(by Katie Forster - Naturopath)
Yes please! Think adrenals. Our adrenal glands are the powerhouse that help us cope, or not, with stress. This is why it is essential to prioritise adrenal health to ensure we can effectively duck and weave all the curve balls that life throws us. And, let's face it, curve balls are a daily event!
Our adrenal glands are situated above the kidneys and produce a hormone called cortisol in response to stress and anxiety. You may have heard of the "fight or flight" response, well this is what it's all about. If our adrenals are pumping out loads of cortisol due to high stress stimulus we start feeling anxious. If this is sustained over a long period of time we experience adrenal fatigue, at this point our adrenals struggle to produce cortisol and we end up feeling exhausted all the time.
Healthy adrenals naturally produce more cortisol in the morning, giving us that get and go that we need to start the day. As the day progresses, this cortisol level gradually decreases until bedtime, when the levels are low enough for us to have a good nights sleep. Then it starts all over again. This fluctuating pattern is normal and is part of the natural daily cycle.
When we experience long periods of high level stress our poor adrenals don't get the restorative break they require to keep functioning effectively. This results in poor quality sleep, insomnia, anxiety, low energy or, in the later stages of adrenal fatigue, exhaustion. Ever had the feeling your dragging yourself around or can't get out of bed in the morning? This is your adrenals crying out for help.
Here are my 5 top tips to keep your adrenals in ship shape condition so you can hit the ground running in 2016:
- Good sleep - make sure you're in bed by 10pm. Adrenals require optimum sleep time to recoup spent cortisol from the busy day.
- Exercise regularly, but not excessively.
- Regular relaxation and breathing exercises. Massage, meditation and gentle yoga are excellent ways to switch off.
- Share enjoyable time with friends and family, remember to laugh.
- Identify what is preventing you from moving forward and enjoying life.
Nutritional recommendations to nourish your adrenals:
- 5-6 serves of vegetables per day.
- Eat good quality protein, especially for lunch and breakfast.
- Use quality cold-pressed oils e.g. olive, coconut, walnut, almond, & flaxseed.
- Avoid acidic foods such as hydrogenated fats, refined carbohydrates & fruit juices.
- Avoid energy robbers such as caffeine & alcohol.
- Drink filtered water - 8 to 10 glasses per day.
- Supplement with B group vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, zinc, essential fatty acids e.g. fish oil, flaxseed oil, nuts & seeds.
The most effective way to support the adrenals after long periods of stress, especially helpful when we feel exhausted and overwhelmed, are herbal adaptogenic tonics. This group of herbs literally assist us to adapt to stressors, as we can't take them away; that's just life. We have to work on how we respond to stress. Adaptogen herbs such as Korean ginseng, Siberian ginseng, Rehmannia and Licorice are my favourites for improving our ability to cope with stress.
You can have your levels of adrenal hormones tested to find out exactly how your adrenals are coping. This is especially useful in situations where stress is impacting on your health. Common symptoms of low cortisol levels are fatigue, depression, insomnia, infertility, allergies, chemical sensitivities, menopause, PMS, sugar or salt cravings...to name a few. For an Adrenal Hormone Profile you need a Functional Pathology referral from a naturopath, such as me. Too easy!
If you feel you need to top up your fuel tank in preparation for the year ahead or have been suffering the effects of long term or acute stress, a herbal tonic and getting your adrenal hormone levels checked are key. Happy adrenals equals happy life!!!
Katie is available at the clinic Mondays-Wednesdays. Book online or give us a call on 9381 0300 to discuss your needs.