We have all experienced stress, but did you realise it could be causing you a number of other health related complaints? Up to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are due to stress-related ailments! The stress hormone, cortisol, could be causing your moodiness, daytime fatigue, insomnia, persistent infections, sugar cravings, as well as the excess weight around your waist you can never seem to shift despite hours spent at the gym.
During periods of acute stress, your adrenal glands release increased levels of cortisol to help the body cope with physical or psychological stressors. Cortisol is responsible for maintaining normal blood sugar levels, regulation of carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism, participates in immune and/or inflammatory reactions, as well as influencing the heart and blood vessels. In the short run, it’s great – even protective and restorative.However, problems develop when your relentlessly busy lifestyle forces the adrenal glands to be on constant “high alert” resulting in a continual elevation of cortisol.
Persistently elevated levels of cortisol cause:
- Anxiety & depression
- Fatigue and weakness
- Weight gain, particularly around the waist
- Lowered sex drive
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance
- Weakened immunity
- Thyroid imbalance
If stress persists and your adrenals are required to constantly respond, they will eventually struggle to produce cortisol, which could ultimately lead to adrenal exhaustion. Although we may not always be able to reduce the immediate stressor (I would suggest taking a holiday if you can!), the good news is there are many steps you can start today to normalise cortisol levels and restore healthy adrenal function.
Aim to have regular breaks throughout your day, even a 5 minute walk outside of the office can help dramatically
Exercise regularly, but not excessively
Regular bed time, ideally before 10pm
Regular relaxation & breathing exercises
Share enjoyable time and laugh with friends & family
Focus on a better balance between work, rest, and play
5-6 serves of vegetables, and 1-2 serves of fruit per day
Eat good quality protein, especially for breakfast & lunch
Eat mostly homemade foods that are nutrient-dense and nourishing. Do a “Sunday cook-up” for the weeks lunches
Use quality cold-pressed oils e.g. olive, walnut, almond, flaxseed & coconut
Avoid energy robbers such as alcohol and caffeine
Increase vitamin C rich foods – orange, red and yellow varieties
Avoid acidic foods such as hydrogenated fats, refined carbohydrates & sugars
Drink filtered water – 8 to 10 glasses per day
If you have been experiencing stress and suspect your cortisol levels may be out of balance, a visit to our naturopaths is your answer. They will formulate a treatment plan specific to your needs, and through the use of herbal medicine, nutrition and lifestyle factors, you will achieve great results!