Stress & Cortisol Management - Healthy Habits Living

Stress & Cortisol Management

October 19, 2016

Every October, I begin a journey of contemplation. Fall signals a time for introspection and self evaluation for me. Once the cool weather and wind arrive, gone are the days of hiking, kayaking, or gardening. I like to bundle up for fall weather and stay at home with a cup of bone broth. I wish I could say that I spend the winter months at home thinking, pondering, and relaxing, but we all know that isn't reality. October is usually a quiet month, but by November I am gearing up for the holidays and wondering why I am so busy and so tired.  

The idea of being over-booked, over-tired, and under-rested has become the social normal for most people. Busy-ness has morphed from a problem into a social construct and a badge of honor. The new motto seems to be "If you aren't busy, then you aren't doing enough." This societal pressure brings unforeseen and terrible consequences.

Do you wear the badge of Busyness?

If so, please take it off.

The badge or Busyness should really be labeled "The Badge of Horror." If you could actually see the tissue and cellular damage created by high levels of cortisol, you would be HORROR-fied.   

When you stay busy all day and late into the night, you are taxing your adrenal glands. You are forcing your body to make and release cortisol (stress hormone) for extended periods of time. When you do this day after day, week after week, for months on end, you are wearing down your adrenal glands and your body.

Eventually, your adrenal glands will not make enough cortisol for you to get through the day. You will plunge from over-producing cortisol to adrenal fatigue. Literally, your adrenal glands will be too fatigued to make cortisol. Instead of having high cortisol to manage all the physical and emotional stress, you wind up with a cortisol deficiency. Adrenal fatigue sets in and that can spiral downward to low immunity, auto-immune diseases, and worse.  

If you are reading this description and identify with this lifestyle, you are not alone. A majority of Americans suffer from some sort of cortisol dysregulation or failure to control cortisol levels.  

In my 10 years of clinical practice, I have seen hundreds of clients have their Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) tested. I've only seen 2 individuals who showed a "normal" cortisol level. Everyone else, hundreds of people, tested either too high or too low. Cortisol dysregulation is truly an epidemic affecting millions of Americans.  

There are several ways to test your cortisol levels. You can even order your own saliva test. I offer consultations and interpretations of your results.  

The Trifecta for Healthy Cortisol

Each one of these strategies will aid in your healthy cortisol levels. Combining all three of these strategies will give you exponentially better results.  

1. Keep your blood sugar stable by following a Paleo or Ketogenic diet.

2. Manage your stress levels; this includes sleep, exercise, and emotional stress.

3. Take supportive and adaptogenic herbs.  

Adaptogenic herbs offer support for both high and low cortisol.  An adaptogen is an "herb that increases the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning." In plain English, these herbs help your adrenal gland produce just the right amount of cortisol---not too much and not too little. Adaptogens are an interesting class of herbs that have been studied for decades.

The most promising adaptogen: Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is also called Indian Ginseng. Close to 1,000 medical studies have shown that ashwagandha decreases the side effects of stress. So whether you have high or low cortisol, it doesn't matter. Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in India as part of Ayurvedic medicine.

The active phytochemical in ashwagandha is glycowithanolides. These phytochemicals mimic your body's natural stress-reducing hormones. If your cortisol gets too high, the glycowithanolides will signal your body to stop producing too much cortisol. Ashwagandha acts as a cortisol blocker when your body is over-producing stress hormones.  

Take a chill pill: Honokiol

Honokiol (Magnolia Bark extract) is another anti-stress nutrient. In very high doses it is a proven anti-cancer agent that stops the flow of blood to tumors (angiogenesis). In lower doses it is a remedy for anxiety.  

In low doses, Honokiol is a chill pill.  It changes some neurotransmitters in your brain, which results in less anxiety. In studies, Honokiol shows the same benefits as anti-depressants without the side effects.  

Both Ashwagandha and Honokiol are herbal solutions to an epidemic cortisol issue. Physical and mental stress are a part of your everyday life, but stress doesn't have to take a toll on your health. Learn to balance stress using the Trifecta For Healthy Cortisol. 

Please keep in mind, that You Are ENOUGH!  You don't need to run faster than you have strength. You don't need to stay up later to get more work or even more fun things accomplished. You don't need to push your body past fatigue. You don't have to be busy every single second of the day.  

Don't buy into the myth that busyness is a measure of success.

Resources

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adaptogen

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27713248

http://sensoril.com/history-of-ashwagandha-use/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26638996

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9720634





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