Imagine you are walking along a woodland path and suddenly find yourself between a hungry mama bear and her cubs… what would you do?
Before you know it, your body has already provided the response: your heart begins racing, your breathing is rapid and shallow, and your adrenaline sends you running the other way! This is the fight or flight response, the instinctive response to a real threat that saves us from real harm.
Although these sensations are a normal reaction to acute stress, a chronic activation of the fight or flight response changes how our bodies and minds react when we experience fear, uneasiness, and anxiety.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Our modern, fast-paced routines lead to an unintentional kind of burnout that comes from a low-quality diet, high toxic exposures, and inactivity. The disruption of the nervous system and changes to hormones that arise from chronic activation of the stress response is called Adrenal Fatigue.
This can lead to mood changes, disrupted sleep, cravings, poor blood sugar control and frequent infections. These are all risk factors for chronic disease and help explain why some professionals estimate that stress is linked to 80% of the diseases affecting North Americans!
How to Naturally Treat Adrenal Fatigue
Stress can come from internal (physical) sources and external (situational) sources and is hard to avoid in both cases, but understanding the basic naturopathic strategies for stress management can prepare you for treatment with your Naturopathic Doctor (ND).
1. Decreasing Toxic Load
The first step in balance is ensuring that the functions of excreting waste are effective. By taking a thorough gastrointestinal review and lab studies, NDs can determine how well the body is eliminating. A careful approach to liver optimization, kidney, and lymphatic flushing over a sustainable period can refresh the system and ensure the organs are communicating smoothly.
2. Balance Your Nutrients
Vitamin and minerals provide the fuel that the body needs to function. When one is missing, vital processes become backed up until the nutrient is restored. This is a form of metabolic stress. Nutritional supplements are the fastest way to replete deficient nutrients, and a balanced diet can maintain them after that. A big part of helping you is finding nutritional
Often, I find it necessary to provide counseling on healthy intakes and attitudes about fats to ensure that fat-soluble nutrients are included daily. These include Vitamins A, D, E & K, all of which play a role in balancing moods, thereby decreasing perceived stress.
3. Use Adaptogens
When there’s internal or external stress that’s been persistent over time, nutritional stressors or endocrine changes produce dysfunctional stress responses. Adaptogens are herbal medicines that are like very dense food for the immune and nervous system. When these are individualized, they promote a feeling of well-being and ease nervous tension. Adaptogens are especially helpful when long-term stress has produced significant fatigue or low immunity.
People are usually surprised to find that low-intensity cardiovascular exercise and correcting postural practices are better for your stress than high-intensity training. Intense movements require increased cortisol secretion (the main stress hormone) due to the rebound stress and the immune responses that come with increased cortisol secretion. Biochemical studies have demonstrated that hormones will override caloric expenditure, so deep breathing, aligned movements that honor the posture will also increase fat loss!
Stress is always to be expected – our minds and bodies are actually programmed to experience it! Ensuring nutritional adequacy is the first step to developing enhanced coping mechanisms so that everyday stress can become invigorating instead of exhausting. This change in perspective can prevent diseases that are caused by stress and poor coping.
From basic nutrition to mood and stress balance, ask me how I can help you move towards balance in your life. If you have any questions and would like to discuss an individualized health plan, please book an appointment and we’ll get you on track! First-time patients get a free, 15-minute consultation.