GI tract health, the immune system, and synthesizing and enhancing the bioavailability of nutrients. Most probiotics fall into the group of organisms known as lactic acid-producing bacteria and are normally consumed in fermented foods. The exact science in which probiotics exert their effects are largely unknown, however, scientific evidence has revealed that they play an important role in a healthy diet, in health maintenance and in disease prevention. Probiotics help to maintain the balance of bacteria in the GI tract and immune system.

Probiotics requires prebiotics, which are non-digestible carbohydrates that nourishes the good bacteria already in the colon. When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a symbiotic. Kefir and yogurt are symbiotic because they contain the prebiotic, the fuel, and the probiotic, the live bacteria.

Fermented Herbs and Liver Congestion

Herbal remedies offer an alternative and natural approach to conventional medicine, in situations where a pharmacological approach could result in unwanted toxic build up in the body causing further damage. This is particularly so in cases involving the liver. Herbs such as milk thistle, turmeric, dandelion and globe artichoke can play an important role in support of self-healing liver cells. Furthermore, the formation of toxins in the body may be caused by indigestion problems such as constipation in which microbial activities produce toxins after prolonged retention of food components in the bowel.

Advanced adrenal fatigue responds well to fermented herbsAs compared to regular herbs, fermented herbs have the added benefit of speeding up proper digestion and waste elimination, therefore, lessening the time toxins are present in the GI tract. Probiotics in the fermented herbs once consumed assists in the building up of good bacteria in the GI tract so that food is more easily broken down and nutrients are absorbed faster. This allows the body to complete the digestive process quickly and efficiently, which appreciably assists with not only improving the mobility of the GI tract but also helps in detoxifying heavy metals from the body.

Significantly, liver congestion is linked to most chronic illnesses because the liver influences the function of all body cells. For instance, it promotes the production of amino acids, which are used in the production of cellular proteins and hormones. Therefore, impairment of liver functioning causes physiological imbalances in the body leading to the feeling of tiredness, which is also a principal characteristic of AFS. It is believed that liver congestion is linked to AFS because it can lead to hormonal and lipid imbalance in the body. However, liver congestion and AFS are best addressed using alternative medical approaches, as conventional medical approaches do not recognize the condition yet. Some of the most reliable herbs that can assist in liver congestion include dandelion, turmeric, and globe artichoke.

Herbs and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS)

Herbal remedies can present a distinct advantage over conventional medicines, as their consumption does not result in the fast accumulation of toxic byproducts in the body. This is a distinct advantage when combating chronic diseases, where conventional medical approaches call for drugs that target specific symptoms/bio-markers while also leaving behind toxins for the liver to clear and process. Over time, the level of toxic compounds can become too great, resulting in liver toxicity and congestion either clinically or subclinically.

It is important to realize that while most herbs are beneficial for general well being and those with mild AFS, those with advanced adrenal fatigue are in a unique category, as certain herbs can be beneficial for recovery from AFS, while other herbs can be quite detrimental and delay or prevent healing. Herbs that are commonly used in mild AFS that can potentially backfire when the person is in advanced stages includes rhodiola, licorice, ashwagandha, maca, green tea, and ginseng. Also, although herbs are widely used for adrenal healing, due to the lack of standardization and research, information about them is often incorrect, which tends to lead to their misuse. Proper guidance from someone experienced with healing the adrenals is needed in order to avoid the pitfalls and side effects. Inappropriate usage could trigger adrenal crashes.

Fermented Herbs and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Fermented herbs can be a key to AFS recovery. The more advanced the AFS, the more beneficial this can be if used properly. In addition to traditional herbal formulas that are useful in supporting adrenal and liver function, fermented herbs offer an additional dimension to the healing process by allowing faster assimilation of the herb from the GI tract into the blood stream, making use of its bioavailability across the cellular membrane at the orthomolecular level. Almost any herb will find an increase in potency as a result of this fermentation if the delivery system is properly titrated. This is especially critical for those in advanced AFS where the body is highly sensitive to any supplementation and paradoxical reactions are common. Proper dosage is key because too much of a good thing can actually backfire in the case of AFS, especially when the sufferer is in the advanced stages where a paradoxical reaction is common. At the same time, though previously incapable under normal circumstances, proper dosage may allow important nutrients to reach the cells. Liver congestion, GI motility slowdown, and irritable bowel syndrome are some intervening factors that need to be considered in the overall picture.

Fermented herbs for joint painSymptoms that benefit greatly from proper use of fermented herbs in the AFS setting include brain fog, liver congestion, supplement sensitivity, multiple chemical sensitivity, delayed food sensitivity, inflammatory response, anxiety, sluggishness, fatigue, nervousness, sleep onset insomnia, sleep maintenance insomnia, joint pain, and many others.

The key to successful use of fermented herbs in the AFS setting lies in knowing the body’s unique constitution and matching it with the proper dosage and delivery system of fermented herbs. For optimum results, both regular and fermented herbs can be used concurrently. The key again is proper dosage. Used correctly, this can be an invaluable tool in the overall AFS recovery process.

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© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

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