Stressed Out? 5 Ways to Cope Better

Dr. Brenda Gill
By Dr. Brenda Gill
September 20th, 2016

Are you not sleeping very well, irritable, not coping effectively with stress, feeling down a lot of the time or depressed, lacking energy you need or just can’t muster the energy to do the things that need to get done? Then you may have adrenal mal-adaption or adrenal burn-out. The adrenal glands (actually above each kidney) are what have to handle on-going stress. If they don’t get enough time to recover, aren’t given the right raw materials or are over-loaded with too much ongoing stress, they will start to malfunction.

        These cooler, darker mornings reminds us that fall is here and we are typically back to having way more on our plates, so it is important that the adrenal glands are strong. This ensures the added stress of an increased workload, more activities to fit in and co-ordinate, lower light and temperature are managed well. I often see patients wanting more energy and sleep, and being more susceptible to colds and mood swings at this time of year.

        If the adrenal glands are weak, they will solicit the thyroid to help them out, which can compromise the ability of the thyroid to function. This leads to low temperatures and poor metabolism, which translates into increased achiness, poor concentration, memory or focus, increased weight gain, low energy and that feeling of sluggishness. 

        The adrenal glands release three main hormones from the cortex, the  most influential one is cortisol. This is released with any on-going stress, whether it is physical, mental or emotional, and helps regulate sugars, but also reduces inflammation and allergic responses. The balancer is DHEA and can convert to estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. The third is aldosterone. This helps regulate the mineral balance, especially sodium and potassium levels. If stress is on going or long-lasting the balance of the hormones is upset and many areas may be affected.

        The symptoms that tell me there is an adrenal problem are: low blood pressure, feeling dizzy on rising, having problems going or staying asleep, mood swings (anxiety, nervousness, sadness, poor motivation, frustration), decreased energy, frequent colds and flu, poor digestive function (gas, bloating, alternating diarrhea/constipation) and hormonal imbalances (problems with heavy bleeding, skipped cycles, cramping, PMS and night sweats) or as one of my patients puts it “No zip in my do-dah”.

Use these tips to strengthen and keep your adrenal glands balanced:

1.   Feed the adrenal glands what they need to repair and rebuild them. The main raw materials are Vitamin C, Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), Vitamin B6 (pyrodoxine), zinc, magnesium and potassium.

·         Vitamin C can be found in richly coloured fruit and veggies, like cherries, berries, plums and red peppers.

·         The B vitamins are highest in animal proteins such lamb, buffalo, wild meat, fish and chicken or nutritional yeast flakes. The amount of these vitamins needed to keep up with the demands of our lifestyles is almost impossible to get in our foods, so, I often recommend supplementing them. Use a non-citrus source of Vitamin C powder or capsule, so it isn’t too acidic. (We use organic corn as a source.) B vitamins need to be chelated together to be effective, so, we use a BB5 or BB6, meaning all the B vitamins with extra B5 or B6, which are much more effective than taking a separate B complex and extra B5 or B6.

·         Zinc is highest in raw nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower, pumpkin hemp, chia and sesame seeds).

·         Magnesium is found in whole foods, especially tofu, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains and green leafy veggies.

·         Potassium rich foods are avocado, bananas, fish, chicken, green veggies, dried beans, fresh fruit (especially those with pits) and lamb. 

·         Often a high quality multi vitamin/mineral capsule will supply the extra amount of minerals needed or some may need to be supplemented individually, depending on the individual’s lifestyle.

2.    Balance your busy schedules with something that gives you stress relief. That could be exercise, yoga, qi-gong, meditation, stretching, reading, painting, visiting a friend or something that gives you peace of mind.

3.   Get enough sleep, since recovery overnight is essential. We need 7-8 hours of deep sleep to allow the adrenal glands to repair and rejuvenate. A typical adrenal imbalance is a person who is up 3-4 times per night and may have a hard time getting back to sleep or someone who can’t get to sleep. I see this with new mothers and their partners, feeding and caring for their children, people drinking too much coffee, tea or Pop, menopausal women experiencing night sweats, men having to urinate frequently or those with too much anxiety or nervousness.   

    4.   Use herbs to reduce stress.

  • I often recommend the replacement of coffee, tea or colas that are stimulants, which continually add stress to the adrenal glands, with relaxing herbal teas. There are many commercially available, such as Tension Tamer, Honey Chamomille, Licorice, Sleepytime and others.
  • Tinctures with calming herbs such as oatstraw, lemon balm, poppy and scullcap are often used in formulas with adrenal re-balancing herbs such as Siberian ginseng and licorice. These have both been extensively researched and have been found to help restore the nervous system and balance the adrenals.  

    5.   Try to remove anything that is causing on-going stress to your body.

·         The biggest on-going stress I see is from stimulants such as coffee, teas and colas. Many folks tell me they only drink it in the morning, however the influence is there for 24 hours.

·         Remove refined foods, so, anything white- white flour, sugar, bread, pasta, rice or crackers. These stress the pancreas, liver and adrenal glands, because they over-tax the blood sugar balancing system and stimulate an over-production of cortisol. They also deplete the B vitamins and have little potassium or magnesium.

·         Examine your life. Identify anything or anyone that creates stress for you and come up with solutions to resolve them or accept them and move forward.  

If you still need help to fix those adrenals, consider an appointment with Dr. Brenda Gill at 250-362-5035.  So you can approach winter with energy, enjoy those winter sports and stay healthy!

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