When it comes to working improving our overall health, an often overlooked piece is our adrenal health.
In this blog post, we will breakdown more information about the adrenals and how too much STRESS could be causing more health issues than you realize!
Our adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of our kidneys. They produce a number of hormones, but the most important of those hormones is cortisol, our stress hormone.
Cortisol is meant to have a rhythm throughout the day. It rises in the morning to wake us up and slowly falls throughout the day as melatonin rises (its antagonist) to help us fall asleep. It is closely tied with our circadian rhythm.
However, with society’s go-go-go pace and an increasing number of stressors, over time our body’s ability to produce cortisol in a proper, normal rhythm becomes much more difficult. Some of these stressors we may not even realize exist! But they pile on top of each other, slowly building up over time until our body simply can’t handle anymore, and we have a health crisis.
Here are the common symptoms to know your adrenals might be out of whack:
· Stubborn weight gain around the waist that won’t budge
· Feel exhausted and crash if you don’t “keep going” all day long
· Development of hormone issues (sex hormone issues like PCOS or menopause issues or thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism)
· Trouble falling or staying asleep
· Waking up between 1-4am wide awake
· Waking up tired
· Headaches and migraines
· Increasing gut issues (bloating, heartburn, etc)
· Gallbladder issues
· Development of food sensitivities
· Workouts are either difficult to see results or need to push harder and harder to “feel good”
· Sensitivities to strong scents or chemicals
If you experience any of these issues on a regular basis, many times, the root cause can be traced back in part to the adrenal glands.
As mentioned above, the piling on of stressors one after the other over time disrupts the regular cortisol rhythm, creating a host of issues in the body. Our bodies are not meant to produce cortisol constantly throughout the day; over time, this becomes catabolic, meaning it starts to break down the body (as evidenced by the issues above).
Our cortisol can move from its regular rhythm (high in the morning, low at night) to the reverse (high at night, low in the morning), high all the time, or low all the time. Regardless, of what pattern is occurring, there are two important pieces to healing and restoring proper cortisol balance.
First, we need to figure out what your stressors are, which are very bioindividual and unique to each person.
Here is a list to help you get started of potential stressors in our lives that can impact our cortisol levels:
· Work stress
· Financial stress
· Relationship stress
· Work environment
· Family stress
· Stress from food (processed foods, food allergies/sensitivities)
· Stress about what food to eat (diet mentality)
· Body image
· Depression and anxiety
· Deadlines (work or otherwise)
· Pressure to act, be, or look a certain way
· Chemical stressors (cleaning products, skincare products, etc)
· Environmental stressors (chemicals in the air, water, etc)
· Lack of exercise/too much exercise
· Poor sleep quantity or quality
· Gut infections or issues
· Hormone imbalances (thyroid or sex hormones)
· Trauma, both good and bad (birthing a child vs a car accident)
· Major life changes (divorce, move, etc)
· Go go go, type A personality/mentality
· General inflammation in the body
· Chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, etc)
The list goes on and on!
So as you can see, even if you don’t FEEL stressed, your body can still be under a lot of stress.
Second, we MUST test your adrenals to see what your pattern is throughout the day. Guessing will often make you feel worse in the end, as some of the symptoms of high or low cortisol can overlap.
Typical testing for cortisol is a single sample blood test. This is NOT very useful, as it tests only the protein-bound, inactive form of the hormone and gives us a one-time snapshot of your cortisol during the day. It doesn’t give us other markers to compare to see if your cortisol is relatively low or high at that particular point.
Instead, testing cortisol via urine or saliva are two great options to assess your cortisol rhythm throughout the day. Typically, 4-6 samples are taken throughout the day so that you can get a full picture of your cortisol pattern. Both of these tests can be ordered through Synergy, and the results can be interpreted based on your specific results to help you find proper balance and alignment.
If you would like to know more about this type of testing and how it could help you, please email me at email@example.com or use the contact tab on the blog to reach out so we can schedule a free 15 minute consult to cover all details.
In the meantime, what can you do to address stress starting now?
First, we want to look over the "cause" list above and start figuring out where most of your stress has been over the past several years. Then, we can work backwards.
Nourish the body with the food it needs
Ensure adequate levels of vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin D, minerals etc
Remove common inflammatory foods (grains, dairy, soy, vegetable oils, sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed foods)
Chew your food really really really well
See my posts from July 2020 for more on gut health specifically!
Remove toxins in the environment and switch to safer cleaning and skincare products (like Beautycounter)
Drink dandelion or milk thistle tea
Epsom salt baths or feet soaks
Remove bright lights 2 hours before bed
Start a bedtime routine, calming down 1 hour before bed
Follow the steps for diet and liver health
Journal before bed
Diffuse lavender oil
Avoid circuits and HIIT; don’t push yourself too hard
Give yourself grace - you might not be able to do a ton of work like you are used to
And last but not least, RELAX and be gentle with yourself. We are SO hard on ourselves; it creates so much unneeded stress in our bodies.
If you would like to learn more about these testing options or schedule a free 15 minute consult to discuss your adrenal health, please email Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org today!