Monday, May 7, 2012

Balancing Cortisol Levels Naturally: Tips to Lower Stress Levels & Improve Sleep Patterns

Last week we began our discussion about the negative impact of stress.  This week we'll continue to investigate ways to combat stress and to minimize the impact of stress on the body systems.  Today I had an in-depth conversation with a client who was complaining of insomnia, hormone imbalance and fatigue.  In assessing her health background and stress levels, it's easy to identify stress and increased cortisol levels as the root of her insomnia and other stress related symptoms. 

Many of our clients complain of fatigue, sleepless night and hormone imbalance - yet medical testing does not always yield the assessment of high cortisol levels.  There are saliva tests that are helpful in assessing cortisol imbalance.   These are recommended to get a handle on the levels of cortisol throughout the day.

Most people associate cortisol as the hormone that wakes them up in the am.  It's also a result of our body's natural flight or fight process and nowadays, we're fighting and flighting all time.  Cortisol is a steroid hormone that releases from the adrenal glands as a response to stress. From rush hour traffic, to last minute work deadlines and family drama - our bodies are in a chronic state of stress. 

When cortisol is released into the body, it converts any nutrient, cell, or tissue into usable sugars if possible.  In this capacity, the body actually sacrifices itself for the means of survival.  Under long-term stress, the body realizes that it is no longer able to sacrifice itself for short-term energy.   In response, the body goes into a survival mode where it begins building a layer of belly fat to be utilized for energy production.  This fat layer becomes an energy source, where the body can effectively convert fat into usable sugars and easily replace the fat without compromising valuable nutrients, cells, and tissues.

Our bodies are like intricate computer systems.  When starved of key nutrient or flooded with a chronic or excessive amount of cortisol, we are switched to survival mode.  Many clients feel the byproduct of this "survival mode"  as symptoms:  abdominal weight gain, infertility, hair loss, insomnia, migraines, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels,

Take this quick cortisol test to see if you are in an imbalanced state:

1. Do you have difficulty falling sleep?
2. Do you have difficulty staying asleep?
3.  Do you have difficulty waking up
4. Do you often wake feeling un-rested?
5.  Do you have loose joints?
6. Do you have difficulty losing weight?
7. Do you feel fatigued more than 70% of the time?
8. Do you crave sugar?
9. Do you have elevated cholesterol levels?
10. (If menstruating) Do you have moderate to severe PMS?
11.  (If peri - menopausal or menopausal) Do you feel like your hormones are all out of wack?
12. Do you have tenderness on the web of the finger between 4th and 5th digit?

If you answer to YES to more than 7 of more of these questions it's time to address your adrenal health.  Sign up for a phone consultation for our Naturopathic protocol with Melissa Gallagher, ND, to support your adrenal health.   727-502-3464  Visit our website for more information. 

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