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How Stress Messes With Your Health [+ Calming Iced Tea Recipe]

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let’s dive into the “stress mess.”


Mess #1 – Increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity

Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood “thickness,” as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Almost all of my clients that are struggling to lose weight are being held back by (often hidden) stress!


Mess #2 – Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells and consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.


Mess #3 – “Leaky Gut.”

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as “intestinal permeability.” These “leaks” can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played “British Bulldog?” It’s where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right through.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in Bulldog!


Mess #4 – Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health.  Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favours.


Stress-busting tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

  • Put less pressure on yourself?

  • Ask for help?

  • Say “no”?

  • Delegate to someone else?

  • Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

  • Deep breathing

  • Meditation

  • Walk in nature

  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)

  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)

  • Connect with loved ones


Conclusion

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realise.

Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!


Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

  • 1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled
  • 1 peach, diced

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

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Adrenal Fatigue & What To Do About It

Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.

Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.

But what happens when they become “overworked?”

You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?

Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body’s “fight or flight” response.

Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body’s normal reaction to stress.  Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.

After a short time, the flight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.

But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?

It wouldn’t feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) “rush,” anymore would it?

And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?

They’d get fatigued, right?


Do I have adrenal fatigue?

When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.

Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

First off, I have to tell you that there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognised by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.

However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).


What to do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.

Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tonnes of ideas about how you can reduce your stress. My favourites are meditation, walking in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or taking a bath.

Of course, I also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So go ahead and do it.


Conclusion

Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.

Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.

The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or even a lovely bath.

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How To Naturally Lower Cortisol

STRESS!!!

Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.”  It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!


Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormones, it helps all aspects of your health.

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic-rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre.


Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.


Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

 

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Does Eating Late Make You Put On Weight?

We’ve all heard the claim that being ‘nil-by-mouth’ after 5pm helps you to lose weight, but is this really true?

Well, yes it is and here I’ll explain why and how eating later could be jeopardising your weight loss progress.


Reason #1: Artificial light causes insulin resistance

New research has shown that blue and green light, from devices and bright lighting, lead to chronically elevated stress hormone levels.

We should start the day with high cortisol that gradually decreases over the course of the day. Exposure to light in the evenings scews this pattern.

Chronically elevated cortisol is also associated with storage of fat around the middle and insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is a state where your body is less responsive to the effects of insulin, meaning that you need more insulin to do the job of moving glucose into your cells.

Insulin is your fat storage hormone and therefore elevated insulin levels are not desirable!

Once the sun has gone down, you switch on artificial lighting and I think it’s safe to assume that most people are eating dinner in front of the TV or some sort of blue-light-emitting device.

Essentially, exposure to light when you’re supposed to be in darkness disrupts your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycle) by increasing your stress hormone levels in the evening. We’ve known for a while that this affects sleep quality and duration, and that itself downregulates metabolism, but now we’re learning that this exposure to blue light also directly and immediately increases insulin resistance.

In light (pun not intended) of this recent research, eating during the hours of daylight may reduce insulin resistance and therefore aid your weight loss efforts.


Reason #2: The later you eat the shorter your fast

If you’ve read much of my content before, you’ll know that I’m big on fasting. The list of health and weight loss benefits are long.

I like my clients to have a minimum overnight fast (gap between dinner and breakfast) of at least 12 hours. During a fast, your blood sugar and insulin level decreases, allowing your body to move into fat-burning mode.

Ideally, this overnight fast should regularly last longer and sometimes it works well for people to have just two meals per day; so long as those meals are really nutrient-dense and balanced.

The later you eat, the shorter this overnight fast is and the less time you’ll spend in fat-burning mode (unless you delay breakfast).


Reason #3: The later you eat the less time you have to burn off carbs

For the majority, dinner involves starchy carbohydrates; potato, pasta, rice, bread, grains etc. Carbohydrates break down into glucose and are absorbed into the bloodstream and then into the cells for energy production.

Here’s the thing. In the evenings most people are pretty sedentary. There’s not a lot of energy being burned off after dinner. The earlier you eat, the more opportunity your body has to use any carbohydrates, that you ate at dinner, to make energy.

The later you eat, the more chance there is that your cells will be converting that glucose into fat for storage because you just don’t need the energy.


Summary Take home tips

Whilst not everyone that eats late will pile on the pounds, if you’re struggling to lose weight or reverse type-2 diabetes then it’s worth trying the following steps:

  1. When practical, avoid eating after dark
  2. Do not eat in front of a device like the TV or your phone
  3. After the sun has gone down, wear glasses that block blue light.
  4. If you have to eat late have a low-carb meal
  5. Eating two meals per day is perfectly okay and is often a helpful strategy for weight loss.

Sources:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155601

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3602916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107005/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3686562/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180604172736.htm

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New Hope For Anxiety Sufferers

The complementary therapy world is now exploring the use of hemp extracts for various conditions and anxiety and stress is just one area being researched.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is an extract of the cannabis plant, which has had a positive effect on the symptoms of anxiety. Research has also found that CBD acts on regions of the brain that control the fear response.

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