Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree? Whether it is good stress, like planning a wedding, or the kind of stress that takes you off your feet like caring for a sick loved one, the result is the same. People in today's world are more overworked and busier than ever before and this can take a toll on our physical body as well as our emotional regulation. Stress causes unpleasant symptoms such as:
*Anxiety and Sadness
*Weakened Immune System
Let's take a diver deep into the role of stress and how we can regulate the stress hormone, cortisol for a higher quality of life.
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen too much in our society . It becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic and can have a major impact on our bodies.
You may have heard of the main stress hormone called “cortisol.” It is released from your adrenal glands in response to stressful situations. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can get to sleep at night. The stressors from everyday life such as running a household, going to work, deadlines, carpools, managing relationships, finances and more can affect how high our cortisol is throughout the day. If it stays to high for too long, you will experience adrenal fatigue. This can make you feel like you have been hit by a train, as the body's ability to deal with stressors is not functioning properly. High levels of cortisol is associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity. To maximize your quality of life, you will need to address your body's response to stress.
Foods that affect Cortisol
Let’s start with the two biggest culprits when it comes to foods that increase cortisol...…
Coffee and Sugar How many of us start off our day with this very combination? Reducing the refined sugars that we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies). This includes foods that turn to sugar in our bodies such as white pastas, breads, muffins, bagels, cake, etc.
High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels and will impact the health of your adrenal glands. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest. If you HAVE to have your coffee in the morning, make sure that it is organic, low-acid, and mold-free. Try adding a splash of coconut or almond creamer instead of a dairy creamer and sugar. Challenge yourself to swap out the morning joe for a cup of herbal tea or tea made with adaptagenic herbs.
Adaptagenic Herbs- Adaptagenic herbs such as ashwaganda, rhodiola, shilajit, and schisandra have been used for thousands of years to help the body "adapt," protect against stress, and bring homeostasis. Consume these herbs in water or as a warm tea to reduce the impact of stress on the body and mind. Be sure to choose a source that is third party tested for safety, potency, and toxicity when using herbs or natural supplements.
Water- Most people are chronically dehydrated and that will impact cortisol levels as well. Make sure that you are drinking half your body weight in oz of water per day to get enough hydration. If you are consuming coffee, drink an additional glass of water for every cup of coffee as coffee will dehydrate you.
Dark Chocolate- Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind. I have a square of chocolate everyday that is infused with green tea and amino acids to help with hunger, mood, and metabolism.
Pre-biotic fiber and probiotics Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection. Taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you are eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber. I use a meal replacement shake in the morning that contains pre-biotic fiber. This is an easy way to make sure that you get it in. Make sure while choosing a probiotic, that you find one that has a wide variety of bacteria strains for the diverse gut flora in addition to high amounts of CFU (colony forming units). Do your research to find a probiotic that is designed to make it through the acidic gut and populate.
Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol
Mindfulness Mindfulness is a practice that I have been teaching my clients for many years and is wonderful in helping people to reduce stress. Many studies show that focusing on the present moment and reducing stressful thoughts and worry lowers cortisol.
Exercise Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels. exercise that is too vigorous though can have the opposite effect. Make sure that you are fueling your body with dense nutrition before and after your workout and choose a high-quality protein immediately after workout for recovery.
Sleep Getting adequate sleep is a powerful way to ensure that your body is recovering from the day. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways. Going to sleep at the same time each night and beginning to shut down electronics at least an hour ahead of time is key. Many people like to use essential oils such as lavender and frankincense as well as meditations before bed to help them relax.
Energy Work Energy work such as reiki has been shown to balance the nervous system and promote stress-reduction. Taking time to unwind and tune into your body's needs is critical to keeping stress hormones at bay.
Be social Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key. Having healthy boundaries and limiting time spent with those who are negative or not supportive of you is essential when it comes to stress levels.
Recipe (High fiber prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding
3 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.
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