Our Endocrine System is the complex set of glands that produce/secrete the hormones that control an array of our bodily functions. These glands are triggered to secrete hormones as a response to internal events (such as ovulation/menstruation), or external events such as exercise, stressful situations, medications, our diet, and level of toxin exposure (1)
Hormones are the driving force behind our metabolism, heart rate, our energy levels, stress levels, libido & sleep quality – just to name a few! Day to day, our powerful Endocrine system is constantly regulating the level of hormones in our system as a means to achieve homeostasis; a state of balance within our bodies.
So what happens when this delicate balance is interrupted? At some point within all of our lives we will encounter a stressful situation or interruption to our regular routine that can place extra demand on our Endocrine System (Hello-Global Pandemic!) For the purposes of this blog post today, I’m going to focus on STRESS and how it can affect our well-being at the hormonal level.
It goes without saying that this past year has been STRESSFUL. For many of us, our entire routine has shifted including our diets, exercise regimes, work schedules and family lives. Our Endocrine systems are well adapted to handle periods of short term stress, but when this level of stress becomes chronic and remains unresolved, it can start to have a serious effect on our well-being.
Our reaction to stress begins in the brain. When we perceive stress; whether that be physical, emotional or otherwise; our brain triggers a cascade of events involving our HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis (2). This cascade results in our adrenal glands responding by producing glucocorticoids, one of which is our “stress hormone” Cortisol. From an evolutionary standpoint, this increase in Cortisol is what prepared our body to deal with an imminent threat or attacker and is known as the “fight or flight response”.
Typically our Cortisol levels should be highest in the morning and taper throughout the day. But this past year has been anything but “typical”. The result for many of us has been an increase in stress/cortisol levels to the point of being stuck in that constant state of “fight or flight”. Continuously high levels of cortisol directly impact that ‘delicate balance’ within the Endocrine system that I referenced above and can lead to the following serious health issues:
-digestive issues/gut imbalances
-brain fog/memory lapses
Now we all inevitably deal with some level of stress on the day-to-day, but here is your reminder that constant high levels of stress can profoundly affect your health. In fact, stress mitigation should become one of the pillars of your health and wellness routine.
Here are my suggestions:
1. Make regular physical activity a priority.
Exercise is one of the very best ways to release tension, improve mood, get those ‘feel good’ endorphins flowing and simply blow off some steam!
2. Focus on Nutrition
A nourishing diet can help to counterbalance the negative effects of stress within the body. Foods rich in nutrients such as Vitamins C, B-Vitamins, Healthy Fats (Omega 3’s) & Magnesium have all been shown to have a positive effect on the stress response.
3. Develop a regular sleep routine.
Rest and relaxation are pivotal to calming the nervous system and bringing those cortisol levels back down. Keep your bedroom cool & dark, remove electronics and get off the internet/social media at least an hour before you plan to hit the pillow. Epsom salt baths or reading a book are both other great ways to prepare your body for rest!
4. Maintain a healthy social support network.
As isolated as we feel right now, it’s important to maintain contact with friends, family and colleagues. If in person visits are not an option due to Covid 19; facetime, phone calls, walks & zoom are all ways to maintain these connections.
5. Reach out to a professional
There is NO SHAME in reaching out to a certified professional such as a psychologist, counsellor or your doctor if you feel that your stress levels have become overwhelming. It’s important to note also that your stress doesn’t have to reach a breaking point in order to seek the guidance of someone that is trained to help!
At Clean By Kenzie, I’m dedicated to helping you achieve balance via a Holistic approach.
There are so many factors that go into achieving our optimum state of well-being, including but not limited to: Diet/Nutrition, Lifestyle, Exercise and Mental Wellbeing. As a Nutritional Consultant focused on Hormonal & Gut Balance, I’d be happy to provide a plan of action to help you feel your very best!
I can be found at my website: www.cleanbykenzie.com; Instagram: @cleanbykenzie; Facebook: Clean By Kenzie
In good health,
- Leparski, S. & Press, Blue Star. (2019). The Happy Hormone Guide: A Plant-based Program to Balance Hormones, Increase Energy, & Reduce PMS Symptoms (Illustrated ed.). Blue Star Press.
- Stress effects on the body. (2018, November 1). Https://Www.Apa.Org. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body