The Pros (and Cons) of Ashwagandha

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Life is stressful. Of course, it’s also wonderful, breathtaking, and a little bit magic - but it definitely has its challenges. Over time, those challenges can begin to accumulate and weigh us down. The normal day-to-day wear of stress then transforms into something else: burnout, anxiety, and even depression.

A survey in 2021 found that 78% of Americans feel stressed at least one day in a typical week — and 15% of them are stressed every day.1 That’s a bit of a rise from before 2020, but overwhelming feelings of stress aren’t likely to fade away any time soon. 

This is especially unfortunate as prolonged stress can negatively affect your relationships, your work productivity, your overall happiness - and even your physical health.

Scientists have known for a long time that stress can lower our immune system and put us at increased risk for a variety of diseases. This is because ‘feeling stress’ isn’t simply an emotional experience.

It has daunting biological and physiological effects that interact with our cells on a microscopic level - all the way to changing how well our organs work and even disrupting certain brain functions. Prolonged stress isn’t a joke, and for the 8.3 millions of Americans who struggle with overwhelming levels of stress each day - it can feel like there is no relief in sight.

The Search for Stress Relief

There are dozens of natural ways (if not more) to help manage your stress. Some of the most effective ones include exercise and meditation - two profoundly powerful tools to help reroute many of the neurological ways we manage stress. But these days, finding ways to boost your body’s ability to relax can be found in many powerful botanicals and ingredients found right in nature.

It’s 2022 - and it’s likely you’ve heard about the wonder that is Ashwagandha. Used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, it’s proven to be a strong adaptogen with stress-relieving benefits.* Adaptogens are ingredients used as herbal medicines to help balance physiological processes and promote our cells’ homeostasis.* Many adaptogens can be found on the market, but Ashwagandha takes the cake for being particularly effective for many people.

Scientists have studied this anti-stress supplement for decades, looking at its ability to support healthy inflammatory response, support brain cell health, and even reduce feelings of anxiousness.* It’s no wonder why ashwagandha has - and will continue to be - an effective supplement to help mellow out the effects of daily stress. 

But like many mistakes most of us have made over the years is looking at nutrition - and supplements - as a one-size-fits-all approach.

The Impact of the Gut Microbiome on Supplements

You’ve heard us say it before - but our gut microbiome has a mind of its own. Not only does our gut act like our ‘second brain’ with its ability to send messages throughout our body, but the microbes inside our digestive system have an uncanny ability to change how foods interact with us.

In many of the same ways different foods (even those deemed inherently ‘healthy’) can actually cause digestive discomfort or have little to no beneficial effect - sometimes our gut microbes lessen the benefits of some of the best supplements. Other times - we may have an allergy or adverse reaction.

There are a number of reasons why this occurs. Depending on the various populations of microorganisms, their balance can make it difficult to digest or convert many ingredients into compounds our body can use. 

Fortunately, there is no such thing as just one solution. Nature has a way of making a number of herbs and botanicals with very similar beneficial properties. With so many to choose from, our Clinical Nutrition Team at Viome has found that some benefit others more. And we include a variety of ‘anti-stress’ adaptogens in our Precision Supplements.

Just a few of the ones we might recommend in our supplement line include Lemon Balm, Rhodiola, and Hops - all with natural calming effects.* As we expand the ingredients we offer, we even hope to include more options to best support our Viome Community with truly personalized supplements.

This is especially great for people who learn that they struggle with a ‘nightshade’ allergy which prevents them from taking ashwagandha, despite its beneficial properties. But with truly personalized recommendations based on your own unique biology, our Viome recommendations can help guide you to be the most resilient version of you yet! As for the rest of your daily stresses - well, there’s always meditation!

1. Lambright Black, M. (updated Apr. 4 2022). Americans’ Stress Levels — and Financial Anxiety — on the Rise. Lendingtree.