By Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we began a discussion of adrenal dysfunction – what happens to your body when you experience a stressful event or have ongoing, unrelenting stress. Too much stress can wreak havoc with your stress response system called the Hypothalamic/Pituitary/Adrenal (HPA) Axis. Some people may be familiar with a different erroneous name for this dysfunctional response and call it adrenal fatigue or exhaustion.
We also discussed adrenal dysfunction symptoms and stages, how to test for imbalances of the adrenal hormones and the four key stressors of the human body:
- Blood Sugar Control
- Mental and Emotional Stress
- Insomnia/sleep cycle disturbances
The following are ideas to help you take control of each of these four KEY stressors:
Keep your BLOOD SUGAR balanced by doing the following:
- Eat a balanced breakfast to start the day with balanced insulin and blood sugar levels.
- Eat balanced meals – high-quality protein, some fats, vegetables, and fruits are simple carbohydrates.
- Eat 2-3 healthy snacks in between meals – protein, fiber, healthy carbohydrates, and fat as well. Carbohydrates eaten alone quickly increase your blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates and simple sugars (soda, candy, cookies, cakes, juices, white and whole wheat bread and white rice are examples).
- Eat protein at every meal and snack.
- Eat 2-3 servings of fish 2-3 times per week as their omega 3 content is effective for helping to restore normal insulin levels.
- Eat foods high in fiber to slow the absorption of glucose into the body. Try adding ½ cup of beans to a meal and include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
- Avoid saturated fat and processed foods. Read the labels on your food and skip those with any “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oils.
- Eat a healthy fat at each meal such as olive oil, flax seeds and oil, walnuts, almond, sesame, grape seed, and avocado oils.
- Limit your consumption of starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, carrots, and peas) which rapidly increase your blood sugar.
- Keep well hydrated and drink 8 glasses of filtered water or more daily.
- Avoid all artificial sweeteners.
- Exercise 5-7 days per week to maintain a healthy weight and insulin sensitivity, blood sugar levels, and adequate muscle mass.
Suggestions to relieve EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL STRESS include:
- Identify your stressors. Identify the causes, change what you can and consciously make the effort to stop negative thought patterns when they happen. Your perception of the event is within your control.
- Work hard to simplify your life.
- Practicing saying “no” more often instead of agreeing to too many demands.
- Find and maintain a healthy balance between work and play. Schedule downtime every week.
- Connect with friends and family instead of being isolated. Find others who can offer you support and engage in activities that you find enjoyable.
- Laugh often as this helps relieve tension and frustration and lowers cortisol levels.
- Stop putting off tasks that remain uncompleted as procrastination increased your stress levels.
- Exercise regularly and focus on breathing more deeply. Exercise that increases your heart rate also helps release endorphins and neurotransmitters such as serotonin which increase mood.
- Spend time in nature and enjoy sunlight.
- Start a gratitude journal and record experiences for which you are grateful. Elaborate on the details to have a greater impact on your mood.
- Start nutrients and adaptogenic herbs to help to calm the nervous system and improve your ability to respond to stress and your mental outlook.
How to restore sleep and overcome INSOMNIA:
- Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and try not to get upset if you do not receive this much.
- Maintain the same sleep schedule and go to bed and wake up at the same time including the weekends. Avoid sleeping or taking naps if you can. If you must nap, sleep no more than 30 min.
- Avoid caffeine altogether or stop consumption by noon. We have found women whose hormones are out of balance are often more sensitive to caffeine and one cup of coffee at 8 am can disrupt her sleep up to 20 hours later.
- Minimize the use of electronic devices for 3 hours before bed. Keep your lights low before bedtime to allow for the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps set your sleep/ wake cycles.
- Avoid monitoring your clock and how much you are not sleeping. Keeping track of time spent not sleeping is stressful and can make your sleep problems worse.
- Write down important thoughts on a pad of paper at your bedside during the night if they come up so you can release them and sleep worry-free.
- Make your room cool, quiet and dark. Make sure your bed, pillows, and sheets are comfortable.
- Exercise on a regular basis but no closer than 3 hours before bed.
- Take Melatonin or nutrients including amino acids, minerals, and adaptogenic herbs to help promote a healthy sleep cycle.
Dietary and Lifestyle Recommendations to help decrease INFLAMMATION:
- Avoid inflammatory foods such as red meat, processed meat, fast food, sweets and other refined and heavily processed foods. I repeat, please AVOID sugar!
- Avoid common food allergen was including wheat, dairy, corn and corn byproducts, soy and for some people, eggs. Get tested for food sensitivities.
- Maintain a healthy level of vitamin D and supplement with 2000 international units or more of vitamin D 3 with K2 daily. Get your vitamin D level tested yearly.
- Increase the use of anti-inflammatory herbs and spices including ginger, garlic, rosemary, parsley, curry, cinnamon, oregano, mint, thyme, cinnamon, basil, chilies, and cayenne peppers.
- Eat foods high in omega 3 essential fatty acids including fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines. Put ground flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed, sesame seeds into smoothies or sprinkle on salads and yogurt.
- Maintain good GI health and support digestion with probiotics, digestive enzymes, and Betaine HCL with Pepsin if needed.
- Eat many colorful cooked or raw fresh fruits and vegetables daily as they contain a high level of vitamins and enzymes to help reduce inflammation, booster antioxidant levels and help reduce free radical damage.
- Exercise at least 4 days per week to help return fat and reduce inflammation.
- Avoid toxins including cigarettes, smoke, household chemicals, cleaners, cosmetics, and lotions unless made of natural ingredients, unfiltered water, perfumes, and over-the-counter pain medications as much as possible.
- Take vitamins and herbs to help reduce inflammation such as curcumin, quercetin, vitamin D and fish oil.
So now you know that stress is caused by more than mental and emotional issues. With this information, stress hormone testing, supplements, diet, and lifestyle changes you can take better control of your stress! It’s up to you! Don’t let stress be your silent killer!
Please attend our End Hormone Havoc seminar to learn more about stress and its’ effects on the HPA axis and treatment options.
The Role of Stress and the HPA Axis in Chronic Disease Management by Thomas Guilliams, PhD. (2015).
Patient Stress Recovery Program handbook – published by Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center (2014).
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP, is a woman’s hormone expert and the owner of Wise Woman Wellness LLC, an innovative wellness and hormone care center at 1480 Swan Road, De Pere. Mann is the author of the eBook: A Guide to Gluten and Going Gluten Free. She is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, one of a handful in Wisconsin and less than 1600 worldwide to achieve this distinction. She combines the best of conventional, functional and integrative medicine to help women with female, thyroid and adrenal hormone issues to live healthier, more abundant, joy-filled lives using a blend of compassion, cutting edge science, practical guidance and humor. Contact her at 920-339-5252 or via the Internet at www.wisewomanwellness.com. Attend the introductory seminar, “End Hormone Havoc – Crazy Hormones Cause Fatigue, Weight Gain and Brain Fog and How to Fix Them!”, offered monthly, to learn about specialized thyroid, adrenal and female hormone testing and customized, bioidentical hormone treatments to achieve lifelong optimal hormone balance, increased vitality and longevity.
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP