How does stress affect our health and what changes can we make to reduce it?
Most of us experience stress on a daily basis and this can benefit our health and life as it brings vitality, energy and focus to daily tasks. However when those daily stressors accumulate and we are not eating the right foods or adapting our lifestyles to support our adrenal (stress) glands, it can lead to chronic stress and even “burn out” which can leave us feeling like we are “running on empty”, “tired all the time” or worst case – not be able to get out of bed and function at all which is called “burn out syndrome”.
Signs of stress
So what are some of the signs of chronic stress, sometimes called “21st Century Stress Syndrome” and how can we recover from it or prevent it from occurring in the first place?
The most obvious signs that someone is experiencing chronic stress is when we feel wired and tired, can’t switch off or experience changes in sleep patterns. There are also other often less obvious signs because stress affects our health and physiology in a number of ways. These signs include:
- IBS and other Digestion issues
- Inability to lose weight/gain fat around middle
- Hormone imbalances including PMS (premenstrual syndrome), peri-menopause or menopause oestrogen imbalances
- Lowered immunity
- Underperformance in sport
So whilst we may not be able to remove all of the stressors in our daily lives, there are a number of things we can do both through nutrition and lifestyle to ensure that we do not let them take over our health and help us better manage/prevent/restore our adrenal health and improve our overall health and well-being.
Eat before 10 am, lunch before noon and snack between 2-3pm, supper around 6pm and high quality snack before bed if required – see below*.
If you crave salt – use it in your cooking, add it to your water or meals (unless your medical advisor has instructed you not to).
Eat high quality protein – meat, fish, eggs, dairy (be aware if you are sensitive to dairy avoid or try goat’s cheese.
Low adrenal function is linked with low HCl so consume apple cider vinegar, warm water and lemon before meals or digestive enzymes.
Eat whole grain carbohydrates.
Consume 6-8 servings of vegetables per day – eat a rainbow.
Stick to low glycemic fruits & avoid them in the morning (unless you exercise in morning as exercise raises cortisol and aldosterone which raise sodium levels so greater tolerance to fruits).
Consume 1-2 portions of fat with each meal or 5 portions daily in form of olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds especially sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and flaxseed.
Chocolate craving is often sign of magnesium deficiency but eating chocolate overstimulates the adrenals which are intrinsically involved in balancing hormones. So instead of eating chocolate, heed your chocolate craving as need for magnesium and easiest solution supplement 400 mg magnesium citrate.
Avoid or reduce caffeine containing beverages as these will overstimulate the adrenals.
Instead drink green tea, herbal teas, water (if you are feeling especially fatigued add salt to your water especially first thing in the morning with dash of freshly squeezed lime); vegetable juices such as carrot/celery and beetroot or carrot and parsley, adding pinch of salt and drink in small quantities 4-6oz.
Improve Sleep Quality
Sleep before 10.30pm and when possible sleep in between 7-9 am to restore adrenals.
*Snack before bed to sustain blood sugar levels between 1 am to 3 am if you are waking at this time and especially if you experience anxiety / panic attacks / nightmares. For example – wholegrain toast & nut butter.
Try introducing routine of Yoga / Massage / Epsom Salt Baths into your week.
Reduce stimulants like coffee, caffeine, chocolate.
Put a time limit on visual stimuli.
If you are trying to restore your body from adrenal fatigue exercise should be enjoyable but not competitive, gruelling or debilitating- remember you are bringing your body back to life and don’t let exercise become another stressor.
Once restored, listen to your body, don’t train every day, take rest / recovery days / rotate with restorative exercise or just simply get outdoors in fresh air.
Relaxation involves doing an activity that takes your mind away from other activities and also doesn’t require much if any physical effort. This is often one of the most challenging steps to introduce as it is not about achievement, instead it is about the doing and we are very hard-wired today in terms of achievement!
Some examples of relaxation include:
- Belly Breathing
- Count down from 5 to 1 with each exhalation
- Listen to music
- Read trashy books or magazines
- Doodle books / Colouring in
- Mindfulness using one of the many apps that are available
Most of us know when we are stressed but it is important not to underestimate how it affects our total physiology and therefore health and wellbeing and therefore how important it is to make changes in order to prevent falling foul of “21st Century Stress Syndrome” and instead enjoying optimal health, vitality and wellbeing.
Book a FREE discovery call
If you feel that you need extra support with stress or would like to learn more about how I can help, why not book in for a free 15 minute no obligation discovery call using the form below: