In my last post (Cooling The Fire Within - Part 1: Understanding Stress and the Body) I explained the basic stress response at the hormonal level. Recall that The hypothalamus evaluates a trigger as being a stress (perceived or real) and then starts to secrete CRH which calls to the pituitary gland to secrete ATCH which calls to the adrenal cortex to produce Cortisol.
We also discussed how as this keeps happening, such in cases of chronic stress, over time the body starts to steal away the master hormone, stopping it form converting into other necessary hormones such as testosterone, or estrogen, and to create exclusively cortisol in a process called the Cortisol Steal.
So we now understand the base physiological process behind stress - again perceived or real - but what can we do in our lifestyle to reduce cortisol and to start to bring the system back into balance?
Lifestyle modifications and targeted supplementation for cortisol management (high cortisol)
First off, back that baby up and let's start at the beginning with optimizing your diet. By optimizing your diet, I am speaking about taking control of your blood sugar and eating a diet rich in FIBER, heart healthy FAT and plenty of lean PROTEIN. We are aiming for anti-inflammatory as we do not want to increase additional stress at this time.
Next up, look at cutting out caffeine as it increases the physiological stress response. The same goes for alcohol, if you will not eliminate it definitely cut back on it.
Next up let's look at lifestyle modification such as reducing your physical stress by switching out high intensity cortisol boosting sports like running, biking, HIIT, and Functional work such as Cross-Fit for stretching, yoga, meditation, journaling. Massages are great tools for cortisol reduction as well! I have an article on breathing for stress reduction here.
Adding in adaptogenic herbs in either supplement form or teas.
Vitamins and supplements such as
How to make it work without becoming a walking pharmaceutical? Start with DIET AND LIFESTYLE first - always. Then start to incorporate small changes into your routines to reduce stress.
If you make morning smoothies, adding in something like "Amazing Grass brand Greens with Adaptogens" powder will boost your phytonutrients and adaptogens while staying your day off right.
Four Sigmatic is a brand of mushroom teas that you can make in replacement of your coffee. You can also replace your coffee with a roasted dandelion tea or a drink called Dandy Blend that is a great not-bitter replacement for coffee. I add in cinnamon (an anti-inflammatory agent that also is critical for blood sugar regulation!) coconut oil, ghee and canned full fat coconut milk to make a balanced and hearty morning drink!
My personal favorite drink is Sweet Rose Tulsi Tea - a great way to battle your stress response while increasing fluid intake. It literally even says it's magical right on the label! Tulsi Teas come in many flavors if floral isn't for you.
By taking control of your stress you can manage and re-balance your hormones without HRT, expensive blood work, and frustrated efforts. Yes you may need to change your lifestyle to be conducive to stress management, however your quality of life truly depends on YOU and your actions. YOU ARE WORTH IT - and you do not need to feel like a stressed out, frazzled, overweight, unhappy person.
Jenniferlyn Kryvicky, MS, CFSPP, CHHC
Certified Functional Nutritionist
**a word of caution on botanicals such as Rhodiola, they are GRAS (generally regarded as safe) however if you're on medications check to make sure they're not contraindicated or have a conflict with with one another before taking. Check with your Dr. to verify if there is a conflict with your medication and the specific botanical you're taking.
functional nutritionist, transformation coach, and lighter of paths.