Put your hand up if you…
- You are always rushing out the door in the morning, coffee in hand
- You seem to be in a never-ending cycle of kids getting sick = you get sick = kids get sick again
- Taking time off work for sickness (yours or the kids) stresses you out
- You feel unproductive at work because you never feel 100%
- You are fed up with spending money on cold and flu tablets and not feeling any better
- You are confused about what to do next to get better
- You keep missing the fun stuff with friends and family because you are constantly sick
- You’re exhausted
Stress seems to be a way of life these days in our Western lifestyle….the fast pace of life (and even the slower lockdown pace) seems to ignore our basic biology and it’s taking it’s toll. The World Health Organisation on May 25th, 2019 released their recognition of workplace burnout as an illness. Further to that, they also commented on the significant impact of burnout at work places, on mental health and social well-being. And this type of stress can also then impact many body systems in the following ways: immune dysfunction but also digestive dysfunction, nervous system dysfunction, cardiovascular dysfunction, hormonal disruption and inflammation.
3 areas that stress can take it’s toll on the immune system.
- Adrenal glands….these are small glands located on the top of your kidneys and they secrete essential hormones such as cortisol (this helps you wake up in the morning), Adrenaline (gives you that energy) and DHEA (the precursor to your sex hormones: estrogen and testosterone) and they acts as your buffers in times of stress.
There are 3 stages of stress: 1. alarm (this is your fight or flight response), 2. Resistance : the body adapts to the stressor until the threat is gone then systems reset to normal base line. 3. Exhaustion: is when the threat hasn’t gone (that inbox that is never empty!) so the adrenals continue to pump out the hormones and to the point in this stage where there are much lower levels of the hormones because the adrenals can’t keep up…sometimes known as adrenal fatigue but better known as HPA axis dysregulation.
Cortisol acts as a modulator of the inflammation caused when the immune system does it’s job fighting a pathogen. This is a normal response however if there is an imbalance in cortisol it can lead to issues with the immune system. Also if you are stressed the immune system is basically down-regulated as it’s not needed if there is a tiger about to pounce on you…however as in the modern day continual stress this can impact your immune system in a chronic way.
Top Tip For Adrenals
Support your adrenal health to manage your stress by making sure you have non-negotiable daily health practices such as staying hydrated, eating wholefoods that balance your blood sugar, managing your mind…you can read more tips on this blog here
My favourite supports for you adrenals are wholefoods that contain a lot of the following micronutrients:
- Magnesium; like dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, tofu, legumes and cacao.
- Vitamin C; citrus, broccoli, kiwifruit, brussel sprouts, capsicums.
- B Vitamins; dark leafy greens, pasture raised meat, wholegrains, eggs, legumes, avocado
If you’ve been stressed for awhile you may need to supplement as well…your naturopath (that’s me) can supply you with the best quality highly bio-available supplements and the best dosages that will suit you.
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- Gut health is so important to your immune system; it is important to know that when you are under stress your digestion starts to shut down because it’s not needed in the fight or flight response…hence why you get “knots” in your stomach or get a nervous tummy before public speaking…but again if the stress is prolonged then problems such as leaky gut can occur and affect how your immune system responds. 80% of our immunity is developed in our gut so it is super important to focus on healing the gut lining and eating the correct foods.…as well as ending up having poor absorption and therefore nutrient deficiencies.
Top Tips For Gut Health
If you suffer from bloating, gas, digestive issues, diarrhea or constipation it is likely that your immune system may be struggling as well. Balancing your microbiome is the number one place to start and this will comprise of eating a wholefood diet, cutting out all processed foods that maybe inflamming your gut…common culprits are gluten and dairy. It’s a good idea to get some testing done to see what specific treatment you need. Adding in fermeted foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, coconut yogurt, kombucha may also help re-balance your good bacteria to “bad” bacteria. A good quality practitioner only pro-biotic is also a good option. Bone broths are an awesome way to help heal the gut lining and reduce inflammation.
- Inflammation: cortisol depletion can lead to inflammatory processes in the body because cortisol is a natural anti-inflammatory. While we need short-term inflammation in the body to heal certain tissues, we don’t need systemic or chronic inflammation as this is related to many chronic diseases.
Inflammation in the gut is a key driver for leaky gut which has a direct impact on the immune system.
When there is autoimmunity in the body there is inflammation. Conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Psoriasis, Graves Disease.
Top Tip For Inflammation
Eating wholefoods with a focus on lots of colour, this means that you are accessing all the micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals that support our health.
Stay away from inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, industrial seed oils such as canola, processed foods especially those with additives & alcohol…sometimes the nightshade family of vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine and others) can be inflammatory for some people, but get tested first before eliminating whole food groups.
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Medicinal Herbs For the Win
My favourite herbs for stress and immune support are:
Withania (stress adaptation), Licorice (adrenal support, anti-inflammatory, immunity), Kava (anxiety & sleep), Magnolia (stress, anxiety)
Echinacea (immune modulator, anti-inflammatory), Astragalus (immunity, adaptogenic),
Rehmannia (adrenal support, anti-inflammatory)
Bacopa (cognitive enhancing, nervine tonic)
There are many options to reduce your stress and boost your immune system and I look forward to working with you individually…you can book a FREE 20 minute Discovery Call to see if we are a fit or go ahead and book an Initial Naturopathic Consult here
You can watch my full Facebook Live Presentation here