Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?
All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. It is now well documented that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. From exhaustion, appetite changes to more serious concerns of complete burnout, anxiety and depression as well as heart disease, cancers and other serious conditions. Recognizing the signs that your body is stressed and taking the steps to manage it may preserve your health and well being.
Stress in our lives come in many different forms. It’s not just the pressure from your boss or the argument you may have had with your spouse. Stress affects us from every angle in our modern world.
But not all stress is negative. Some life events that have elements of stress can be positive. Starting a new job, travelling, a new relationship or marriage, starting a family are all examples of positive stress. They can feel exciting, motivating, creates focused attention and are within our coping abilities.
Other stress include;
Chemical Stress-chemicals that we absorb through our skin from lotions, soaps or that we inhale from sprays or air fresheners
Nutritional Stress-processed foods add stress to the body as they often contain inflammatory compounds and lack in nutrients which in turn, depletes the body of nutrients to break down these “foods”
Environmental stress– extreme temperatures, environmental pollutants act as stress to the body.
Emotional Stress– traumatic events, loss of a loved one, unhealthy relationships
Physical Stress-undergoing a surgery, victim of a car accident, broken limbs, infections
As you can see, stress comes from everywhere. All stress will have a physiological effect on us. This is something very important to understand. The interesting thing is that we all have been accustomed to this stress. They are every day occurrences, so we don’t think twice about it. We get through our days, go to work, navigate through traffic, tolerate our coworkers, do our best to meet the deadlines for our bosses, get home, throw together a meal, break up a fight between the kids before everyone settles into an evening of blue light with iPad and phones before falling asleep. Sound familiar? Well just because we made it through the day, does not mean that all of that stress did not have an effect on our bodies and our health. There is still a physiological response that too often goes unrecognized until its too late.
We are designed to fight stress as survival mechanism. It is our “Fight or Flight” response. Way back when, we needed this system to kick in when we were in danger. Running from a saber tooth tiger, our adrenaline and cortisol are released rapidly to allow us to escape. After a short time, the fight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.
But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? That’s referred to as “Chronic” stress?
In today’s world, thankfully we do not have to run for our lives like we once did, but out bodies response to stress has not really evolved. Instead of one dramatic event and the subsequent hormonal response, we now have many different forms of stress from multiple sources coming at us regularly. Our bodies are releasing these stress hormones in a steady stream. It does not know that the stress from the tiger is not the same stress as your annoying coworker that constantly taps his pen and clears his throat. These stress hormones are being released faster than we can replenish them. Which leads chronic stress and adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately from our over stressed world.
Adrenal glands look like walnuts, live on top of both of your kidneys produce stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.
Do I Have Adrenal Fatigue?
When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.
Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.
These symptoms should not be ignored. They are little warning signs that your body is stressed and in need of repair. It’s like if your car starts making a weird noise. If you just ignore it, it leads to bigger problems. Your body is the same. (I seem to use a lot of references to cars in these posts. Guess there was some benefit to driving beat up Junkers growing up)
Unfortunately, there aren’t medically blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued, they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply. You don’t want to get to this point. By paying attention to the early signs of fatigue you may be able to prevent a more serious condition.
However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress and symptoms.
What to Do if I Have These Symptoms?
There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.
Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress.
From a nutrition perspective, removing processed foods, refined sugar, excess caffeine and alcohol will reduce the stress response. By focusing on whole foods nutrition, you will be giving your body the nutrients or tools it needs to offer repair to a fatigued adrenal gland as well as reducing inflammation and support healthy gut bacteria. Better nutrition can only help your body and your mind. Specifically focus on foods that are rich in B Vitamins such as whole grains like brown rice, millet and barley, legumes, raw nuts and seeds and dark leafy greens. As well as foods rich in Magnesium like avocado, bananas, raspberries, black beans, salmon, mackerel and tuna. Also, don’t be scared to include Himalayan sea salt to your food. The minerals in good quality salts can be nourishing to the adrenals. Be mindful of your quantities but don’t completely shy away.
Other tools to support adrenal health include meditation, spending time in nature, light exercise such as yoga, swimming or walking, (too much high intensity exercise will contribute to the stress response). Aim for better quality sleep with a healthy bedtime routine including no artificial lights from tv or electronics, a dark room and slightly cool temperature. Other restorative activities include getting a massage, disconnecting from technology or taking a bath with Epsom salts.
Let’s face it, stress is not going anywhere. We are all faced with it daily. Different people have a different capacity for stress, but all stress has a physiological response to our body. So just because we got everything crossed off our list, does not mean we are not affected.
Tune into your body when it is giving you the signals that it is experiencing adrenal fatigue.
You may want to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. If your physician does not find anything, remember there is no diagnostic tool for adrenal fatigue. Try the stress reduction techniques or see a qualified alternative health care practitioner to help develop a plan to support your body against the effects of stress. You wouldn’t let your car keep running if it is giving you signs of damage, treat your body like you would your car. Listen to the warning signs.
To learn more about how to nourish your body against the effects of stress, CLICK HERE to book a Free discovery call.