Poor lifestyle choices can contribute to increased cortisol levels, even if you aren’t actively “stressing” about something. Whether the stress is real (like someone stopping suddenly in front of your car) or imagined (such as anxiety for a meeting with your boss) —our body releases high amounts of the hormone cortisol. If you suffer from a mood disorder such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or if you have a digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome, you can bet your body is cranking up this powerful hormone.
The key question is, when do you know when your stress has gone too far?
When we experience excessive stress a chemical reaction is triggered, called the “fight or flight” response. This response is hardwired into our brains and is designed to protect us from bodily harm. If you always feel tense or anxious, however, your body will remain in a continuous state of heightened arousal. Constantly overproducing cortisol and adrenalin day after day can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue. The result is chronic fatigue, lack of stamina for exercise, more allergy symptoms, sleep disruption, blood sugar imbalance, depression, increased cravings and weakened immunity.
If you suspect you are suffering the effects of chronic stress or adrenal fatigue, fear not. Although it will take time and patience, your recuperation strategy can be as simple as three steps:
1) Stop Skimping on Sleep: Not surprisingly, sleep has profound effects on your nervous system. Throughout most of the sleep cycle, the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) relaxes, while the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), is stimulated. The reverse is true during the REM, or dreaming, phase of sleep. Activity also decreases in the parts of your brain that control your emotions, decision making processes and social interactions.
In addition to calming your nervous system, sufficient rest and recuperation effectively reduces cortisol. A recent study published in The Lancet supports these claims as it showed sleep deprivation caused stress hormones to rise in the evening and heightened the stress response during waking hours. Make going to bed before 11pm, and sleeping 7.5 to 9 hours, in total darkness your new sleep mantra.
2) Become a Meditation Guru. Meditation is as easy as listening to the sound of your breath or repeating a word or phrase for 10 minutes each day. We now know that meditation may reshape the brain, modify our responses to daily situations and train the mind. It is particularly relieving health conditions associated with stress, including insomnia, high blood pressure, impotence, infertility, indigestion, irritable bowel disorder, skin conditions and many others.
3) Use Supplements to Restore Your Adrenals:
• Vitamin C: Vitamin C is naturally highest in our adrenal glands, and research suggests that just 20 minutes of stress can deplete our vitamin C stores. Take 500 to 1000 mg one to three times daily.
• Relora: Relora is a patent-pending combination of two herbal extracts of Magnolia and Phellodendron bark (Asian cork tree). Both herbs have been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for several hundred years. In a human study, 82% of the participants taking Relora agreed with the statement that: “Relora helps control…. irritability, emotional ups and downs, restlessness, tense muscles, poor sleep, fatigue, and concentration difficulties.” Relora was found not to cause sedation, though 74% of the patients had more restful sleep. The effects of stress on the body are sometimes associated with lower levels of DHEA and higher levels of cortisol. Two weeks of Relora increased salivary DHEA by 227% and decreased total salivary cortisol by 37%. Clear Medicine carries Clear Balance and Clear Cortisol both have Relora.
• Rhodiola: Rhodiola rosea is a powerful adaptogen that strengthens the body against stressors and prevents overreactions which lead to burnout. Rhodiola helps reduce burnout symptoms such as physical and mental fatigue and off-kilter stress hormone patterns. Rhodiola supports the production of hormones and neurotransmitters that help cope with stress. It helps with the transport of serotonin precursors across the blood-brain barrier, and it blocks serotonin- degrading enzymes. Other neurotransmitters that it enhances include dopamine, acetylcholine and norepinephrine, which are all targets of antidepressant drugs. Rhodiola enhances the body’s ability to deal with stress appropriately, lending a helping hand to get through the rough spots in life.
• GABA: GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA is synthesized in the brain from another amino acid, glutamate, and functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter – meaning that it blocks nerve impulses. In the body, GABA is concentrated in the hypothalamus region of the brain and is known to play a role in the overall functioning of the pituitary gland – which regulates growth hormone synthesis, sleep cycles, and body temperature. Clear Calm, Stress Arrest, Cerenity PM, and Nusera all contain GABA and are available online or at our clinic.
• B Vitamins: Stressed or fatigued individuals should take extra B vitamins, especially vitamin B5, which helps the body adapt to stress and supports adrenal gland function. When taken at bedtime, vitamin B6 is also useful for correcting abnormally high cortisol release throughout the night and for improving disrupted sleep patterns. Take 200–500 mg vitamin B5 and/or 50–100 mg of B6 per day.
• Herbal Medicine – Licorice: Licorice inhibits the breakdown of cortisol, which means it can help to increase the levels naturally present in the body and aid adrenal gland rejuvenation. Do not take this herb if you have high blood pressure. The recommended dosage is 300 to 900mg each morning. Clear Cortrex has licorice in its formula. We sell this in the clinic only.