Stuck in traffic on your way to work? Kids fighting non-stop over who gets to hold the remote? Rushing to the store because your mother-in-law is coming over for dinner and there are a million things still to do? Did you know that all of these daily stressors give birth to certain hormones, which, if not held in check, can cause much harm?
What your adrenal glands do in times of stress
Our bodies produce the hormones adrenalin, cortisol and DHEA in response to stressful situations, which enable us to fight or take flight by directing the body’s energy to the muscles. The result: you have heightened mental and physical abilities to help you cope with the situation you’re facing. This is according to the father of nutrition Patrick Holford in his book New Optimum Nutrition Bible. “The blood also thickens to help wounds to heal,” he says.
Stressful situations aren’t the only things having this effect on your body. Stimulants like chocolate, coffee, tea, nicotine, etc. because they contain theobromine, theophyline, caffeine, or trigger the production of adrenalin, according to Holford.
Instant energy overload
These natural actions in your body can be negative. They do not just focus energy and thicken the blood to heal, they also “slow down digestion, repair and maintenance to channel energy into dealing with stress. As a consequence, prolonged stress is associated with speeding up the ageing process, with a number of the diseases of digestion and of hormone balance.”
What’s more is when you continuously pump stimulants into your system, you run the risk of developing problems with your thyroid, which means your metabolism will slow down and you will gain weight; your calcium balance could be disturbed, which could result in arthritis; or you could develop sex hormone problems as a result of prolonged elevated levels of cortisol.
“These are the long-term side-effects of prolonged stress, because any body system that is over-stimulated will eventually under-function,” he states.
According to research done by professor of neuroscience Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University, California, “After only two weeks of raised cortisol levels of stress, the dendrite ‘arms’ of brain cells that reach to connect with other brain cells start to shrivel up.” This is luckily not permanent. The moment you stop stressing, they start to grow back.
How do I reduce my stress levels?
One way that will help reduce stress levels is to stop eating a lot of sugar and to limit your stimulant intake. “The more dependent on stimulants you are, the more your blood sugar levels fluctuate, with more ‘rebound’ low blood sugar levels triggering the release of adrenal hormones. Your adrenals think you’re starving and go into ‘fight/flight’ mode, when in truth you are just having a blood sugar dip as the body overcompensates after more high-sugar food,” Holford states.
Some extra support to help your body cope
You will need some nutrients for healthy stress-hormone levels:
Adrenalin: Vitamins B3, B12 and C.
Cortisol: Vitamin B5.
Energy-production: Vitamins B and C.
Stress-resistance: DHEA supplement.