Stress surrounds us. With the holidays fast descending, we’d like to believe that the next few months will be filled with festivities, family, and fun. But with the added burden of travel plans, last-minute shopping trips, and an abundance of decadent desserts at our disposal, who’s really taking the time to listen to his/her body?
The adrenal glands are the first line of defense between stress and your body. Resting upon the kidneys, the adrenal glands manufacture and secrete hormones integral for health and vitality, including cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone. Not unlike muscles, however, the adrenal glands can become overworked and, eventually, fatigued.
Adrenal fatigue is a serious deficiency that leads to hormone imbalance or underproduction; symptoms include restless sleep, weakened immune response, irritability, depression, and a craving for comfort food. Sound familiar? In light of the approaching family squabbles over the turkey and long cross-country treks, what can we do to strengthen and tone our vital adrenal response?
Stress Relief or Stress Protection?
My mother used to say, “Calgon, take me away!,” referring to those iconic, steaming-hot bubble baths made by Calgon beauty supplies. (Am I dating myself?) Indeed, we all have personalized stress-relief methods, but while stress relief may be subjective, stress protection is a universal guide that everyone can follow.
Unfortunately, many substances commonly used to treat stress – alcohol, caffeine, and sugars – are proven to exacerbate negative hormonal production. Caffeine and simple sugars trigger adrenaline spikes which, with frequent use, dull adrenal functions. Alcohol falsely counters the effects of adrenal fatigue in short bursts, creating hormone imbalances for hours after drinking. So, if your “stress relievers” are really adding to the problem, a healthy diet change may be just what you need to survive the holiday wear-and-tear!
The Power of a Healthy Diet
Stress protection and alleviation begins with healthy adrenal glands; healthy adrenal glands begin with a nutrient-saturated diet. Not to mention Mother Nature’s ultimate healer: sleep. A balanced diet and a good night’s rest may seem impossible in the coming weeks, but they are essential for adrenal function. Below is a list of crucial vitamins and macronutrients that will strengthen your mind, immune system, and hormonal production (along with the deliciously natural foods they’re found in). Don’t let stress ruin your holiday season; be a preemptive stress protector!
Otherwise known as “ascorbic acid,” this vitamin is responsible for tissue growth and repair.
- Red Peppers
Pantothenic Acid or B5*
The adrenal glands utilize B5 to properly assimilate fats, carbohydrates and proteins into the hormone production processes.
Primarily operating in the brain’s development and utility, B6 vitamin controls serotonin and norepinephrine, which dictate mood. B6 also assists in the production of melatonin, which regulates your internal clock.
Indispensable to the immune system, zinc is found in the mucous secretions of the respiratory system and has an antimicrobial effect, killing bacteria and viruses before they fully mature. Zinc is also essential to growth, taste, vision, smell, blood clotting, and proper insulin and thyroid function.
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Black beans
Magnesium regulates glucose levels and aids in energy production.
*water-soluble vitamins: cannot be stored by the body; must be reabsorbed on a regular basis