Are you as overwhelmed as I am right now?
If so, here’s how NOT to live in DISTRESS!
This article contains 3 sections of information:
- An explanation of how chronic, everyday stress creates “adrenal dysfunction” (sometimes referred to as adrenal fatigue) and what that does to your health.
- Lifestyle changes and supplements that can reverse the fatigue caused by adrenal dysfunction.
- Self-testing that you must do.
There are good stresses and bad stresses and really we need stress just not distress!
Your body routinely – and automatically – responds to short-term stressors, and that is both healthy and protective.
When you’re interviewing for that new job, a little stress gives you optimal alertness and focus. In a competitive athletic event you can get that additional surge of energy and strength. If you were a caveman, your body’s stress response to seeing a tiger, known as “flight or fight”, would likely save you. Your nerve chemicals and hormones would immediately respond and change to deal with the threat. Blood would flow to your arms so that you could fight the tiger; or blood would flow to your legs so you could run away. Your breathing would change allowing more oxygen and mental alertness. Hormones would be shut on and off depending on their importance in dealing with the tiger at that moment. All of that protecting you.
But when you are constantly stressed, like many of us are with everyday stress, the survival story is not so good.
All of those same nerve responses and hormone changes that are lifesaving in “flight or fight” mode can cause havoc when the stress response is maintained longer-term. Functions such as your digestive system start to shut down in this mode. Your immunity system is de-prioritized, as are many other important functions in your body (so that you can better fight the tiger! But guess what…there is no tiger…just ongoing chemical changes to your body). Your body goes into a state of DISTRESS.
You know the unflattering and unhealthy signs of DISTRESS:
- Your blood sugar starts to spike,
- You are ultra-fatigued (and yet, you can’t seem to sleep at night)!
- You gain belly fat as your metabolism seems to abandon you.
- You become sick with yet another cold as your immune system becomes suppressed.
- You have sugar cravings and irritability…and on top of that your brain is shrouded in fog.
- You make bad decisions, or worse…you are unable to make decisions.
- You certainly don’t want to cuddle with your partner!
- And you are feeling like you are about to blow!
Yes, you are seriously in DISTRESS.
So what is happening in your body when you find yourself living in DISTRESS? (hint: it isn’t good). And more importantly, how can you heal yourself and get your body OUT of living in DISTRESS?
Your Adrenal Glands help you respond to danger, stress and threats
To understand chronic stress and its impact on your body and health we need to look at your adrenal glands.
These vital organs, which are located on top of the kidneys, secrete substances such as adrenaline and cortisol in response to danger, stress, or threat.
Adrenaline stimulates the autonomic nervous system, increasing breathing, nerve sensitivity, and heart rate, to help the body deal with the stressor.
Cortisol provides a quick energy fix, heightens mental alertness, and temporarily raises the body’s pain threshold. It aids in the release of insulin, helps bring blood sugar back to normal levels, regulates blood pressure and immune function, and lessens inflammatory responses in the body.
These temporary changes help a person meet the challenges successfully, and then the body usually returns to a normal un-aroused state (slower breathing and heart rate, etc.). Cortisol levels drop, and the adrenals, heart, lungs and brain all return to their usual functioning levels.
So stress can be good and protective. It can help you optimally perform. It can help you survive.
However, since cortisol’s purpose in the body is to respond to a temporary state of challenge, whenever the stress is constant or unmitigated for too long a period of time, the body remains in a state of hypervigilance, causing cortisol to accumulate to unhealthy levels in the body. At these excessive levels over a long period of time, cortisol ceases to be beneficial. And the adrenal glands become fatigued.
Adrenal fatigue leads to inflammation, more rapid aging, and diseased states.
There are three stages of adrenal fatigue (more properly called adrenal hypofunction or dysfunction).
Excess cortisol in the body is the earliest stage of adrenal fatigue. The body reacts poorly to the over-balance of cortisol, with weight gain, sweet cravings, and muscle weakness. A high cortisol level actually encourages the accumulation of fat around the middle and actually causes the body to begin metabolizing proteins from the muscles as energy sources, causing muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue. However, the continuation of a high stress level causes the body to keep calling for more cortisol.
This is the second stage of adrenal fatigue, as the adrenal glands become less able to pump out the amount of cortisol which the patient’s stress level continually demands. They don’t stop trying, though, and in the process they become weakened at the cellular level and thus less able to secrete adequate amounts of all of the vital hormones which they normally do.
In women, if adrenal fatigue happens after menopause, it can greatly worsen menopausal symptoms, because many of the hormones secreted by the adrenals are inter-related with estrogen, progesterone, and pregnenolone, and now the balance has been tampered with.
Also, an adrenal imbalance can adversely affect hormones secreted by the thyroid gland as well, since the adrenals communicate chemically with the thyroid.
So as our adrenals become fatigued we start to see:
- Fatigue, lack of energy and exhaustion.
- Decreased immunity, frequent colds, flu, allergies.
- Aches and pains.
- Lack of mental clarity. Memory loss.
- Food cravings, especially sweets and salty foods with weight gain (around the middle) and difficulty maintaining weight.
- Depression, anxiety, nervous and irritability. Isolating behaviors.
- Hormonal imbalances, irregular cycles, PMS.
- GI upset, constipation, diarrhea.
- Hair loss.
- Lack of libido, sexual dysfunction, relationship “disconnects”.
- Inflammation, including allergies, asthma and arthritis… Joint pain.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and insulin resistance.
The third stage of this stress-induced process is adrenal exhaustion – more pronounced than adrenal fatigue. During the adrenal exhaustion phase, cortisol output gradually declines significantly below sub-optimal levels.
It has been suggested that this is because the stress level demands more cortisol, the adrenals are no longer able to even try keep up with the demands BUT this is incorrect!!!!! What really seems to be occurring physiologically is not that the glands are worn out but rather that the PVN area in our brain says STOP! Because it is being fried!
The electromagnetic membrane potential changes across our cell membranes contribute to this and we also become quite acidic. Mineral and vitamin demands increase as well.
This is where your body starts to suffer from increasing inflammation, oxidative damage and more rapid aging. We know that inflammation compromises our immune system. And we know that inflammation and hormone imbalance results in 90% of our disease states!
Lifestyle changes and supplements: How can you heal your adrenals and reverse adrenal dysfunction?
For reversing and preventing burnout, discomfort, and disconnect let’s look at restoring healthy hormonal balance and supporting your adrenals.
First and foremost, you need to adhere to a diet of mostly unprocessed foods with the right proportions of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, and a wealth of alkalizing fresh vegetables and fruits. 80% alkaline and 20% acid foods make for the healthiest diet. Read why an alkalizing diet is key to reducing inflammation and supporting your hormones and adrenal health here.
Some must have foods include: Brazil nut, oysters, salmon, avocado and greens. Remove dietary stressors such as gluten and dairy.
Also, be sure your diet and/or dietary supplementation includes a sufficient amount of zinc, which helps to support adrenal function.
But adrenal health is about a lot more than diet. It is also about lifestyle choices.
Examine your life for energy thieves and eliminate them. Stop doing things that don’t reward you and stay away from people or pursuits that drain your energies. Drop the vices (yes, a glass of red wine is ok for celebrating life’s best moments…but drop the major binging of alcohol, sugar, smoking, etc.).
Remove inflammatory chemicals in your person care products and environment. Check out EWG.org to learn more about removing toxins from your world.
Learn stress management techniques such as deep breathing and practicing more positivity and appreciation (all help reduce stress!). Get a little extra sleep (so important!) and learn to reset your circadian rhythm for optimal health. Indulge in a little vivid imagery of being in your favorite place in the world. Enjoy a regimen of mild daily exercise, and go for a walk in the woods when you can!
Supplementation I recommend
There are key nutrients that help decrease inflammation, support cell membrane integrity and function, and support adrenal function. I’ve had great success with these supplements and they are backed by research. My foundational recommendations include:
- Omega 3 (fatty acids)
- Vitamin D (many people are deficient, especially true in winter months) – Vitamin D Supreme contains vitamin D and K essential for maintaining immune health, bone and arterial health.
- Progesterone and or Pregnenolone (***see comments below about my PuraBalance PPr Cream)
- Adrenal adaptogens: Maca (see my Mighty Maca™ Plus drink info below, it has all of these adrenal adaptogens and more), Ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola rosea
- DHEA: 5-15 mg for women, 25 – 50 mg for men.
- High quality multivitamin and minerals with bio-available B vitamins and high dose Vitamin C. Or add Vitamin C, 2000-5000 mg per day. Try Bio C 1:1.
- Daily Vitality Packs with Calcium (Albion micronutrients & chelated minerals, Omega -3’s, antioxidants, MCHC calcium with magnesium and vitamin D) Two packs per day; try my Pura D Vitality Packs with Calcium.
- Carnitine 2000 – 6000 mg per day to improve energy production
- Alpha Lipoic Acid 300 mg per day to help with blood sugar control
- Possibly also: Phosphatidyl serine, Mood Food, Magnesium, 5 HTP, inositol, and thyroid support
Of course you always want to consult with your own medical professional about what is the best course of action for you; only they know your unique medical history and what prescriptions and other treatments you might be undergoing.
*** Progesterone is one of the first hormones I’ll replace in women and often at a much lower dose in men to help restore normal hormonal balance. I often will use a progesterone topical cream, such as my Pura Balance PPR Cream that has 20 mg of Progesterone and 10 mg of Pregnenolone per pump dosage in the evening at bedtime to start to help reset the circadian cycle, get a good night’s sleep, and provide up level hormone support.
My Mighty Maca™ Plus superfoods drink with 42 natural ingredients is an important everyday addition in restoring your adrenal glands, balancing your hormones, reducing inflammation, detoxing your body and providing you some much-needed energy.
It contains Maca, Quercetin, Resveratrol, Grape seed extract, Turmeric and more.
It is alkalizing, which takes stress off of your kidneys and is what makes it a key anti-inflammatory.
The women in my Women’s Restorative Health and Magic Menopause™ programs have told me their Mighty Maca is one of the most important tools they now have to restore themselves, get their energy back, and start to feel like themselves again. And it is their primary means to keeping an alkaline lifestyle, too.
Test, Don’t Guess…at what is going on in your body
There is a lot you can do yourself to heal your adrenals and reduce your ongoing stress, but the reality is you should also do self-testing to know what is truly going on in your body. There are a few no-brainers that you should do every day.
You have to test to know! And then you have to test again to measure any changes!
1.The first is testing your blood sugar levels.
Read this excellent and easy to understand article by my good friend, Dr. Ritamarie about how to test and interpret your blood sugar levels. So important as you’ll see.
2.The second is testing your pH level.
Read this article on why testing your pH level is so important (and easy!). Whether your body tests alkaline or acid has important ramifications to your current health as well as on how well you are aging. Find my Keto-alkaline urinalysis (pH + ketones) test strips here.
If you take a moment and review these articles you will quickly realize how testing can be incredibly empowering relating to understanding and improving your health.
Most people can benefit from additional functional testing. I can’t go into all of the specifics here, but there is a basic hit list that I always use with all of my consulting clients (and used previously in my private practice). That list includes tests for cortisol, DHEA, estradiol, estrogen, hemoglobin A1C, homocysteine, testosterone, thyroid peroxidase, thyroglobulin antibodies, TSH, and more… really addressing some key serum markers and hormone testing. We review these testing suggestions in my Magic Menopause™ program, but here is a quick snapshot of self-testing you might wish to consider in the form of a thorough hormonal panel . You can arrange it yourself and take the results to your doctor or practitioner to help you determine what nutritional supplementation or other actions you might take.
COMMENTS? I hope you found this information helpful. Please let me know if you have questions. Let me know how YOU keep from living in DISTRESS so that I can pass your tips on to my community. Have a favorite adrenal-supporting food? Join me on Facebook for more conversation!
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