Ever since I was really young, I’ve always been quite anxious and stressed in my nature. I suppose this is what ultimately exacerbated my gut issues over the years which in turn affected my immune system.
Last week I spoke about natural ways to reduce stress. This week is still an immune-boosting week and I was compelled to talk about stress and it’s role in immune health. Stress is a major cause of disease and ageing in our modern, fast-paced world, so treating the symptoms, and supporting the body's systems, through foods and lifestyle management techniques makes good health sense to me and it’s something I need to work on and focus on every single day.
Adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, adrenal burnout... this is something both my husband and I experienced when we moved to Sydney from Perth some years ago. We both spent a few years in "fight or flight" mode, running on sheer adrenaline. The adrenal glands are hormone producers. As well as secreting hormones like estrogens and testosterone, they are also the production house for the stress response hormones, adrenalin and cortisol.
Under normal conditions, the adrenal glands are able to regulate hormone secretions. However, with severe or prolonged stress, the adrenals can take a beating. Essentially, what happens is that the adrenal glands go into overdrive, trying to keep up with the body's need for adrenalin. Eventually, this wears the adrenals down and they become underactive. It may begin with mild symptoms of adrenal fatigue, but over time it can lead to adrenal burnout.
Under normal conditions, the adrenal glands are able to regulate hormone secretions. However, with severe or prolonged stress, the adrenals can take a beating.
Most of us work long hours and don’t get enough sleep – there are many times I’ve woken up at 3 am in the morning (getting a total of 5 hours sleep) as I’ve been thinking about work and so I just get up and start my day.
I have a “Type A” personality which basically means I don’t have an off switch and find it difficult to sit still and relax. I literally have to force myself to take time out…. I’m thankful that my husband keeps an eye on me and often schedules in some downtime to help me recharge my system.
STRESS EFFECTS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM making you susceptible to infections.
Research shows that people who are under severe stress have low white blood cell counts and are more vulnerable to colds and flu. Once a person catches a cold or flu, stress can make symptoms worse.
STRESS IS A MAJOR CAUSE OF INSOMNIA causing sleep disturbances.
Thinking about work or other issues just before bed prevents people from sleeping and usually causes them to awaken in the middle of the night or early morning.
Studies show that those who sleep for 5 hours or less per night generally weigh more than those who sleep for 8 hours per night. People who sleep for 5 hours or less per night also have a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome (also known as syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome), which can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
We may not be able to avoid stress, but we can influence how it affects us. Here are my top stress-busting foods and lifestyle tips to help you stay on track.
1. Avoid Coffee + Sugary Drinks
People with adrenal imbalance often reach for stimulants like coffee and sugar to keep them going. But too much stimulation can further suppress the adrenals, and will only aggravate the problem.
What To Drink Instead:
Drink Organic Matcha Tea
Enjoy 1 - 2 cups of Organic Matcha Green Tea daily. Studies show that matcha can help to make you feel relaxed, calm and happy due to the high levels of the amino acid L-theanine. It also energises your body and relaxes your mind.
Matcha helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, promotes a state of relaxation, supports the adrenal system and the way your body reacts to stress. This is a beautiful energising drink.
Make my delicious Matcha Smoothie by blending 1 handful spinach leaves, 1 frozen banana, ½ teaspoon Healthy Chef Matcha, 1 ½ cups coconut water, a slice of fresh ginger and a spoonful of Healthy Chef Protein. This is a wonderful wholefood anti-inflammatory breakfast to naturally energise the body and support wellbeing.
Matcha helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, promotes a state of relaxation, supports the adrenal system and the way your body reacts to stress.
2. Avoid Refined White Carbohydrates
This includes anything made from white refined flour such as white bread and white pasta as well as processed cereals that are high in sugar, preservatives and salt.
What To Eat Instead:
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables as your main carbohydrate source
Get most of your carbohydrates from wholefoods such as vitamin-rich vegetables and fruit. They will provide the body with fantastic doses of prebiotics and antioxidants so that it is primed with the right nutritional formula to heal. Great sources are sweet potato, pineapples, banana, blueberry, kiwi fruit, beetroot and pumpkin. I also love to boost my diet with Organic Superfood or my Green Smoothie which both work synergistically as pre and probiotics in the digestive system.
3. Reduce Inflammation
Nourish your body with plant-based foods and support your diet with good supplements such as turmeric, ginger, vitamin C and probiotics.
Natural Immune Support was designed to support my own immune system on daily basis. This anti-inflammatory formula also calmed and supported my own digestive health, helping to relieve bloating and other IBS symptoms.
I believe that by eating the right types of foods and adopting a healthier lifestyle can assist in the management of chronic inflammation.
4. Eat The Right Protein
It is also essential that your protein intake is sufficient to support your body’s repair process. Studies show that protein plays a vital role in keeping our immune system healthy and preventing the development of immune and inflammatory diseases. Protein has a stabilising effect on blood sugar. High-stress levels can lead to hypoglycaemia or other blood sugar imbalances. Increasing protein intake can boost energy levels, reduce jitteriness, agitation and mood swings, improve sleep, and sharpen brain function.
Good sources of protein include fish, organic chicken, grass-fed meats, cultured natural yoghurt, organic eggs, seeds, nuts, nut butters and milks, quinoa, hummus, tahini, tempeh, green peas and, Healthy Chef Protein.
Studies show that protein plays a vital role in keeping our immune system healthy, and preventing the development of immune and inflammatory diseases.
5. Optimising Recovery
For complete recovery, you need to consider the quality of your diet as well as your lifestyle. Diet is very important, as the body’s nutritional needs increase under stress. Things like eating the wrong type of carbs, taking stimulants or not eating enough protein, can place further stress on the body.
6. Early To Bed
Research has shown that our adrenal glands recover best when we go to bed between 9 and 10 pm. I aim to wind down 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime.
Mediation is an effective tool to calm your mind, alter your brain waves and achieve a sense of deeper relaxation and serenity. Meditation can be difficult to achieve as a beginner, especially when our minds are busy and we're under stress. I’ve personally found meditation very challenging with my active mind…..But I am working towards three meditation sessions a week which is rather awesome for me.
8. The Art Of Slowing Down
I was told by a Buddhist monk to slow down in order to calm my mind. By practicing mindfulness while walking, talking, eating and breathing it is possible to be more conscious of the moment of now, which can help to create calmness and help reduce stress.
The body loves to exercise. , or me I LOVE TO WALK. Walking supports health in every sense — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s also free! Walking enriches and balances my life. And it just makes me feel great. Aim for 10,000 steps per day.
Walking enriches and balances my life. And it just makes me feel great. Aim for 10,000 steps per day.
10. Drink Tea
My body works well when I drink warm restorative teas throughout the day and night. Infusions such as Lemon + ginger tea and Digest + Calm can promote healthy digestion. Most evenings you will find me sipping on a calming Relax and Renew Tea which helps me to unwind and prepare for bedtime.