Re-Energise Your Fatigued Body and Mind
By London nutritionist Sylvia Hensher
What happens to our bodies during stress?
As a London nutritionist, I see many clients with stress-related health issues. We’re all familiar with stress but what we aren’t so familiar with is the body’s response to stress and the ways in which the stress we face today ends up depleting our energy and health.
When faced with a stressful situation, whether psychological or physical, our bodies rely on the 2 adrenal glands which sit on top of the kidneys to initiate our “fight or flight” response, which is an evolutionary mechanism designed to help us escape or fight off danger (stress). For the most part, our stress response evolved from short-term events. For our ancestors, this meant being able to run away quickly, fight or pursue an enemy or game, endure long periods of physical challenge and deprivation, and store up physical reserves when food was available. In modern life this means being able to cope with stressful circumstances such as difficult bosses, family quarrels, financial problems, too little sleep or illness.
Healthy adrenal glands which are supported by sound nutrition and a healthy lifestyle respond by releasing the hormone adrenaline, making us more alert and focused, and the hormone cortisol, which converts protein to energy and releases stored sugar in the form of glycogen, to fuel our bodies for a quick response. The adrenal response rapidly increases our heart rate and blood pressure while releasing energy, tensing our muscles, sharpening our senses, and slowing our digestion so we are primed to escape or fight back, whichever is needed. When the threat is gone, the body returns to normal — quickly with respect to adrenaline levels, less quickly with respect to cortisol.
The effects of long term stress on health and energy levels
While it is vital to health for the adrenals to secret more adrenaline and cortisol in response to stress, it is also very important that bodily functions and cortisol levels return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the stress response is activated so often that the body does not always have a chance to return to normal. Plus, during stressful times, good nutrition often falls by the wayside, compounding the effects of stress. When chronic stress forces the adrenal glands to respond continually without any recovery time, two things can happen over time. In the first stage, the adrenals start overproducing cortisol, which can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and the “tired and wired” feeling. In the second stage, the adrenals become chronically fatigued (also called “adrenal fatigue”) and cannot produce enough stress hormones, particularly cortisol, to deal with all the stress. This can cause fatigue, lack of energy, depression, fuzzy thinking, weight gain, cravings, and mood swings. And as if that weren’t enough, chronic high cortisol levels can damage healthy tissues, leading to more serious long-term health concerns.
What can be done to restore energy levels and adrenal health?
Fatigue and lack of energy are some of the most common symptoms I help my clients overcome as a London nutritionist. These clients often say they wake up still feeling tired, are unable to think straight in the morning without caffeine, need high-carb snacks, more caffeine or a nap to get through the afternoon and then they’re too wired to sleep. They may also have cold hands/feet, crave salt, feel light-headed when standing up, become fatigued by exercise and feel rundown. These are often, although certainly not exclusively, symptoms of adrenal fatigue as described above.
So, what can we do about these symptoms? Firstly, it’s important to test cortisol levels to see how the adrenal glands are functioning and which course of action to take. This can be done through non-invasive testing, often through a test kit which is done in the convenience of your home, and is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Secondly, depending on your test results, I will give you essential guidelines on nutrition- how and what to eat as well as important lifestyle advice to support your energy levels and adrenal glands. Thirdly, supplements may be recommended to support your nutrition/lifestyle programme and adrenal glands.
If you recognise any of the symptoms discussed above, call us now on 0207 724 4445 /07812 163 324 for a FREE 15 minute chat or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how nutrition can help improve your health!