Guest post by Kayla Cluett, CHN
The adrenal glands are amazing. They are small but incredibly mighty and critical for the health of our entire organism. Unfortunately, they are often overlooked when it comes to many of the health conditions we are faced with today.
Adrenal hormones are the major response of the body to stress or trauma from outside or within. The 5 main stressors are mental, emotional, spiritual, chemical, and physical and the body cannot decipher between them. The body sees all stress equally and often we are responding to multiple threats at once. This causes our bucket to spill over and symptoms to occur.
These symptoms show up in the form of reproductive problems, digestive disturbances, cardiovascular and metabolic issues.
The adrenals take priority above all the other hormones in the body.
When the adrenals are needed to respond to stress, other areas of the endocrine system take a back seat. When this becomes chronic, hormone imbalances occur.
Here are 5 ways stress throws our hormones out of whack:
1. When stress in high progesterone is low. Low progesterone means estrogen dominance. Estrogen is pro-growth which leaves us susceptible to problems such as endometriosis, breast cysts, fibroids, and even breast cancer.
2. Cortisol stimulates an elevation in blood sugar, which over time can create insulin resistance.
3. It stimulates fat deposits. This is what gives us that spare tire and midsection squish that we could live without. Fat is metabolically active and this puts more demands on our hormones.
4. The adrenals become very important during menopause as they become the primary producer of the sex hormones. If the adrenals are fatigued prior menopause, this could leave us prone to menopausal symptoms and susceptible to things like osteoporosis and hormonal cancers later in life.
5. Cortisol slows the conversion of T4 to T3 (thyroid hormones). T3 affects almost every physiological function in the body.
So how do we take care of our adrenal health?
Managing stress is of the upmost importance, and we can do this through dietary and lifestyle strategies.
Here are some dietary and lifestyle strategies to consider:
• Avoiding blood sugar swings by limiting coffee and caffeine products. Switch to green tea instead. Green tea contains L-theanine which provides a calming effect and helps balance moods.
• Limit alcohol. Like caffeine, alcohol is a stimulant and not helpful for the adrenals.
• Get plenty of omega 3 in the form of seeds and cold-water fish. Omega 3 is needed to protect against the effects of stress. Omega 3 has been shown to be effective at decreasing epinephrine, cortisol and energy expenditure.
• Get plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods. These foods help the adrenals by helping to lower cortisol and anxiety.
• B Vitamin-rich foods such as whole grains and legumes. This helps to regulate blood sugar and neurotransmitters. They also nourish the gut which plays a huge role in adrenal function.
• Vitamin C-rich foods such as orange and red vegetables and fruits. Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood serum levels of cortisol and improve cortisol recovery.
• Magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy green vegetables and almonds. Low magnesium increases the release of stress hormones and further depletes it, especially under stress.
• Eat chocolate! Eating 40g of dark chocolate over a two week period was shown to reduce the urinary excretion of cortisol and partially normalized stress-related differences in energy metabolism.
• Keeping blood sugar balanced by getting plenty of protein, fat and fiber at each meal. This keeps us fuller longer and prevents the hypoglycemic episodes that put pressure on the adrenals.
• Implementing calming rituals as a daily practice (yoga, massage, deep breathing, connecting to self through movement or meditation).
• Reducing toxin exposures through switching to cleaner cosmetics and household cleaning products.
• Removing emotional and mental stressors.
• Getting plenty of good quality sleep.
• Nurturing relationships and connection.
• Creating space to work on personal development and a sense of accomplishment.
• Having a positive outlook.
• Learning to say no to the things that add stress to your life.
Although it’s not possible to avoid stress entirely, and in fact some stress can be beneficial, there’s many things we can do to be mindful of it and manage it. It’s a matter of creating a daily practice that works for you.
Bottom line though, if we keep trying to pour from an empty cup we leave ourselves susceptible to burn-out and unwanted symptoms. Making dietary and lifestyle adjustments that promote peace and relaxation is a critical step in prevention.
About the author:
Kayla Cluett is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Practitioner helping women to balance their hormones, so they can reduce the pesky symptoms that come with the demands and stressors of everyday life. She’ll teach you strategic dietary and lifestyle strategies that will help support and balance key body systems to help your body thrive. You’ll lose weight, kick our cravings, improve your energy and mental clarity without feeling like you’re on a diet, deprived or hungry. You can find her at kaylacluettnutrition.com and follow her on Instagram @kaylacluettnutrition.