Happy Hormones: keeping adrenal glands healthy

In today’s fast-paced world, the evolutionary mechanism of  ‘fight or flight’, when our stress hormone cortisol is released by our adrenal glands, has backfired on many of us. The result can be adrenal fatigue, a state of chronic lethargy, mood instability, weight gain, and poor energy levels.

Adrenal glands can become exhausted producing too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, released when we are in a state of stress.

The stress hormone cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to physical, psychological, or emotional stress as part of the ‘fight or flight response’. This ‘fight or flight’ mechanism is an evolutionary adaptation, where, as hunter gatherers, we had to either fight or flee danger to survive.

In a balanced state our cortisol levels return to normal, after the perceived threat has subsided but in today’s fast-paced world, a tight work deadline, experiencing a tough divorce, or over-exercising, places the body under chronic stress preventing our cortisol levels from returning to normal. The result can be adrenal fatigue.

Our naturopath Amanda Harasym offers some tips on how to improve the health of your adrenal glands and get cortisol back in balance.

Develop healthy stress coping mechanisms

Encountering daily stress is inevitable, but the way in which we react is within our control. Maintaining a positive attitude, practicing daily gratitude, and engaging in a healthy exercise routine are all ways in which we can allow our bodies to bump up the production of our feel-good neurotransmitters. Other activities that help your body to deal with stress and calm the mind include meditation, yoga, and Pilates.

Redefine your definition of success

If your definition of success is killing you, it’s time to re-examine what you perceive as ‘success’. The idea that you must always strive for perfection often drives individuals into adrenal overload. In our current culture we move incessantly towards a greater emphasis on achievement and goal orientation. We forget that we are humans, not robots, and we would bring much greater benefit to ourselves if we came to accept the natural flow of life, which happens to be imperfect. Seeking advice from a qualified psychologist can help you to set healthy and realistic goals that will not negatively affect your state of mind.

Stay hydrated

Your entire body needs adequate hydration levels to function at an optimal level. Add a multi trace mineral supplement to your water to help increase absorption into your cells. You can also add a pinch of pink rock salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon to your water if you prefer. A good guideline for adequate hydration is 30 ml per kg of body weight, per day. This may increase if you engage in an intense bout of exercise, losing water through perspiration.

Flood your adrenals with B vitamins

B vitamins are critical to support adrenal function, especially B5, B6, and B12. All the B vitamins play a role in energy production, and a deficient in B vitamins can leave you feeling fatigued.

Ensure adequate sleep

Sleep is essential for full body rest and recovery. Your body loves routine, so get familiar with healthy sleep hygiene practices, such as 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and avoiding screens 60 minutes before bed.

Follow a diet that supports healthy adrenal function

It is important to identify any food sensitivities which can contribute to chronic inflammation, as well as consuming anti-inflammatory foods, such as brightly coloured vegetables and fruits. Lean protein and complex carbohydrates are an important part of an overall healthy diet. Ensuring sufficient calories and adequate vitamins and minerals from a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet helps to maintain healthy adrenal glands, and a healthy mind.

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