What Stress Does To Your Body

From Dr. Mark Hyman, Author of Eat Fat, Get Thin

Your adrenals are important because they help you respond to stress. If you have chronic stress, your adrenals get beat up, and your energy plummets and it becomes difficult to manage your life. You could feel tired and wired, all at the same time. You might get palpitations or feel anxious or have trouble sleeping. You might crave salt. You may get dizzy when you stand up. You might have low blood pressure. You might even have sugar cravings, because your body can’t regulate your blood sugar properly. All these are clues that you could have adrenal problems.

So, why do we get adrenal burnout? We get it from the chronic, unremitting, ongoing stresses of everyday life: stresses of our families, stresses of relationships, stresses of work, the stresses of constant interaction with Facebook and Twitter and the online world, and all the inputs that never let us pause.

It’s really important to understand how the whole stress response works, why it goes wrong, and why, over time, your adrenal glands, which are these little glands that sit on the top of your kidneys, are not able to compensate for the chronic stress that you have in your life. At The UltraWellness Center, we do saliva testing to measure cortisol levels throughout the day. When you have adrenal burnout, your cortisol starts to go down, you can’t respond normally to the stresses of life, and you end up just feeling tired and crummy most of the time. We push ourselves with coffee and other stimulants to feel better – but using these tactics doesn’t really work.

How do you heal your adrenals and regain your energy?
First, I recommend eating a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods including wild fish and other sources of omega-3 fats; red and purple berries (rich in polyphenols); dark green leafy vegetables; orange sweet potatoes; and nuts. Add anti-inflammatory herbs – including turmeric (a source of curcumin), ginger and rosemary – to your daily diet. Eliminate inflammatory foods such as refined, omega-6 and inflammatory oils, like corn, soy and safflower oils. And don’t skip meals. It can be hard for your body to recover from skipping meals if you have adrenal dysfunction.

Next, find ways to actively relax. I like to do yoga or take a hot bath at night. I call it the UltraBath, where you take two cups of Epsom salts, half a cup of baking soda, 10 drops of lavender oil, and you soak for 20 minutes. Did you know that they put lavender oil in babies’ baths? They do this because lavender oil lowers cortisol and helps to balance the whole hormonal system.After this bath, you will end up with a really decreased stress response. There are other things you can do, as well. Massage is great, as is meditation and deep breathing. There are all sorts of tools and resources available for you online.

Very simple things have profound effects. Exercise is always important — gentle, regular exercise like a morning walk, a light jog, a little bike ride. Do something out in the fresh air to get natural light that affects your pineal gland and helps reset your brain and the stress response.

I also recommend regular rhythm. Rhythm is the key because your hormones are balanced in rhythms. So, waking at the same time every day, going to bed at the same time every day, eating at the same time every day — these are the rhythms in life that help to reset your natural balance. Following your natural rhythms of work and rest during the day is also essential. Take natural breaks when you are tired. Our bodies function best on ultradian rhythm cycles of 90 minutes of activity punctuated by a few minutes of resting or zoning out! Naps are also a great way to reset.

Want more from Dr. Mark Hyman? Read this guide to going gluten-free the healthy way and find out what he told us about healthy fats. Then see which vitamins you should be taking every day! 

The New Potato and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or ailment. All content on The New Potato (even when supplied by a medical professional) is intended for educational and conversational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, exercise regime, or wellness routine.