Overweight, fatigued, and insomnia. These are the most common complaints I get. They are all related. Let me explain.
Your adrenal glands, situated atop the kidneys, are your body’s command and control center, regulating stress and sleep and sugar cravings, metabolism, and even female hormone balance. They manufacture stress and sex hormones, and when you run yourself ragged with too much work, too little sleep, too much sugar, too much partying, emotional stress, or even positive stress like a new job or a new baby, your stress hormones start to go wonky and become imbalanced.
Your main stress hormone is cortisol. You’ve probably heard of cortisone, the steroid hormone that acts as an anti-inflammatory. Cortisol has a similar effect on the body: it is an anti-inflammatory hormone that promotes burning of body fat, stabilizes mood, and plays a strong role in allergies and blood sugar control. Too much cortisol can cause bone loss, increased abdominal fat, high blood sugar, high blood pressure.
Think of the fight-or-flight response: your body is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol to jack you up so you can handle stressful situations. But when you experience chronic stress from work, finances, relationships, drugs, poor diet, or toxins, your cortisol can remain high, causing problems. You might notice weight gain, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, or frequent waking throughout the night. There is also a strong cortisol-gut connection, so you may notice digestive issues or frequent illness when your cortisol is high (because the majority of your immune system is in your gut). Everything is connected!
So you may run at this level for a while, and you may be fueling yourself with coffee every day, which also drives cortisol up. Eventually, your body cannot keep up with the sustained high cortisol production and you begin to burn out, feeling fatigued. Your stress and female hormones come from the same source, and when your body is under stress, it uses everything it’s got to make cortisol to keep you going, so other hormones, mainly progesterone, your main female hormone, begin to suffer. You may start having menstrual issues or infertility issues at this point. Normal progesterone levels are critical for fertility & regular menstrual cycles.
So, to summarize: stress=high cortisol=weight gain, anxiety, insomnia=burnout=fatigue and more weight gain and female hormone issues like infertility or irregular cycles. What to do?
Solution: Keep blood sugar balanced by eating a whole foods (not processed junk) diet with enough protein at each meal (about 15 grams, palm-sized portion of meat or cup of legumes). Get 8 hours of sleep. Address the stress in your life and deal with it. Some is unavoidable, but what counts is how you handle it. Exercise–both cardio and stress relief.
Take it a step farther and do a saliva test to assess adrenal hormones. It’s an easy take-home test that I regularly use for clients. It’s easy to design a holistic protocol based on your results. Now, put the coffee down, quit stressing, and get in bed before 11pm.
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