Our stressful modern lives can cause serious damage to our bodies if we’re not careful. In ancient times, when our ancestors were triggered by a predator or other serious threat, cortisol temporarily raised blood sugar levels to help boost the “fight or flight” response. These days, however, chronic stress from work, caregiving, or other elements of modern life are triggering massive amounts of cortisol to stay in our bloodstreams. If it’s elevated for significant amounts of time, cortisol can cause serious hormonal imbalances that affect everything from blood sugar to bone density. The resulting adrenal fatigue can be hard to diagnose, but its main symptoms are:
Lack of energy
“Brain fog”, depression and burnout
Cravings for sweet or fatty foods
Weight gain, especially fat deposits in the belly or mid-section
The good news is that there are several ways to help our bodies naturally balance out our stress hormones and rebuild proper adrenal function. The old adage that “food is medicine” is especially true when it comes to tackling symptoms of chronic stress. It’s important to focus on nutritious foods that are low in sugar and other processed ingredients. Getting enough healthy fats like omega-3s is another crucial part of soothing the chronic inflammation that comes with excess exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones.
Ingredients to help rebuild adrenal function:
Healthy fats: coconut oil, avocado, olive oil (cold-pressed); fatty wild-caught fish like salmon; nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, chia, hemp and flax.
Probiotics: yoghurt (check the label to make sure it contains live cultures), kombucha, kim chi, sauerkraut.
Veg: greens, especially foods from the cruciferous family like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale. Seaweed is also recommended - look for it in dried sheets called “nori" at Asian food stores.
Mushrooms: the healing power of Cordyceps and Reishi mushrooms may help reduce inflammation to help your body self-regulate.
Protein: free-range, grass-fed chicken and meat; bone broth
Reduce Your Intake of:
Coffee and caffeine-containing teas
Sugar and artificial sweeteners like Aspartame
Processed carbohydrates like white bread, biscuits and crackers
Grain-fed red meat
It’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins, especially if you’re vegetarian or gluten-free. Fish (or vegetarian flax seed) oil, magnesium and B-complex vitamins are all thought to play a role in adrenal function.
Finally, some behavioral changes can have an amazing impact. Simply put: take care of yourself. Turn off all screens and other sources of blue light by 10 pm to make sure you get enough sleep - ideally 8+ hours a night. Meditate, practice mindfulness, and/or exercise to reduce cortisol levels. Although it can be difficult, especially if you’re feeling worn-out, it’s worthwhile to practice positive thinking and gratitude. Just like building muscle, positive and mindful thinking will get easier with practice. The mind and body have a proven connection, so remember that good thoughts can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health.