Identifying And Reducing Causes Of Stress : General information For Patients
Never skip meals! Ensure that you eat at least every 3 or 4 hours, taking healthy snacks as necessary. Small, regular meals help to maintain energy levels and mood, while decreasing tiredness, irritability and fat storage.
Avoid highly refined foods such as white bread / pasta / rice, chocolate, biscuits, sweets or anything with added sugars. Hidden sugars are also included in many cereals, breads, tinned produce, and processed/ packaged foods. Replace processed foods with the unrefined foods, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, oats and rye. Note that excess alcohol can also cause imbalanced blood sugar levels.
Tropical fruit (melon, grapes, banana etc), dried fruit and fruit juices can also be very sugary, therefore only a very limited intake of these should be allowed. Instead include other fruit such as cherries, berries, apples and pears, which are less ‘sweet’.
Ensure plenty of protein, such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, are included with each meal. Protein helps to slow the release of sugar into the blood stream.
Stimulants such as tea, coffee and cigarettes may provide a temporary energy boost, however these not only deplete many essential nutrients, but always reduce energy levels in the long run. Aim to drink at least 1 – 1 litres of filtered/ bottled water throughout the day, which can include herbal teas.
Nutrients that specifically support the adrenal glands are vitamin C, found in most fresh fruit and vegetables. Magnesium is dramatically depleted in times of stress, and symptoms of a deficiency often include fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and a predispostion to stress. Include plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds to supply adequate levels of magnesium. The B complex vitamins can help to support adrenal function, particularly vitamin B5, which directly supports adrenal cortex function and hormone production. Sources include wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
Good quality sleep is of utmost importance for long-term health and regeneration. Few people can cope with less than 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night, and those who regularly undersleep are almost always less efficient, not more. To promote proper sleep, keep regular sleeping patterns and ensure the bedroom is dark enough with adequate ventilation. Do not work in the bedroom.
Make sure that food is eaten in a relaxed environment, and chewed thoroughly to promote optimum digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Regular exercise is very beneficial for relieving stress and decreasing negative emotions such as worry or anxiety. However in patients with significantly depleted adrenal hormones, intensive cardiovascular exercise will further deplete adrenal reserves. Gentle exercises such as yoga, pilates, swimming and brisk walking are all excellent alternatives and are often calming in themselves.
Regular relaxation needs to be built into ones daily life. Reading, bathing, massage and listening to music can promote relaxation, but watching the TV does not! Activities such as tai chi and meditation are extremely beneficial at reducing stress.
Counselling or other therapies may be beneficial for those having to cope in the face of severe stressors.
Deviations from the Normal cortisol Rhythm
The Morning cortisol level is below the normal range. Morning cortisol may be a good indication of peak adrenal gland function since they represent peak cyclic activity. Low morning cortisol levels suggest a degree of adrenal hypofunction.
The noon cortisol level is below the normal range. Noon cortisol levels may be a good indication of adaptive adrenal gland function since they represent the adrenal glands’ response to the demands of the first few hours of the day. Low noon cortisol levels suggest a degree of adrenal hypofunction with decreased adaptive response.
A Low afternoon cortisol is suggestive of suboptimal adrenal functioning.
A Low midnight cortisol may be suggestive of suboptimal adrenal functioning, where low cortisol levels are present at other times.