Adrenal Glands and Cortisol
Adrenal glands are two triangular shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone best known for stimulating the “fight or flight” response in your body. Cortisol plays an important role in your body by
• Aiding in metabolism
• Increasing blood sugar
• Decreasing inflammation
• Controlling your sleep and wake cycle
• Increasing your energy to handle stress then restoring balance
• Helping regulate blood pressure
When cortisol levels are out of balance, you can experience weight gain, fatigue, skin breakouts, sleep problems, sugar cravings, and a feeling of “wired but tired.”
If stress burned calories, I'd be a super model!
We live in a stressful environment that puts our adrenal glands on overload, but there are some simple strategies to lower our cortisol levels and put our adrenal glands back in balance.
1. Eat more Whole Anti-inflammatory foods
When blood sugar and inflammation are high, our cortisol levels can become unbalanced. By reducing your sugar intake, you can start lowering your blood sugar and inflammation. Processed sugar and artificial sweeteners are lurking in a lot of processed foods. We’re no longer eating sugar just for dessert but it’s in every meal we eat.
Reducing your caffeine and only consuming it in the morning will help lose the “wired and tired” feeling. Cortisol is naturally higher in the morning to wake us up and lower in the evening to help us go to sleep. Caffeine can mess with our body’s natural ability to control our sleep cycle.
After you limit sugar and caffeine, increase your consumption of organic fruits and vegetables, high quality meat (grass-fed, pasture raised), and good healthy fats (coconut oil, avocados, nuts, olive oil). This will help lower inflammation and stabilize blood sugar.
2. Reduce & Manage stress
Chronic stress is a contributing factor to many chronic illnesses. Stress sends signals to our body that we are in danger. If that’s an immediate danger like running from a lion, it enables us to have a surge of energy to get away.
However if we live in a constant state of stress with no relief, our cortisol levels stay elevated and cause our blood sugar levels to stay high and our body to hold onto fat.
Some simple ways to manage stress and incorporate some relaxation in your day are:
• Meditation- Just 10 minutes a day of focused breathing and meditation can help lower stress.
• Mindfulness- Consciously being present in what your doing. Notice your surroundings with all your senses. It helps your brain focus on what is instead of what might be.
• Yoga- Helps with restorative stretching and mindfulness.
• Get outdoors- Connecting with nature can be a natural way to calm your body. Take time to stop and smell the roses!
• Have fun- Allow yourself a break to have fun doing something you enjoy!
• Massages- I used to think massages were a self-indulgent luxury, but they can be an important part of your self-care to reduce stress and alleviate muscle tension.
3. Exercise in moderation
According to research published by Harvard Medical School, regular exercise (about 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week, depending on the intensity) is one of the best ways to manage stress, balance hormones, sleep better and aid normal metabolic functions (like balancing blood sugar levels).
It’s important to avoid overtraining and overexerting yourself, which can actually cause cortisol levels to rise.
Exercise helps increase cortisol and adrenaline production and the regulate it back down to normal levels so that your body learns to handle stress better.
Rest days are just as important as getting in your daily exercise. If 30-60 minutes of exercise seems daunting, start with 15 minutes of exercise. Take a walk, do body weight exercise, stretch, or go for a bike ride. Work your way up to exercising for longer. You will begin to notice the stress relief from daily exercise.
If you need more ideas for exercise, check out my blog post here.
4. Get enough sleep- wired and tired
Cortisol levels naturally rise in the morning and lower in the evening. If we are under chronic stress, we commonly use caffeine and sugar to cope. This then causes sleep to become more difficult. To begin to lower your cortisol and stress levels, start prioritizing your sleep. Aim to be in bed by 10 PM and get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
If stress and worry are preventing your from falling asleep, keep a journal handy to do a brain dump of all your worries and tell yourself worry hours are closed for the night and will reopen in the morning. For other tip on getting a good night sleep, check out my post here.
5. Essential oils
The last simple step to relaxing and lowering the stress hormone cortisol is to utilize essential oils. Good essential oils for the are lavender, rosemary, myrrh, frankincense, and bergamot.
You can infuse them at home, put them in your bath water, or use with a lotion to reap the benefits.
In this crazy stressful world we live in, you must take steps to reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol for better health. When it is balance, it promotes normal cell metabolism, helps the body resist long term stressors by increasing blood glucose levels and has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Every little step we can take to lower stress and inflammation in our body counts. It’s the little things that add up! If you need some extra help cleaning your diet and lowering your stress, I’d love to help! Fill this out and we can chat to help you figure out the next steps.