Lifestyle and Adrenal Health
Addressing adrenal health and stress is one of the hardest pieces to the health puzzle that I see in my practice (and for myself!) but lifestyle in relation to adrenal health is one of the most important keys to health. When patients hear that they need to slow down, stop saying yes to so many things, and incorporate mindfulness, many say “How can I do that?!” I’m here to tell you that you can, and you must, or your health will pay the price. From time to time, I like to think I am invincible to stress. Just last month, I was go-go-going, staying up late working on things, getting up early, and just busy the entire time in between and I paid the toll with a 3 week long cold that turned into a sinus infection. Our body can only handle so much before it will rebel and force you to slow down. Thankfully, a restful long weekend, re-prioritizing my own health and I’m feeling better but what can happen if this stress is left unchecked for long periods is a different story and can take much longer to come back from than just a weekend of rest.
Last week we discussed the stages of adrenal dysfunction. Read more HERE. Today I will discuss lifestyle strategies to help support our adrenals and remember, you don’t have to do it all or do it all at once, but pick one thing to implement to help reduce your stress, your daily load and incorporate some healing practices. Every moment we can flip out of fight or flight gives our bodies a chance to reset and heal.
Sleep and Adrenal Health
Sleep is probably the number one lifestyle intervention for any chronic health condition, adrenal health included. When we don’t sleep enough or get good quality sleep, our body is not able to rest, restore and clean-up from the prior day. Getting 7-8 hours of restorative sleep per night is crucial for our adrenal health and overall health. As far as sleep and the adrenals, sleep opposes the catabolic effects (or damaging effects) of cortisol so it is a number one priority to focus on especially when you are feeling stressed. If you want to learn more about good sleep practices click HERE!
Exercise and Movement
Exercise, at the right amount, is crucial for combatting stress: it improves mood, improves, circulation, reduces anxiety, depression and improves sleep quality. Regular exercise dampens the cortisol and heart rate response to stress. However, I often see patients in this tricky situation, they are stressed because of, you name it – family, work/business, health – and then they keep trying to do high intensity, high volume exercise on top of it which is another added stress on the body and this can actually be detrimental. When we are under more stress than usual, it is wise to dial back on exercise duration and intensity so that we do not add further stress to the body. Listening to the body and if high intensity training is feeling really hard or you are left feeling unusually fatigued afterwards it is a good idea to dial it back and listen to your body.
Basic principles apply when thinking about supporting our adrenals and our overall health. When it comes to food, you don’t want what you eat to be an added stress on the body – so not too little, not too much and getting the right stuff in is key. What does this look like?
- Having regular meals (skipping meals and having low blood sugar is a stress!)
- Eating something before having coffee (this one is a game changer)
- Don’t over caffeinate to compensate for fatigue
- Chew food and eat mindfully
- Focus on fiber (at least 30 grams daily)
- Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol as much as possible
- Eat the rainbow to get all the good antioxidants and phytonutrients
Supporting our adrenals looks like actually resting, truly slowing down and breathing. And remember, relaxation must be learned and practiced. Many patients struggle with sitting and meditating and everyone has their own form of rest and relaxation that feels good to them – it can be yoga, walking in nature (no phone!), praying, or journaling. Incorporating even short breaks throughout the day of deep breathing (I’m a big fan of 4-7-8 breathing) or taking a few deep breaths before a meal can be hugely beneficial. We need to shift our bodies out of the fight or flight mode and into rest mode to truly recover.
Relationships and Connection
Having meaningful and supportive relationships is critical to health and wellbeing. This can look like getting more active in your local community, church, or gym or simply making time for connection with family and friends. Isolation has many profound effects on our health and building and maintaining those social connections throughout life not only makes the here and now enjoyable but will keep you healthy for decades to come.
Coming up next week we will dive into vitamins, minerals and adaptogens that can help support the adrenals.
If you are looking for help and guidance in your health journey, I am here for you! We have new patient spots for November! Book a Free 15 minute consultation below to see what Wild Rice Wellness has to offer!