Take this simple test to see if you are you showing signs of having out of balance cortisol levels:
Do you feel tired on waking?
Do you suffer from weight gain round the middle?
Do you feel tired in the afternoon?
Is early evening one of the most productive times of the day for you?
Do you have problems falling asleep?
Do you wake up in the night and find it difficult to get back to sleep?
Do you crave sugar or caffeine or salt?
If you answered yes to some of these then it might be that your cortisol is out of balance.
It’s interesting to note that the word ‘stress’ was only used as an engineering term up until the 1950s – we went through two world wars without talk of stress! Our body hasn’t really changed in 60,000 years but our lifestyle and diet have – it is hard wired to ‘fight or flight’. The body can’t tell if you’re getting stressed in front of your computer or need to run away from a wild animal – the effect it has is the same. Your large Americano is making your heart beat fast, re-directing glucose to the eyes, heart, lungs and muscles but your body doesn’t realise you don’t need to run away from that wild animal and that you’re sat in front of your computer! Our body then places this glucose back into fat near to the liver to be easily converted back into glucose at the next ‘stress’ event. If we eat refined sugar it causes a spike in blood sugar that encourages the body to store excess sugar as fat around the middle and low blood sugar releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which creates powerful cravings for sugar or stimulants (e.g. sugary foods).
Imbalanced cortisol can then lead to very low energy troughs as well as a surge of energy just before bed. It can also have a knock on affect on our hormones. Cortisol is also catabolic and breaks things down in the body and down regulates systems it thinks it doesn’t need (like the digestive and reproductive system- people who are really stressed often don’t have periods). Sleep is the biggest anabolic time within our 24 hours, essential for repair and restoration, that’s why it’s so essential to get our cortisol in balance.
Cortisol is made in tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys. To nourish them and to help the body deal with stress you need to do the following:
eat more plant based protein (for a drip feed of energy)
eat less refined carbs in your diet
eat more food rich in B vits (chicken, eggs, oats), Vit C (citrus fruits, brightly coloured vegetables, including greens) and iron (greens, brown rice, meat especially darker cuts of chicken).
These nutrients are all in our Energy Elixir. Maca has also been included to help with resilience to stress – the Incas used to use it before they went into battle.
Karen Newby, BSc Nutritional Medicine, mBANT, CNHC, co-Founder of Alchemy Organic Super Blends