It’s fall! At every change of the season I have a few days where I feel a little sad that one is ending, but as soon as the next one starts I’m reminded of all the good things that come with it. Fall is cozy. It’s a time for warm drinks, soups, cleanses as well as an incredible window for change. As the leaves fall off the trees, so too can old habits fall away from your life as you settle into yourself during the quieter months. I’m continuing with the food-hormone connection in this newsletter, moving on from the hormone insulin, to the connection between food and your stress hormones.
We’re exploring stress hormones (aka cortisol) right after insulin and blood sugar for two reasons: cortisol and insulin are dance partners in many ways when it comes to regulating your blood sugars, and second, cortisol is also incredibly powerful influence on ALL of your hormones.
How Does Cortisol Affect Your Hormones?
High stress levels affect your hormone balance in four ways:
1) Using up key nutrients needed to make sex hormones and for healthy hormone function, including B6 and Magnesium.
2) Blocking insulin, leading to high blood sugar, and potentially insulin resistance down the road. This can throw off your entire hormone balance.
3) Increasing free estrogen and testosterone levels – high stress and high insulin levels lower the amount of a transportation “vehicle” that carries estrogen and testosterone in inactive forms. Less of this transport protein means more active “free” hormones in your bloodstream that can offset your balance.
4) Using up progesterone – Your body can make cortisol out of progesterone. If your stress levels are constantly through the roof, your body steals progesterone to make more cortisol and creates a deficiency.
How to Balance Your Stress Hormones With Food
Most of the time we talk about calming stress levels with self-care choices like getting massages, enough sleep or taking time out for yourself. These are all important, but have any of you gone to a massage or tried to relax when you’re hungry? The fact is, if your blood sugar levels are low, stress hormones are flooding your system. It’s just your body’s survival response in times of starvation. To avoid kicking off this stress response:
1) Eat every 2-3 hours. If this sounds familiar it’s because you’ve seen it before. Eating regularly helps balance blood sugars and this affects both hormones we’ve covered so far: insulin AND cortisol
2) Eat protein in every meal – protein absorbs slowly and eliminates your bodies stress response to low blood sugar levels.
3) Avoid sugary foods – these send your blood sugars through the roof and then lead to the drop that kicks off your body’s stress response.
Another quick tip for lowering cortisol levels is to reduce caffeine. It might feel like it’s getting you through the day, but it’s actually part of the problem. Once you address what’s REALLY making you tired, you won’t need it.
Do You Need Adrenal Support?
Adrenals are the organs that make your stress hormones. If your cortisol levels are constantly high, you’ll want to calm your adrenals down to preserve them (and your energy). On the other hand, if you’re constantly feeling tired it may be sign that you need adrenal support. When we work together, I use the Identi-T Stress Assessment™, along with your signs and symptoms to assess your adrenals. Once we have your stress type, we decide on exactly what nutrients, herbs and nutritional recommendations are best suited for you.