Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Journey Through Menopause - Cortisol, Stress, and Your Health and Wellness






My Early Morning Yoga Workout Really Helps Me With Achieving Better Cortisol Levels
I have recently noticed a direct correlation between my hormonal balances  shift (and I can definitely tell when that happens!) and how it impacts my body during stress. The reaction was subtle  at first but now as I continue through my journey of menopause the symptoms are much more pronounced. So I decided to do some research about how we react to stress impacts our hormonal balances - especially when it come s to cortisol.  All of our hormones are inter-dependent but I thought I would explore the cortisol hormone sense it seems to always be linked with stress.  Here is what I found out:

When we are in high stress our cortisol levels increase. Initially this could be a good thing because:
  • our hear beat increases and pumps more oxygen to the brain
  • we get more energy for our fat and glucose storehouse
  • we appear to feel a burst of well being
But over time prolonged stress can break down our health and overall wellness . During stressful times we need to keep our cortisol level in check and not let it get too high.  How do you know when your cortisol levels are too high? Well...here are some of my symptoms and my Doctor agreed my cortisol levels were too high. 
  • I have sleepless nights. I am tired and ready to sleep but can't stay asleep
  • Cravings!!!! For me it is salty snacks which normally I don't eat
  • Wrinkling and dry skin. Yes too much cortisol can cause wrinkling and dry skin and for the first time I can see that on my forehead! My hands are very dry as well.
  • Mood swings have become a way of life!  Anxiety is heightened when my cortisol is too high
 Also this hasn't happened to me (thank goodness) but too much cortisol can have an adverse impact on your immune system. This can lead to immune system disorders such as Asthma, Allergies, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome,and Chrons Disease. Prolonged stress and heightened cortisol levels can adversely impact our immune system in such a way that it makes it difficult for our bodies to fight cancer. 

Based upon all this information I decided to set out on a mission to lower my cortisol levels.  Here is what I am doing...and it is working. 
  • Anyone who know me knows I love to have that cup of coffee in the morning.  But unfortunately...I am going have to give it up for awhile if not definitely.  12 oz of coffee can raise cortisol levels to as much as 30% for 18 hours. 
  • Increasing my sleep time and achieving a deeper sleep is a top goal to reduce my cortisol. I take a hot bath with lavender oil at night to help calm me, I listen to relaxing music during the day and at night, and I listen to the sounds of the ocean as I sip my lavender tea right before I go to bed. I also take Melatonin a natural sleep inducer.
  •  I have increased my exercise I walk thirty minutes everyday, I do Yoga every morning, and I make sure to do my strength training every day.  This may sound like a lot but when I look at the alternative of ending up grouchy, tired and sick...I choose exercise.
  • I watch my blood sugar levels. I have never been a big sugar person, but now I avoid sweets like the plague and I also watch my carbs...after all they break down to sugar!!
  • I make sure I take my Vitamin B Stress Complex, increase my ginseng and other herbal teas that help to boost the immune system.  Green Tea is great as well but I have to watch the caffeine intake when it comes to Green Tea. 
  • Meditation and prayer has become even more important to me now that I know how much it can influence my cortisol levels. I love listening to meditation and relaxation tapes they promote the production of alpha (focused alertness) and theta (relaxed) brain waves.
I am ready to make the changes I need to make to maintain a healthy mind,body,spirit connection.  Turing into a crabby old lady just isn't an option! 

For more information on holistically reducing your stress and lowering your cortisol levels click here 

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