(Part 2 of a 5 part series on Stress and the Adrenals)
Yesterday I talked about stress and the affect it has on your adrenal glands. Today I would like to reiterate that everyone has stress. The effect on the body of stress is directly related to how you perceive your stress. If the brain gets a message that you are in danger, it will appropriately send the correct cocktail of hormones down to the rest of the endocrine system to activate the fight or flight response. A prolonged fight or flight response message will eventually create problems in the body. However, there are some things you can work on starting today that will help you recover from this abnormal irritability, weight gain, PMS, sleeplessness, brain fog, joint pain, diminished immune system, and food cravings you might be suffering from.
As the Serenity Prayer says:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Here are some things you CAN change…
All stress triggers can lead to adrenal exhaustion, especially acute or chronic illnesses, chronic inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s, IBS), arthritis (rheumatoid or osteoarthritis), diabetes, and many others will put constant demands on cortisol production and eventually exhaust the stress response system. Foods you eat (or don’t eat) can contribute to an inflammatory environment in your body.
Worrying about your health or conditions you might have will also create anxiety. It is important to find a clinician who can help you diagnose and treat the root cause of your health issues. The more you know about your health concerns, the more you will reduce the unpredictability of your symptoms and the associated stress.
- Are you worried that your health will deteriorate?
- Do you catch colds easier than you once did?
- Do you get light-headed or dizzy when standing quickly?
- Do symptoms of PMS or menopause overwhelm you?
- Are recurrent infections more frequent (yeast, herpes, sinus, etc.)?
- Do you have frequent diarrhea or constipation?
- Do your joints ache more frequently?
Take control of your health:
- See a medical provider who knows about integrated medicine
- Consider using natural supplements to control pain and inflammation rather than OTC or prescription anti-inflammatory drugs (Inflamma-blox).
- Recognize it will take time to get back to normal again-don’t get anxious; don’t lose hope.
- Learn a self-healing energy healing technique like Reiki.
Sleep is your body’s way of resetting itself metabolically and psychologically. You are designed to function optimally on a 24 hour circadian rhythm. Sleep is what helps your body readjust to the stresses placed upon it during the day. If you are not getting the appropriate amount of sleep or keep adjusting your sleeping pattern (day shift to night shift etc.) your natural stress response will not be able to function properly.
It is important to begin removing stimuli (TV, lights, etc.) and adding relaxation (dim lighting, music, warm tea, hot bath, self-massage) during the 30-45 minutes before bed. Reading a relaxing novel, devotional, or book of inspirational stories may help. Meditation and pranayama works wonders for me before sleep.
- Are you still exhausted in the morning after a night’s sleep?
- Is it difficult for you to fall asleep even when you feel tired?
- Are you constantly thinking about tomorrow’s worries while trying to sleep?
- Do you go to bed at different times each night?
Take control of your sleep
- Address any medical reasons that wake you up at night
- Write down tomorrow’s tasks so you can sleep worry-free
- Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule
- Get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night
- Reduce noise and distractions during the hour before bedtime
- Consider using a natural herbal sleep aid like Natural ZZZs
- Massage your head and feet with coconut oil before going to bed
Physical activity is important for proper health and stress management. In the right balance, exercise helps maintain insulin sensitivity, blood glucose, muscle mass and also produces body chemicals that can promote relaxation. Light exercise and stretching is ideal for producing the health benefits that result in stress reduction. Strenuous training, however, can add stress to our bodies.
There are many ways to experience the health benefits of regular exercise. It is recommended that most people engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, with 30 minutes of activity five days a week. Moderate intensity means maintaining a target heart rate of 55-65 percent of your maximum heart rate. Using a heart rate monitor while exercising can be helpful.
While it is considered best to exercise in the morning when your metabolism is ready for greater activity, you will want to structure your daily exercise to fit your daily routine. Some people may find that exercising in the late evening may interfere with their sleep. The real key it to get started and commit to sticking to it!
|Calculating Your Target Heart Rate|
|Step 1: Determine your maximum heart rate. Subtract your age from 220.
220 – _________ (your age) = ____________ Max. Heart Rate
| Step 2: Find your target heart rate for moderate intensity exercise. Multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.55 and 0.65 and round.
____________ Max HR x 0.55 = ______________ Target HR
____________ Max HR x 0.65 = ______________ Target HR
This will give you the range for your heart rate during moderate intensity exercise.
|Step 3: Monitor your heart rate during exercise. While exercising, place your fingers on your pulse at either your neck or wrist. Count the number of heart beats for 6 seconds and then multiply by 10. This is your heart rate. Compare your rate to your target heart rate and adjust your intensity accordingly.|
Take control of your physical activity
- Start slow, but start
- Build activity or exercise into your routine
- Don’t overdo it; you should feel rejuvenated, not exhausted.
- Incorporate yoga and stretching to keep your muscles long and limber.
- Make it’s fun (add a friend and music)
Food is not just nutrients. It also contains information to help regulate systems in the body. How much, how often and what types of food you eat will determine how your body will respond. Constant fluctuations in blood glucose create one of the body’s most stressful conditions. Low blood sugar triggers the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, which stimulates cells to begin producing more glucose.
When you eat foods high in carbohydrates (sweets, unrefined sugars, high glycemic index /load foods), you trigger high amounts of insulin production from your pancreas. The overproduction of insulin helps drive glucose levels down quickly and results in a lower than optimal blood sugar level for a short period of time. The often occurs a short time after lunch, making you feel sleepy. Your adrenal cortisol will normalize your blood glucose level in 30 to 45 minutes. However, some people may self-medicate with chocolate or coffee, triggering another round of high insulin. When this cycle of glycemic stress is repeated over and over again, it places a constant burden on the adrenal stress response. Keeping a food diary for 7 days may be helpful to objectively assess your food intake to determine the burden you may be placing on your body.
Controlling glycemic response by choosing foods that promote glycemic stability is a critical lifestyle change to relieve chronic stress. Foods with a low glycemic index that also contain high soluble fiber will help ease insulin spikes that drive blood glucose below normal.
- Breakfast is especially important. Eating a breakfast with proper glycemic balance, which includes good sources of both protein and fat, starts the day off right.
- Eating more fruits and vegetables will help reduce inflammation, a common burden to the stress response system.
- Consuming higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids will also promote appropriate stress responses.
Take Control of Your Diet
- Plan to eat breakfast every morning
- Eat protein with each meal
- Avoid trans-fats
- Increase Omega-3 fatty acids (fish, fish oil, green leafy vegetables, flaxseeds)
- Reduce intake of high glycemic index carbohydrates and sugars. A good resource can be found at: https://www.faqs.org/nutrition/Foo-Heal/Glycemic-Index.html
- Increase dietary fiber
- Schedule healthy comfort foods so you won’t binge and feel guilty
- Cut out caffeine, alcohol, fried foods, and sweets
- Take a good multi-vitamin
Think about ways you can make changes in these areas of your life if you are fatigued and/or stressed. Remember your adrenal glands cannot run on stress mode for long sustained periods of time and stay healthy. When your adrenals become unhealthy, so does your entire endocrine system (hormones).
Next time I will talk about the work place, relationships, finances, and the need for rest and relaxation. Until then…here’s to your health!