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Welcome back! Here is Part 2 of The Health Secret No One Talks About. In this second of two segments, we will discuss the hormone cortisol, the role cortisol plays in stress, and stress management strategies you can implement.
What is Stress?
From a biochemical perspective, stress can be defined as an increase in the steroid hormone cortisol. Cortisol is our stress hormone. Cortisol is produced by tiny glands on top of the kidneys called the adrenal glands.
In a healthy body, cortisol is at its highest first thing in the morning, and then gradually decreases throughout the day. However sometimes cortisol levels spike throughout the day, such as when blood sugar drops, or when we experience any kind of physical or emotional stress.
Artificial stimulants, such as caffeine, can also cause an increase in cortisol. Think of cortisol levels as our body’s alarm system. When cortisol levels suddenly increase, it means that something is out of balance. Increased cortisol levels are not bad. However, you don’t want to be constantly spiking cortisol.
Balance Cortisol and Balance All Other Hormones
Cortisol is a steroid hormone just like our sex hormones, meaning they are made from the same raw material, cholesterol. It, therefore, makes sense that these hormones would compete for cholesterol. Our body does not have unlimited resources and energy. Therefore, high cortisol can cause an imbalance of sex hormones.
Balanced sex hormones are key to a healthy menstrual cycle and optimal fertility for both men and women. Cortisol also interferes with the conversion of thyroid hormone to its active form. The thyroid is the gland responsible for metabolism.
When it comes to hormone balance, cortisol is one of the biggest variables. So whether you are dealing with PMS, PCOS, fertility issues etc. you cannot begin to manage these problems without first addressing all the sources of stress in your life.
Balance Cortisol for Energy
Are you tired all the time? Do you have low blood pressure? Do you get anxious and stressed easily? Sugar and salt cravings? Do you hit the snooze button several times then drag yourself to the nearest coffee machine? It could be possible that your adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol to handle the day-to-day stressors you are throwing at it.
This will directly affect your energy levels, as it is interrupting the natural cortisol production throughout the day. Meaning you’re tired during the day and you may even have trouble sleeping at night.
This set of symptoms is often referred to as adrenal fatigue by the natural/holistic community; the medical community will often diagnose this as chronic fatigue syndrome or even depression. Regardless of how you label the condition, stress is clearly a contributing factor.
Stress Management: A Holistic Approach
So what’s the health secret no one talks about? It is stress management–and there is no one solution to this problem. Running around all day, drinking multiple cups of coffee, skipping lunch and then taking a yoga class in the evening is not the solution. The one yoga class or meditation session will not be enough to undo all the damage done throughout the day.
Instead, all the sources of stress must be addressed in order to achieve a 360-degree solution. There are some forms of stress you can control and some you cannot. Here’s a good place to start:
- Quit coffee. It causes an unnecessary spike in cortisol, which just adds to your overall stress load. It also interferes with the bodies’ natural ability to wake up in the morning. I know what you’re going to say, you need the coffee. Trust me you don’t. You need nutrients, sleep, water and oxygen.
- Keep blood sugar balanced. Low blood sugar spikes cortisol, so eat regularly and avoid refined sugar.
- Keep inflammation down and immunity strong. This can be achieved through good nutrition and avoiding the foods which cause irritation in the body.
- Breathe: Deep breathes from the diaphragm have been shown to reduce cortisol levels.
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique): Proven to reduce cortisol, this simple tapping technique can help address both daily stresses and past trauma.
As a Holistic Nutritionist, I can confirm that one of the biggest sources of stress is poor nutrition. Healthy eating is not just about living to the age of 100. It’s about living your best life right now.Full of energy and free of stress. Your body and mind will be able to handle whatever life throws at you, if you give it the right tools.
The problem is many are so tired and stressed that getting healthy seems just like an impossible task. If you’re overworked, over-stressed and just plain exhausted, we can help you improve your health without adding to your stress load. Our holistic approach means we will tackle stress on multiple fronts together, which will fast track you on the road to recovery and a vibrant life!
Kirsten Colella is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and mother of 3 high-energy children. Despite the daunting home responsibilities, Kirsten is steadfast in providing her family with healthy and delicious foods, even with a baby on her hip. You can find Kirsten’s delicious recipes and sugar-conscious desserts & snacks on our Instagram page at @essentialbalanceholistic.
Want more information? Check out our customized holistic nutrition programs designed for results.