Right now, would you define yourself as a ‘stress ball’?
Do you feel like you’re perpetually running behind these days and it’s making you grouchy? Are you tired of having to give yourself a pep talk each morning to face the day? Do you wonder when you’ll be able to shake the stress and get into the clear?
If you’re thinking, ‘oh my gosh, that’s me!’, you may have something called adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue (otherwise known as HPA axis dysfunction) occurs when the hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands (HPA axis) aren’t communicating as they should. The dysfunction has three stages of severity, and each stage is characterized by a unique set of symptoms that are a result of cortisol levels in the body.
If you feel like a ‘stress ball’, you’re probably in stage one of adrenal fatigue. We refer to it as the ‘Stressed’ Stage; and you probably relate to the issues above. This stage of adrenal fatigue is characterized by consistently high cortisol levels all day long.
It’s true that an increase in your stress hormone cortisol is a healthy, normal response to excitement, competition or stress. It’s a useful technique the body employs to support us short term. We certainly can’t expect to live our lives devoid of intense or stressful situations. However, extended periods of heightened cortisol has harmful effects on the body.
It is common for a thyroid condition to be mistaken for adrenal fatigue. Low levels of metabolites could indicate a this alternate diagnosis. This is why we suggest testing to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Cortisol- The Harmful Effects
-Although you may feel energized at points during your day, you won’t feel like you’re running on your own ‘true’ energy.
-Your resting heart rate will increase. No matter what you do you just can’t calm down.
-High cortisol levels cause the body to produce more fat tissue. In turn, the fat tissue signals the body to produce more cortisol (who thought of this?!). This is a vicious and very frustrating cycle.
-You may become insulin resistant, making it difficult to balance your blood sugar. Because of this, experience more sugar cravings. This also affects your energy levels and moods.
-Adrenaline is driven by cortisol and then that will in turn increase anxiety.
-It’s difficult to focus and you have periods of brain fog. You feel like you’re living more in your head instead of in your body.
-Finally, if your body is functioning under high cortisol long term, you will progress to the next stages of adrenal fatigue. At this time, you experience low cortisol; the glands just don’t produce enough to pep you up.
How To Reduce Cortisol Levels Naturally
Reduce Known Stress- There’s probably a lot going on in your life that stresses you out right now! See if you can drop any activities that are causing you stress, and say ‘no’ to extra commitments on your time. Get creative; if grocery shopping stresses you out but you still need to do it, find an alternative (delivery service, get someone to do it for you).
Remove ‘Hidden’ Stress- The body is naturally equipped to deal with a range of environmental stressors. However, when you want to reduce cortisol, you need to do whatever you can to create a healing environment. Xenoestrogens from canned food, BPA’s, pesticides on food, plastics, and cleaning products makes the liver work hard to remove them… sabotaging your efforts to reduce cortisol. Do your best to avoid these products and find alternatives.
Quit The Coffee- Although your daily coffees are delicious, caffeine increases both cortisol and adrenaline. As much as the taste is pure yum, right now it’s making you feel worse. We know it’s hard, but find a replacement for the time being. Try matcha green tea powder or a delicious healing elixir from our ebook. Maccha is a good alternative; it combines energizing caffeine with the amino acid L-Theanine, found almost exclusively in tea leaves. This combination calms the brain and doesn’t give you the adrenal rush and will help you reduce cortisol.
Balance Blood Sugar– Meals with too much sugar and not enough fat and protein can increase cortisol. When you set and stick to meal times, this calms your nervous system and teaches it when to expect food. Ideally, eat a high-protein high-fat breakfast within an hour of waking up. We recommend a green smoothie with fat and protein powder, eggs cooked with greens, or smoked salmon and mixed veggies.
Switch Up Your Workout- Moderate intensity cardio is the worst for your adrenals (think long runs, spin class, 90 minute hot yoga class). Instead, work out for no more than 30 minutes and try high intensity interval training (HIIT) or circuit training. This type of work out will get you results without undue stress to your system. See how you feel after working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This switch up will help reduce cortisol, insulin resistance and fat tissues.
Utilize Adaptogens- Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help the body reduce cortisol and adapt to stress. My favorites are schizandra berry, maca extract, holy basil, ashwagandha and gynostemma. Check out our blog all about adaptogens here.